A History of Physics at Carson-Newman College

By John Burton

(Class of 1959, and Professor of Physics, 1964 to 2002)


1. The Early Formative Years. 1851-1882.

2. The Era of the Natural Sciences Department. 1882-1926.

3. The Decades of Alex Chavis. 1926-1957.

4. The O'Neal-Burton Era. 1963-2004.

5. The Continuing Legacy of Our Graduates.



1. The Early Formative Years. 1851-1882.

From its beginnings, Carson-Newman College has had some form of physics in its curriculum. The 1856-57 catalog of Mossy Creek Baptist College includes in the curriculum the subjects of Surveying, Natural Philosophy (which is what Sir Isaac Newton called his field of study) and Astronomy. Courses in Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Practical Mathematics provided a sound mathematical basis for these sciences. Since all students were required to take this same curriculum, these courses represent a firm commitment to the value of training in physical science. The college catalog proclaims, "Our philosophical and chemical apparatus . . . are ample for experimentation." Thus, Mossy Creek College provided a firm foundation in the physical sciences. R. R. Bryan was Professor of Natural Philosophy, also Vice President and President of the institution. From this position he surely exerted a profound influence on the college's strong emphasis in the physical sciences.

A firm commitment to physical science continued through the nineteenth century, as indicated by including a heavy dose of mathematics and physical science among the required courses for every year of study. The subjects of Navigation, Mechanics and Astronomy were added to the required curriculum, and at one point there was also an optional course in engineering. During the Civil War, damage to much of the college=s library and apparatus led to a plea, posted in the 1875 catalog, for money, books and apparatus with which to refurbish their facilities. By 1883, the facilities had been replenished to the extent that the Natural Sciences paragraph in the catalog claimed that AApparatus, chemicals and cabinets are provided for class use. Students participate in the experiments.@ In those days the Natural Sciences embraced APhysiology, Physics, Mechanics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, Astronomy, Mineralogy, and Geology.@ However, in 1896 and several years following, there appeared the following entreaty: AIt is hoped that the College may soon be provided with a good telescope, and thus render the study of Astronomy more interesting and profitable.@

During these rough years, the development of the physical sciences received direction from such scientific minds as W. T. Russell, Professor of Mathematics and Mechanical Philosophy, and J. J. Huff, Professor of English Language and Natural Science. (In those days of small size, there were some unusual combinations of fields of study!) Professor Russell was a 1869 graduate of Mossy Creek College, who had a long-term relationship with the college, into the twentieth century. He served as Vice President, Business Manager and Professor at Mossy Creek College, and as President of Newman College for women. After his retirement from the college, he served as vice-president of the Carson and Newman Alumni Association.

2. The Era of the Natural Sciences Department. 1882-1926.

Another extended and multi-faceted tenure of service was rendered by Rev. Shelby E. Jones, who began in 1882 as Professor of Natural Science and Applied Mathematics. He served until 1914 in the capacities of Secretary of the faculty and Professor of Philosophy and Higher Mathematics. From 1890 to 1905, the Natural Sciences were taught in succession by S. N. Williams, John C. Welsh, and Dr. Charles Walker. The subject always included Chemistry and Physics, but occasionally Biology and Astronomy did not appear in the curriculum.

In the early twentieth century, science courses were taught by Dr. Emile Otto Kaserman (1905-1917), Dr. A. T. King (1917-1918) and Mr. Roy L. McMurray (1918-1925). During these years, the Science department usually included courses in Biology, Geology, Physics, and Chemistry. A separate department of Physics and Chemistry was formed in 1919, which included one course in General Physics. The possibility of additional, unspecified Physics courses was also occasionally indicated. In 1920, Professor Edward W. White added Astronomy to the Mathematics curriculum.

The most famous among those who taught Physics at Carson-Newman was Dr. Samuel Cornette Collins. After studying at University of Tennessee and University of North Carolina, Collins taught for one year at Carson-Newman (1925-1926) in the Department of Physics and Chemistry. He went on to become a highly regarded teacher and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is most famous for the invention of the Collins helium liquefier, which is still widely used today. A few years after his brief tenure at Carson-Newman, Dr. Collins married Miss Lena Masterson, who was a junior Home Economics major at the time and taught at Carson-Newman in 1927-1928. Presently, the Masterson-Collins award for a major in Family and Consumer Sciences still carries his name at Carson-Newman.

