In Memoriam: Shannon O'Leary and Adam Clausen
Former LU Postdoctoral Fellow in Physics, Shannon O’Leary and former Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics, Adam Clausen were killed in a car accident on 26 December 2016 while returning to Portland, Oregon from a family holiday gathering in Bend. Their car was hit from behind and sent into oncoming traffic. Adam and Shannon’s son, Felix (4) survived the crash and has been adopted by Adam’s brother and his family.
The people in the Lawrence community who knew and loved Adam and Shannon since their arrivals in Appleton in 2007 and 2008 respectively continue to grieve this tragic loss and we know that they had a deep impact on the lives and careers of a number of former Lawrence students who might be readers of this newsletter.
Shannon and Adam were married in Appleton in 2009. They moved to Portland in 2010 where Shannon took up a tenure-track faculty position in the physics department at Lewis and Clark College. Adam taught physics and mathematics courses at a number of Portland area institutions before settling into a career with a firm that reviewed patent applications, reminding some of us of Einstein’s early-career employment.
Shannon developed a productive research program at Lewis and Clark in atomic physics and the couple had a tremendously positive influence on students and colleagues at Lewis and Clark as some of us heard at their memorial service in January.
Here are some of the words from LU physics alumni that we received in the days and weeks following news of Shannon and Adam’s deaths:
Daniel Fulton (‘09): Adam and Shannon first came to Lawrence during my junior year in the physics department. For five of the six quarters I had before graduation, I took classes with Adam. He, by far, did the most damage to my GPA of any faculty member at Lawrence. I enjoyed his dry humor in the classroom and the uncompromising way he set a high bar for his students, so despite not getting the best marks, each quarter I would register for his next course. The faculty culture in the LU Physics department is what initially drew me to Lawrence. When I visited as a high school student I was struck by the collegiality of the faculty towards students, and the overwhelming sense that they cared not just about teaching students to be good physicists, but how to be good people and live happy, successful lives. That Adam and Shannon took so immediately to this generous culture, speaks volumes to their high character.
Eric Frater (‘11): Shannon and Adam fostered my love for applied optics and are responsible for the path I've taken for my career. They were incredibly kind, supportive, and firm teachers. I think they represented the best teaching practices that I have ever been subjected to.
Brad Bodee (‘11): Clausen and O'Leary helped me a lot. Clausen's lectures were amazing. I remember sprinting out of the classroom to take down notes before I forgot all the details he taught me. His advanced mechanics course was fun entertaining and helpful. His class got me through my advanced mechanics graduate course.
Two better colleagues and friends, we don’t expect to see in this world.
–M. R. Stoneking
Graduates of the Lawrence Physics Program
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