Every time Marietta College asked Dr. R. Lester Anderson ’55 for help, the long-time Physics professor always answered the call.
One example of his dedication came during the 1979-80 academic year, when he was needed to take over a course mid-year after another faculty member left the College for another opportunity.
“I want to thank you once again for taking on the electrical engineering course in midstream, as well as for the special help and support you were giving,” wrote President Sherrill Cleland in a personal note to Dr. Anderson on November 16, 1979. “It reflects once again your commitment to this institution and the outreach and concern you have for students and for your colleagues in other departments.”
Dr. Anderson, who served on the faculty for 41 years, died at the age of 89 on Saturday, July 1, 2023. Visitation is scheduled for 5:00-7:00 p.m., Friday, July 7, at McClure-Schafer-Lankford Funeral Home, 314 Fourth St. The family is also having a memorial service at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, July 8, at Christ United Methodist Church, 301 Wooster St. Visitation will also take place one hour prior to the service.
Dr. Dennis Kuhl, Physics Department Chair, joined the College in August 2002, just months after Dr. Anderson retired in May 2002. Their friendship lasted until Anderson’s death.
“ ‘Doc Anderson’ made a profound impact on many, many people over his long career here. I frequently hear from alumni who hail from before my time who sing his praises as a teacher and a role model,” Kuhl said. “I started here when he retired. I don’t like to say I replaced him because he was irreplaceable. Somehow, after a 41-year career on the faculty, he managed to go on to contribute another 20 years of valuable support to the Physics Department and to the College. He was always helpful when we had questions or needed advice, and he gave great advice. He was a fixture at Homecoming events, forming a bridge to alumni both from Physics and from many other majors.”
Dr. Anderson, who was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate at Marietta, received his master's degree from Penn State in 1959 and completed his doctorate degree at PSU in 1962 under a fellowship of the American Petroleum Institute. He joined Marietta's faculty in 1961.
During the 1969-70 academic year, Anderson took a sabbatical where he worked at the Ames Laboratory of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Ames, Iowa. He also assisted the College in bringing computer technology to campus and built one of the first computer labs in Mills Hall.
“I would like to put into writing to you my appreciation for the work you have done this summer on the new computer lab. It is beautiful, a source of pride for all of us, but especially for our students and faculty in Mills Hall,” wrote Dr. Gwendolyn Jensen, Provost, in a communication to Dr. Anderson on August 18, 1987.
He and his late wife, Eloise Johnson Anderson ’56, were longtime members of Christ United Methodist Church in Marietta. He was a 1951 graduate of Parkersburg High School, and he had an endless curiosity about how things worked and was passionate about teaching and science education.
His obituary, which his family provided, says, “he developed lasting friendships with many former students and was instrumental in launching early local STEM initiatives, including Space Camp, Women In The Sciences (WITS), and Young Engineers and Scientists (YES) Days.”
He was an avid astronomer who enjoyed organizing public viewings at the Gurley Observatory in Mills Hall, especially during celestial events. His vision and decades-long efforts to bring a planetarium to Marietta started with a portable unit traveling to local schools/workshops and culminated in 2009 with the opening of the renowned Anderson Hancock Planetarium.
Brenda and David M. Rickey ’78 provided the financial support for the planetarium, and David remained close with Dr. Anderson until his death.
“Brenda and I are saddened to learn of Lester’s passing,” David said. “He was a great teacher, mentor, and friend. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Dr. Anderson also enjoyed collecting antiques and unique artifacts and, in retirement, liked to entertain at local festivals with his restored 1917 Wurlitzer band organ.
Dr. Anderson was born December 30, 1933, in Parkersburg to Gale Thurman and Laura Gertrude (McMannis) Anderson. He is survived by his children and grandchildren: Lydia (Greg) Hunter of Marietta and their children Nadine (Rick) Radabaugh and Stephen (Robin) Hunter; Elliott (Karen) Anderson of Michigan and their three children; Wayne (Shannyn) Anderson of Marietta and their children Stuart, Bryget (Andrew) Burns, and Meghan (Shayne) Board; Laura (Dave) Pierpont of South Carolina; plus five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brother Elvin N. Anderson, formerly of Vienna and later Marietta.
In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes can be directed to the Anderson Hancock Planetarium. Donations may be made online at www.marietta.edu/give or by mail to Marietta College, ATTN: Advancement, 215 Fifth St., Marietta, OH 45750. Please mark the check, or designation space online, that it is in memory of Lester to ensure they go to the planetarium.
“Personally, Lester was a great help to me and to my family,” Kuhl said. “From providing sage professional advice to helping remove moldings from my new house so I could refinish the floors (after he instructed me on how to do it), Lester was a friend upon whom you could always depend. I will truly miss him.”