3. The Decades of Alex Chavis. 1926-1957.

The Physics Department came into being as a separate entity in 1926, under the resourceful guidance of Mr. Alexander A. Chavis. Mr. Chavis graduated from Carson-Newman in 1922 and served his Alma mater as a field worker from 1922 to 1924. He was then Superintendent of Schools in Jefferson City for two years, before becoming an Instructor in Physics at Carson-Newman in 1926. He received further education at the U. S. Electrical School and then a M. A. degree from University of Kentucky in 1931, when he also was promoted to Associate Professor. His curriculum included courses in General Physics, Household Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism and Astronomy at the beginning of his tenure. He later added Elementary Physics, Radio Communications, Light and Sound, Meteorology and Modern Physics to the program.

Alex Chavis was quite gifted at acquiring equipment for the Physics Department. He utilized his position as Alumni Secretary and his rapport with former students to enhance the equipment budget. He collected an impressive array of demonstration apparatus, which he used with great flair in his classes. For laboratory exercises, Mr. Chavis procured two sets of apparatus for each of a wide range of experiments. The apparatus was of sufficient quality to provide meaningful learning experiments for many generations of physics students. By scheduling the experiments in a "round robin" fashion, the General Physics laboratories could serve up to sixty students each semester.

Alex Chavis was also instrumental in promoting and planning the construction of the first Science Building for Carson-Newman. Completed in the fall of 1939, the building housed the departments of Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Funding included generous gifts from A. R. Brown, Henry D. Blanc and J. H. Anderson. The Physics Department was furnished as a memorial to A. R. Brown, of Erwin, Tennessee, whose family has been closely tied to Carson-Newman for several generations. The construction also benefited materially from the labors of Dr. Albert Myers, who was employed as a hod carrier. The building now serves as the James T. Warren Art Building, named after the president who was in office during its construction. Alex Chavis also laid the early ground work for funding the construction of the current Dougherty Science Building through his contacts with Mr. and Mrs. T. Hunter Dougherty.

Astronomy was among Mr. Chavis' favorite subjects. He often quipped that his primary objective in the course was "to teach the young ladies that the moon was not made of green cheese and the young men that not all of the heavenly bodies resided in the women's dormitories." In 1933 an observatory was erected, as a gift from the class of 1926 and with considerable impetus from Mr. Chavis. It was "strategically" located near Sarah Swann Dormitory for Women. A high quality 5.25 inch refracting telescope was installed in the observatory in 1948, as a gift from a Mr. Schuler . The observatory also contained a Foucault pendulum.

The observatory was demolished in 1966, to make room for the southwest wing of Butler Dormitory. The refracting telescope was retrieved from the structure and mounted on a semi-portable pedestal. This arrangement did not prove satisfactory, so the refracting telescope was traded to a capable astronomy student (Garry Noland) in exchange for a six-inch reflector which was much more portable. Currently, the Astronomy course is served by two excellent, portable, eight-inch reflecting telescopes.

By 1948, the number of courses and the number of students enrolled in Physics necessitated an additional staff member. Leonard Schieber, William I. Dale and George P. Williams each served briefly as Instructor or Assistant Professor in Physics and Mathematics from 1948 through 1951. They appear to have been along their way toward graduate degrees in Physics in those years. Leonard Schieber introduced a course in radio at Carson-Newman and went on to teach a year at Lees-McRae. Following that, he spent a successful career in the aerospace industry. William Dale, after an enjoyable year at Carson-Newman, in his first "sure enough" job, returned to The University of Tennessee to complete his M. S. in Physics. Having learned at Carson-Newman that he could not afford to live on a teaching salary, Mr. Dale spent his career in physical testing in the space industry at Thiokol Corporation in Huntsville, Alabama. George Williams has enjoyed a very successful teaching career, with tenures at University of Richmond and Wake Forest. For a couple of years, unspecified assistants were listed along with Mr. Chavis in the Physics Department. These may have been either undergraduate teaching assistants or graduate students from The University of Tennessee, whose names were not documented in the college catalog. The second position in the Physics department thus served as a useful stepping stone to several useful careers in physics.

