|Professor Emeritus of Physics Bill Frey Dies at Age 75
October 30, 2008
Contact: Bill GIduz
Professor Emeritus William F. Frey, who taught physics at Davidson for 38 years, passed away Monday, Oct. 27. He was 75 years old. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Nov. 1, at 4 p.m. at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, and a reception will follow the service.
|Prof. Emeritus William F. Frey |
A native of Bristol, Tenn., Frey attended King College in his hometown as a day student. An extraordinary physics professor there sparked his interest and gave him his first tantalizing look at the super-secret nuclear research facilities at Oak Ridge, Tenn., that would become a familiar site for his professional endeavors.
Frey earned a fellowship to pursue graduate studies in radiological physics at Vanderbilt University. He later switched to atomic physics and earned his master’s degree under Vanderbilt’s professor John Hopkins, who left shortly thereafter to take a position at Davidson. Frey did his Ph.D. work in nuclear physics, and got his teaching position at Davidson as soon as he earned that degree.
He arrived here in the summer of 1960, shortly after physics and biology equipment had been moved from previous quarters in Chambers Building to the newly opened Dana Science Building.
Frey’s long tenure at the college spanned a great deal of change on campus. He recalled in a retirement interview that in his early years new faculty and their spouses formed a receiving line to meet all the other members of the faculty, and the entire faculty participated in a similar reception to greet each individual member of the incoming freshman class. Students attended required chapel services twice a week, as well as Sunday evening Vesper services at Davidson College Presbyterian Church. Throughout the 1960s the college held classes six days per week, including Saturday morning.
Like most of the country, in the early 1960s Davidson began making preparations to survive a nuclear attack. Frey helped host sessions offered in Dana to educate the public and train them for surviving in fallout shelters.
|Frey in 1985 working with a student. |
He was involved in planning for the peaceful use of the atom in the mid-1980s, when his former faculty colleague, Gov. Jim Martin, called on Frey to serve on the state’s Waste Management Board. He also became an alternate commissioner of the Southeast Compact Commission for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management. The compact was formed by several states to create a plan for disposing of low-level nuclear waste from paper plants, hospitals, industry and research institutions, but the work was never resolved.
Because it was impractical for Davidson to build and maintain the huge accelerators necessary for high energy research, Frey directed student studies on low energy projects like X-ray production, radioactive tracing, and health physics operations. Over the years he taught most of the courses in the physics curriculum, with particular responsibility for “Modern Physics,” “Health Physics,” and an advanced course in “Electromagnetic Theory.”
His research home was Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he spent nearly all of his sabbatical leaves and several summers. He studied and participated in research programs at its Institute of Nuclear Studies, the Associated Universities, and the Oak Ridge National Lab. The latter experience also provided the opportunity for his involvement in the initial operation of a company named Comstock, Inc., which manufactured equipment for detecting and analyzing charged particles, and equipment for laser studies. He called his 1975-1983 association with Comstock his “business career.”
His last sabbatical at Oak ridge was in 1991, when he studied molecular physics, investigating the synthesis of large quantities of “fullerenes.” The best known of these “super molecules” is Carbon-60, which has a structure like a soccer ball and was dubbed “Bucky-Ball” by the scientific community. Frey retired from the faculty in 1999.
Frey had been living in the Pines in Davidson, and is survived by his wife of 53 years, Bunny, and their three children, daughter Carol Gordon, and sons Stephen and David.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz