AU Press Releases

Calling hours, memorial service Saturday for John Stull




John L. Stull, professor emeritus at Alfred University (AU) and member of the class of 1952, died Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, with Paula, his wife of 60 years by his side.

Services will be Saturday, Nov. 17, at Susan Howell Hall, on campus. Calling hours will be from 1:30-3:30 p.m., downstairs (handicapped accessible), with a memorial service at 4 p.m. upstairs, and a reception to follow.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Alfred University Observatory, Alfred University, 1 Saxon Drive, Alfred, NY 14802.

Professor Stull graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in glass technology in 1952.  He earned both his master’s degree, in 1954, and his Ph.D. (in the University’s first Ph.D. class) in ceramics, in 1958, from AU.  But as John would point out, not Alfred’s first PhD– because “Stull” is an alphabetically challenged name.

He joined the Alfred University faculty as a professor of physics in 1958 and served as director of the University Observatory, re-named in 1989 as the Stull Observatory in his honor. He retired from the University in 1992.

"John Stull's influence on Alfred University is truly permanent. The observatory alone assures  this permanency, and the quality of his friendship for many of us means that we, too, have been permanently touched by him." said Charles M. Edmondson, Alfred University president.

He continued: "In my opinion, however, it is more important for me to disclose that many of our trustees have written to me about how important John was to them during their student days. Those writing included  a professor at  a top research university, bankers, respected scientists, a nationally known investment columnist, and accountants. Each of them encountered John with disparate levels of interest in physics.

"Some had a keen interest while others viewed it as nothing but a 'necessary evil' of general education  These differences notwithstanding, however, all of them spoke about John's ability to share his love of physics and to inspire each of them," he added.

"Perhaps even more important, all of them remembered his genuine concern and kindness for students. These comments not only affirm that John embodied the best attributes of an Alfred professor. Their comments also affirm that great people and professors like John Stull actually change lives," concluded Edmondson.

During his tenure, Professor Stull served as chairman of the Alfred University Faculty Council and as director of the National Science Foundation’s Astronomy Institute for Science Teachers, for which he oversaw a summer institute in observational astronomy for junior and senior high school science teachers. 

In 1963, he invented the Stull-Ealing linear air track, a nearly friction free device used for physics instruction.  His efforts for the University briefly extended into the realm of the Admissions Office, where he participated in recruiting efforts with his fellow Alfred personnel. 

In addition to his extensive work on the design and construction of the Observatory and its telescopes, Professor Stull’s research and education interests include development of computer programs and photography of extragalactic supernovae and gamma ray bursters. His work was published in a number of publications, including Astronomy, The Physics Teacher, Minutes of the Royal Astronomical Society and Telescope Making. 

In 1997, Asteroid 31113 Stull was named for Professor Stull, following its discovery by the late faculty member Scott Weaver and faculty member David DeGraff using a telescope Stull designed and built.

In 2002, the Alumni Council gave Professor Stull its Alfred University Friend Award.  In 2011, the Council presented him the Lillian T. Nevins Award for Lifetime Service to the University. The honor is given to alumni who have performed outstanding service, promoting the highest interests of Alfred University and its alumni.

“Dr. Stull’s physical, financial, and intellectual contributions toward re-establishing the Alfred Observatory are among the most notable as evidences of his service to his campus and alma mater,” wrote Anne Cornell, director of Research and Prospect Management, in her nomination of Stull. 

“Dr. Stull’s is a name well-known across our campus and beyond the perimeter of Alfred, as it resonates not only with a vast number of alumni, faculty, and staff but the scientific community as well. As evident by his career-long commitment to developing what was the original 1836 Alfred University Observatory into the modern facility now named in his honor, Dr. Stull not only led the charge in his capacity as director of the Stull Observatory, but personally was responsible for building or rebuilding all of the major telescopes currently in use therein.”

In addition to his wife, Professor Stull is survived by two children, Marylee and Peter.