In 1953, Paul Joseph Haigh was added to the Physics faculty and served as Associate Professor of Physics until 1958. He studied at Miami University of Ohio, University of Illinois and University of Tennessee. Mr. Haigh was instrumental in establishing a pre-engineering program at Carson-Newman, in conjunction with University of Tennessee School of Engineering. By completing three years at Carson-Newman and two years at the University, students could earn a B.S. degree in pre-engineering from Carson-Newman and a bachelor's degree in engineering from University of Tennessee. The Mathematics Department offered two years of Engineering Drawing, which were required in the pre-engineering curriculum. Courses in Advanced Electronics and Theoretical Physics were added to the Physics curriculum.

Professor Chavis retired from Carson-Newman in 1957 and began to work as an abstractor for Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Mr. Haigh served as acting chairman of the Physics Department and Mrs. Ann Kendall was hired as Assistant Professor of Physics for 1957-1958. In 1958, Paul Haigh left Carson-Newman, to pursue a Ph.D. degree at University of Florida.

Mr. Archie Mullins was Associate Professor and chairman of the Physics Department from 1958 until December 1963. He had studied at Howard College and Universities of Florida, Indiana and Michigan, and had worked in industry. Mr. Mullins was fond of quoting Shakespeare and of visiting with students over ice-cream cones. Mr. Charles Huang, from China, taught advanced physics courses during 1958-1959. Mr. David W. Neil, a graduate of Carson-Newman and University of Kentucky, was Assistant Professor of Physics from 1959 to 1963. He has continued his teaching career, most recently at Missouri Baptist College.

4. The O'Neal-Burton Era. 1963-2004.

The year 1963 marked the beginning of the current era for Physics at Carson-Newman. Mr. Tom O'Neal, a graduate of Mississippi College and University of Florida, was hired as Assistant Professor of Physics. After Mr. Mullins departed from the college in December of 1963, a senior Physics major, W. Thomas Bass, and a graduate student from University of Tennessee, Gene W. Ray, helped to finish the year. Then in the fall of 1964, Dr. John W. Burton began to serve as Associate Professor of Physics and Department Chair. Dr. Burton received his B. S. from Carson-Newman in 1959, the M. S. and Ph. D. from University of Illinois. Dr. Burton and Mr. O’Neal formed an immediate bond of collegiality and friendship, which benefited both them and the Physics Department through the many years which have followed. Gene Ray continued as part time instructor through the 1964-1965 year. For a few years following, the department obtained part time help from Dr. John Askill, a physicist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who taught some advanced courses, and Carl Parker, a mathematician at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who taught Astronomy.

Tom O'Neal took a leave of absence from 1966 until 1970, to complete a Ph.D. at Clemson University. During that interim, Mr. Charles E. Magnuson served as Assistant Professor of Physics. He had earned the B. A. degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University and the M. A. from State University of New York at Buffalo. Although affected by cerebral palsy, Charles had a remarkable rapport with students and often entertained them in his mobile home, near the campus. He was instrumental in establishing the Carson-Newman chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national Physics honor society. He served ably as the chapter advisor from its installation in May 1968, until he departed in 1970, to work toward his Ph. D. at Texas A and M University. Mr. Magnuson obtained grants from the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Science Foundation, providing equipment and student support for the construction of equipment used for cosmic ray studies. He has maintained a keen interest in the endeavors of the Carson-Newman Physics Department since his departure.

Dr. Paul J. Haigh returned to Carson-Newman in 1967, having completed a Ph.D. in physics at University of Florida, and having served as Professor of Physics at Florida Presbyterian College. By adding him to the faculty, the department hoped to launch an era of grant-supported research, involving undergraduate students at Carson-Newman. Dr. Haigh had been successful with such grants at Florida Presbyterian. Unfortunately, research grants of that type became difficult to obtain, so that physics research at Carson-Newman did not reach the level we had envisioned. A grant from National Science Foundation allowed students to join with faculty in two pilot research projects during the summer of 1971. The research projects included a study of quenching, under Dr. O'Neal and construction of a Mossbauer effect apparatus under Dr. Burton. Dr. Haigh also helped an innovative group of students to obtain a grant for investigating the quality of subterranean water in caves around the region, during that same summer.

