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U of M Physics Department Celebrates Its 46th Anniversary and the University’s 100th

For release: December 10, 2012
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901-678-2843

U of M Physics Department alumni and retirees joined current faculty and students on Nov. 20 for a Centennial year celebration of that department.  Mr. Lewis O’Kelly, retired assistant professor of physics, recounted the history of the department and some of the highlights of its 46-year existence.  The group also watched a film of some of the grandest of the fascinating experiments that Dr. Robert Marchini, faculty emeritus, who taught physics full-time for 44 years, had conducted during his tenure in the department.  Dr. Marchini’s enthusiasm and showmanship during those experiments made him a popular figure on, and off, the U of M campus. 

Most of the 70 people who attended the event formed teams to compete in “The Marshmallow Challenge,” using marshmallows and uncooked spaghetti noodles to create tall, free-standing structures.  Faculty, students and alumni got to know each other well as they worked together during the fun, fast-paced contest which was led by current faculty member Dr. Elizabeth Gire.

Members of the winning team in the UofM Physics Department’s “Marshmallow Challenge” are, from left, student Justin Robbins, alumnus Nathan Hayes, faculty member Dr. Firouzeh Sabri, and student Charissa Shiver. (Photo by Joanne Rhodes)

In addition to celebrating the department’s 46th anniversary and the University’s 100th Centennial, the event served as a fund-raiser for the Robert R. Marchini Scholarship in Physics.  The donation total so far is almost the amount needed to endow the scholarship fully, but scholarship administrators are seeking gifts to complete the endowment process.  Persons interested in giving to the scholarship can find information online at

The Physics Department Centennial observance was organized by U of M astronomy professor Joanne Rhodes.

Current students got to meet alumni, and alumni got to visit with their former professors, at the UofM Physics Department’s recent reunion, which celebrated not only the department’s creation 46 years ago, but also the University’s founding 54 years before that. Retired professor and speaker at the event, Lewis O’Kelly, is in the middle of the second row, immediately in front of the UofM shield. Professor emeritus Dr. Robert Marchini, well known for his entertaining physics experiments and for whom a physics scholarship is named, is second from left on the second row. (Photo by Kevin Goering)
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