Several changes in the Physics curriculum resulted from Paul Haigh's influence. The one year course in Elementary Physics was changed to a one semester course, "Physics and Society," and an interdisciplinary course, "Man and His Environment," was introduced. The General Physics course, which had been serving students in both the health professions and physics/engineering, was divided into two separate one year courses, one based on a background in algebra and the other on calculus. In response to the Sputnik era, a course in Space Physics made a brief appearance in the college catalog. The Physics faculty also experimented with team teaching.

Dr. Haigh also participated in a grant program at The University of Tennessee, by which instruction and equipment were obtained, for instituting a course in Electrical Circuits at Carson-Newman. The course became an important part of the pre-engineering curriculum at Carson-Newman. At about the same time, the Engineering Drawing course, which had previously been taught by the Mathematics Department for several years, was moved to the Physics Department. A part time adjunct instructor was engaged to teach the course.

During this era, the Physics Department produced two chapel programs which were well received by the student body. The first included a fast-hitting slide show with narration, which depicted the importance of studying the sciences in college. The year following, Dr. Burton produced a program with slides, narration and sound effects (including a live BIG BANG!), entitled "Creation!" That program has continued to be used at Carson-Newman, at other schools and in churches. Dr. Burton also produced a program, "The Passion of Christ," using slides of great works of art and tape recorded dramatic readings, based on scriptural accounts of Jesus' birth, death and resurrection. More recently he has presented several scriptural monologues, "Paul's Letter to the Philippians," "The Sermon on the Mount," "An Evening in the Psalms" and "The Apostle Norton."

Dr. Paul Haigh was taken from us by a tragic automobile accident in November 1970. Also killed were his oldest son, Joe, and a close friend of the family. It was a poignant blow, for Paul Haigh had been this author's primary mentor and definitive standard of behavior as a scientist and a teacher. One foot had to be forced in front of the other, in order to carry forward the course of instruction which he had so proficiently ingrained in us. Charles Magnuson was also profoundly influenced by Paul Haigh. He and his wife, Denise, established the Paul J. Haigh Book Award, which consists of $100 for the purchase of books, given annually to a deserving student in the sciences.

Tom O'Neal completed his Ph.D. at Clemson University and returned to Carson-Newman in the fall of 1970, as Associate Professor of Physics. The department briefly enjoyed having three doctorates, although economics and enrollment realities were exerting pressure to reduce the staff. So when Paul Haigh was killed, no attempt was made to find a replacement. Drs. O'Neal and Burton managed the course load by teaching a few extra hours and by offering some courses in alternate years or only on sufficient demand.

The Dougherty Science Center was completed in 1972, to provide a more complete and modern facility for the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division. Appropriately, Physics, Geology and Mathematics occupy the ground floor, with Biology and Chemistry on the two floors above. The Physics facilities included a lecture room, two general purpose laboratories, and laboratories for electronics, advanced physics, radiation and research. Until 1989, a room originally designed for Engineering Drawing was used as a Computation Center, containing a PDP-8 computer and several programmable calculators. These facilitated the teaching of BASIC and FORTRAN computer languages, and computations employed in statistics and science laboratory courses.

The completion of Dougherty Science Center was celebrated by a symposium, held March 24-27, 1974. The symposium was called "IMPACT! Science for a Better Tomorrow." Scientists from several disciplines and from several regions of the country presented the impact of science on man's needs for health and for energy. Since Henderson Hall had burned in January of 1974, the symposium took place in the old sanctuary of First Baptist Church. Dr. Burton chaired the planning committee for the symposium, with a great deal of help from Dr. O'Neal and a few others in the Science Division. The symposium evoked an enthusiastic response from 100-200 people from the area, who attended.

An effort was made in the latter half of the 1970's to provide a research experience for our Physics students. Dr. O'Neal began a joint research program with Ralph Coltman, in the Solid State Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratories. An extremely precise microbalance was loaned to Carson-Newman, that enabled students to make very accurate determinations of the changes in density of a copper sample due to neutron irradiation. A number of students participated in the program. Ann Boyd (class of 1978) completed an Honors Project using her research experience. Dr. Burton was involved in Mossbauer effect research at Oak Ridge National Laboratories from 1965 until 1976, but was not able to generate a research project at Carson-Newman.

In 1974, the Physics department instituted a curriculum in Health Physics, by which students could major in one of the natural sciences and qualify for a job or further study in Health Physics. The curriculum was originally served by an interdisciplinary, one year course in Health Physics, jointly taught by Dr. O'Neal and Dr. Ben Sloan from the Biology Department. An interdisciplinary program in Natural Science was also offered by the Mid Appalachian College Council Incorporated and Oak Ridge Associated Universities, to further enhance studies in the science of radiation. A major in Health Physics was carried until 1980, when it became a concentration, listed in the Physics Department. The curriculum then included one semester of Health Physics and one of Radiation Biology, together with a major in one of the natural sciences. The Radiation Biology course was discontinued a few years later, but the concentration in Health Physics has remained a useful curriculum. The Health Physics course and a radiation laboratory course taught at Oak Ridge Associated Universities have continued to be an effective part of the Health Physics program, under the leadership of Dr. Tom O'Neal.

Tom O'Neal and John Burton developed their own unique styles and areas of expertise in teaching. Dr. O'Neal changed the elementary physics course to "Physics and Everyday Life," which he has taught successfully since 1972. He has also taught a course for honors students, in collaboration with Dr. Don Olive, Professor of Philosophy. The honors course has been variously titled "Man and His Universe," "Humanity and the Cosmos," etc. Dr. O'Neal has also taught the second semester of General Physics, the beginning courses for pre-engineers, and Mechanics. He is perhaps best remembered for introducing a fictitious character, Melvin Specklepecker, as the brunt of many illustrations and physics problems in his classes.

Dr. Burton developed a unique approach to the General Physics course, by which students keep trying to master each concept until they get it right. Home work problems and single-concept quizzes are attempted repeatedly until satisfactorily passed. Student response to the system has been generally positive. He also established a course, "The Physics of Musical Sound," taught in alternate years since 1978. Elementary Astronomy has also been a popular course of his. In all these courses, Dr. Burton has developed extensive use of a system for computer generated tests and for computer assisted instruction. For the past decade, Dr. Burton has maintained a habit of quoting a verse of scripture at the beginning of each class period.

In 1991, the General Physics course became more specifically tailored for students headed for the health professions. Physics majors and pre-engineering students were steered toward the calculus based physics course. In addition, a course in Statics was introduced, primarily for pre-engineering students, and the former Advanced Mechanics course was changed to Dynamics, with a more distinctive engineering perspective.

In the 1970's, Dr. Burton became increasingly involved in the computing facility, teaching computer language courses and developing academic software. He took a sabbatical leave in 1975-1976, to earn a M. S. degree in Computer Science at The University of Tennessee. Robert Silkensen, a 1975 graduate of Carson-Newman, taught General Physics during his absence. For his Master's thesis, Dr. Burton developed system software for computer assisted instruction, using the PDP-8 computer. The system serviced up to five students, with a fair degree of facility in both verbal and numerical instructional practice. The PDP-8, with only 20K bytes of memory and 1 Megabyte of disc storage, was considered much too small for CAI. Therefore, a significant amount of software engineering was required.

The PDP-8 computer system was upgraded to the next generation, a PDP-11 computer, in 1981. At that point, Dr. Burton became half time director of the computer center, with a half time teaching load. Dr. O'Neal became the Coordinator of the Physics Department, having been promoted to the rank of Professor in 1976. Part of the Physics teaching load was assumed by Dr. Albert Myers, who had just retired as Professor of Chemistry at Carson-Newman. Dr. Myers served as laboratory instructor for General Physics from 1981 through 1988. Mr. James Satterfield, a retired engineer, followed in that assignment from 1988 to 1990.

Dr. Raiford Ball also taught General Physics, as a part time adjunct instructor, in 1986-1987. In 1987-1988, Mr. Don Olive (the older son of Dr. Don Olive, professor of Philosophy) taught part time, during a hiatus from his graduate studies at Vanderbilt University. During that year and in the summer of 1989, Dr. O'Neal was engaged in a sabbatical research project on charge density waves at University of Kentucky, supported by a Pew Fellowship. Other part time personnel, who taught Engineering Drawing, included William Fischer (1975-1976), Sam Dunaway (1977-1979), James Layton (1979-1980) and Leo Robinson (1982-1998).

Several important changes in personnel and facilities occurred in 1989. A new computer annex to Dougherty Science Center was completed, a VAX computer replaced the earlier generation PDP-11, Mr. Mark Seagroves was hired as full time director of the Academic Computer Center, and Dr. Burton reverted to full time teaching. However, Dr. Burton also continued to develop computer software for academic use, including an upgraded version of the computer assisted instruction system, a grade book program, various programs for distributing class rolls, student schedules and faculty schedules.

In 1996, the major in Physics was discontinued because of a diminishing job market for physicists, and to allow greater emphasis on pre-engineering, health professions, a new major in Computer Science, and other curricular needs. Dr. Burton retired in 2002, after 38 years of active service at Carson-Newman. In 2004 Dr. OíNeal retired after a 41 year tenure, thus bringing the OíNeal-Burton era to a close at Carson-Newman. The two retirees remain in the area and continue a vital interest in the future development of Carson-Newman.

Dr. Don Olive, Jr., returned to Carson-Newman in 2002 to take Dr. Burtonís place. He brought a good match to Dr. Burtonís abilities, with his interest in Astronomy, musical sound and computer science. Dr. Olive graduated from Carson-Newman in 1985, completed his doctorate at Vanderbilt University and came to Carson-Newman with four years of physics research and eight years of teaching experience. Dr. Michael Seale followed Dr. OíNeal in the Physics Department. He received his education at Wabash College and The College of William and Mary, earning the Ph.D. in physics in 1996. Prior to coming to Carson-Newman College in 2004, Dr. Seale served as an Assistant Professor of Physics at Marietta college for three years and as head of the Physics Department at Thomas Nelson Community College for two years. He has also worked as a National Research Council Associate at NASA Langley Research Center for two years where he was involved with the High-Speed Research program. His main research interests are in non-destructive ultrasonic materials evaluation. Drs. Olive and Seale infused fresh vigor and new insights into the physics program at Carson-Newman, reinstating physics majors at Carson-Newman. Mr. Ben Waldo has served as a part-time instructor for Engineering Drawing from 2005 to the present.

In 2006 Dr. Olive moved on to a position at another college and Associate Professor Seale became chair of the department. Dr. John Burton and Dr. Tom OíNeal filled in by teaching a few courses, while a search for Dr. Oliveís replacement was conducted. Dr. Sean Cordry came to Carson-Newman in 2007 as Associate Professor of Physics. Dr. Cordry received his B.S. from Harding University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi. Prior to coming to Carson-Newman, Dr. Cordry served as an Associate Professor of Physics at Northwestern College of Iowa for five years and as Associate Professor of Physics and Mathematics at York College for seven years. He has also worked as a research assistant at the University of Washington and the University of Mississippi. His current research interests lie in the area of the environmental impacts of renewable energy sources. Dr. Seale and Dr. Cordry are energetically directing the physics program at the present time.

5. The Continuing Legacy of Our Graduates.

By far, the most enduring effect of the Carson-Newman Physics Department will be the continuing impact of the students who have ventured through our courses. The first of Carson-Newman's physics majors appears to have been Dr. Harry Clay Helm, class of 1935. Dr. Helm is now a retired physician in Columbia, Tennessee. In recognition of his distinction as the first graduate, he was elected as a member of the Carson-Newman chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma in 1972.

From our alumni records, we can identify 217 students who graduated with a major or minor in Physics or Pre-engineering. There are likely many more, because our records are incomplete and because we have no records of pre-engineering students who did not earn a degree from Carson-Newman. Among those whom we can identify, there are 107 who recorded a first major in Physics, 60 in Mathematics, 20 in Pre-engineering, 3 in Biology, 3 in Chemistry and 17 whose majors are not identified. Other major fields include English, History, Accounting, Physical Education and Home Economics.

Students benefited from small classes at Carson-Newman. This allowed for close contacts with professors and for experience with good quality apparatus. Graduates report that their learning experiences in Physics courses provided a sound basis for graduate work and for rewarding service in fields ranging from scientific research, to medicine, to education, to music.

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) provided for social and academic development beyond the classroom. The organization often included non-majors, who enjoyed contacts with the Physics bunch. Their activities included hikes in the Smoky Mountains, camping trips, trips to national Physics meetings, the Smithsonian Institute, Huntsville, Alabama, Epcott Center and Kennedy Space Center. The trips to Washington occasionally engendered a romantic attraction between a pair of participants which eventuated in matrimonial bliss. Richard Rosenberger (’72) and Jenny Rives (’71) were the first, followed by Al LaRoe (’80) and Kathy Hall (’80), and Greg Williams (’82) and Lisa Leeper (’82). Several other couples were involved together in SPS activities, including Doug and Elaine Shafer (’72), John and Becky Dunaway (’74), Bob (’75) and Chris Silkensen, Ann (Boyd, ‘78) and Harold Tallent, Tim and Barbara Durham (’80), Greg and Corilyn Ott (’87), and Michael and Jennifer Ottomanelli (’92). There are probably other similar couples, whom we have not identified.

A favorite annual event for several years was the SPS Egglide. The competition entailed the transport of a raw egg in a non-powered, heavier than air craft. The contestant who conveyed the egg over the greatest distance without breaking was declared the winner. The entrance fee was intended to provide funds for the organization, but the primary results were a lot of fun and many broken eggs. In another attempt to raise money, the SPS sold sweatshirts with an SPS logo imprinted on them. The sales produced enough funds to pay for the shirts and the resulting profit consisted mainly of left-over sweatshirts. The SPS appeared to be more proficient at producing fun than raising funds!

The social event of the year for SPS has been the annual Sigma Pi Sigma banquet, featuring the induction of new members into the honorary organization. The banquet usually took place at a local restaurant in the spring. The program included a presentation of the history of Sigma Pi Sigma, both nationally and locally, and a speaker from the local region. Speakers included Dr. Cecil Shugart, who, in 1969, was the national Director of the Society of Physics Students, Dr. Thomas Turner of Wake Forest University, Dr. Sherman Vanaman, Dr. Paul Brewer, Dr. Don Olive, Dr. Carl Bahner, Dr. Albert Myers, and other Carson-Newman professors. Dr. Bahner and Dr. Myers were also elected as members of Sigma Pi Sigma. In addition, the Paul J. Haigh Book Award was presented to an outstanding student during the banquet.

Our graduates have entered a wide range of fields, confirming our belief that learning physics prepares one to do anything. The largest group entered an educational field, followed by those employed in engineering, scientific or technical research, management, church-related ministries, medically related fields, business, military service, homemaking and counseling. The largest portion of our graduates settled in Tennessee, with the rest being scattered from California to Connecticut, from Florida to Wyoming and a few in foreign countries. In the years to come, our graduates should continue to have a broad impact across the land and around the globe.


College Bulletin or Catalog for Mossy Creek Baptist College, Mossy Creek College, Carson College, Newman College, Carson and Newman College, or Carson-Newman College, from 1856 to the present.

The Appalachian, a few selected volumes, 1922-1930.

Alumni records from the Carson-Newman College Office of Alumni Relations.

Taped conversations with Mrs. Martha Chavis Arbin, Dr. Albert L. Myers and Mr. Jean P. Peoples.

Personal recollections of the author and Dr. Tom O’Neal.

Correspondence from:

Dorothy E. Dale (widow of former Physics Assistant Professor, William I. Dale).

Dr. Leonard Schieber (former Physics Instructor).

Dr. George P. Williams (former Physics Assistant Professor).

Mr. Charles A. England, Class of 1988

Mr. John M. Formwalt, Class of 1937

Dr. Franklin T. Fowler, Class of 1939

Mr. Harvey T. Kite, Class of 1942

Mr. William L. Maxson II, Class of 1994

Mrs. Genia Lee McDuffee, Class of 1992

Dr. Ross E. Moreton, Class of 1961

Dr. Robert Obutelewicz, Class of 1963

Mr. Jean P. Peoples, Class of 1950

Mrs. Lynn M. Ross, Class of 1992

Mrs. Ruth Ziegler Russell, Class of 1979

Mr. Lester A. Smith, Class of 1938

Dr. Roy L. Vice, Class of 1972

Mr. Tse-Ping Wong, Class of 1972

Dr. David B. Yelvington, Class of 1975


Number of Physics/Pre-Engineering Alumni, by Graduating Class

Class Number

1935 1

1937 2

1938 2

1939 4

1942 2

1943 1

1944 3

1945 1

1947 2

1948 5

1949 6

1950 7

1951 2

1952 4

1953 4

1954 3

1955 1

1956 3

1957 2

1958 10

Class Number

1959 9

1960 6

1961 9

1962 10

1963 6

1964 4

1965 5

1966 6

1967 5

1968 3

1969 8

1970 2

1971 4

1972 8

1973 4

1974 2

1975 5

1976 2

1977 3

1978 7

Class Number

1979 1

1980 3

1981 1

1982 3

1983 2

1984 6

1985 5

1986 4

1987 2

1988 3

1990 4

1991 1

1992 6

1993 1

1994 1

1995 2

1996 1

1997 1


The Succession of Physics Teachers at Carson-Newman

R. R. Bryan, Professor of Natural Philosophy, Vice-President, President, 1851-53; 1866-68.

W. T. Russell, Professor of Mathematics and Mechanical Philosophy, 1875-90.

J. J. Huff, Professor of English Language and Natural Science, 1875-82.

J. T. Henderson, Professor of Mathematics, Treasurer, Librarian, 1882-92.

Shelby E. Jones, D.D., Professor of Natural Science, Applied Mathematics, 1882-1914.

S. W. Williams, Professor of Natural Science, 1890-91.

John C. Welsh, Professor of Natural Science, 1891-99.

Charles Walker, Ph.D., Professor of Natural Science, Physics, Chemistry, 1899-1905.

Emile O. Kaserman, Th.D., Professor of Science, 1905-09.

Miss Mildred M. Jeffries, A.B., Associate in Latin and Science, 1910-11.

Albert P. Van Dusen, A.M., Professor of Mathematics, Economics, German, 1912-14.

George H. Edwards, Jr, M.A., Professor of Mathematics, 1915-16.

Edward W. White, M.A., Professor of Mathematics, 1917-21.

A. T. King, M.D., D.D., Professor of Science, 1917-18.

Roy L. McMurray, Professor of Science, Physics, Chemistry, 1918-1925.

Judson D. Ives, M.A., Listed as a Physics teacher, 1923-24.

Samuel C. Collins, Professor of Chemistry, 1925-26.

Alex A. Chavis, A.M., Professor of Physics, Alumni Secretary, 1926-57.

Leonard Schieber, Instructor of Physics and Mathematics, 1948-49.

William I. Dale, Asst. Professor of Physics and Mathematics, 1949-50.

George P. Williams, Asst. Professor of Physics and Mathematics, 1950-51.

Paul J. Haigh, Ph.D, Assoc. Professor of Physics, 1953-58; Professor of Physics, 1967-70.

Archie G. Mullins, M.S., Assoc. Professor of Physics, 1958-63.

Charles Huang, M.S., Assoc. Professor of Physics, 1958-59.

David W. Neil, M.S., Assoc. Professor of Physics, 1959-63.

Thomas N. O’Neal, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, 1963-2004; Department Chair, 1981-2004.

William Thomas Bass, Instructor of Physics, Spring 1964.

Gene W. Ray, M.S., Part-time Asst. Professor of Physics, 1964-65.

John W. Burton, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, 1964-2002; Department Chair, 1964-1981; Director of Academic Computer Center, 1981-1989.

William L. Fisher, Part-time Instructor of Engineering Drawing, 1975-76.

James Layton, Part-time Instructor of Engineering Drawing, 1979-80.

Albert L. Myers, Part-time laboratory instructor, 1981-88.

Leo Robinson, Part-time Instructor of Engineering Drawing, 1982-98.

Raiford Ball, Ph.D., Part-time Assoc. Professor of Physics, 1986-87.

Don Olive, Jr., Ph.D., Part-time Instructor of Physics, 1987-88; Professor of Physics, 2002-present.

James Satterfield, Part-time laboratory instructor, 1988-90.

Michael Seale, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physics, 2004-present.

Date last edited: 02/16/09