Mendenhall Endowment for the Study of Astronomy
Story orginally ran in Spring 1999 Perspectives
His coffee table is covered with current issues of various science journals. At age 95 OSU emeritus professor of astronomy and mathematics Dr. Harrison S. Mendenhall is a testament to the adage that you are never too old to learn.
The soft-spoken Ohio native recently became a friend to the OSU Library when he finished a charitable gift annuity t o support the Edmon Low Library Endowment. In making his gift, Dr. Mendenhall transferred shares of appreciated Nations Bank stock to the OSU foundation. In return, the Foundation will pay him a fixed annual income for life. Upon Dr. Mendenhall’s death, his generous gift will be added to the corpus of the Edmon Low Library Endowment.
Peggy Lawson, Dr. Mendenhall’s daughter, says it was only natural to think of the Library as a beneficiary. “Libraries always need money!” She speaks from experience; Peggy was a student assistant in the Documents Room, which was in the basement of the 1920 Library Building. She graduated from Oklahoma A&M College in 1952 with a degree in art.
By that time Dr. Mendenhall had already been teaching math, physics, and astronomy at OAMC for more than 15 years. He came to Stillwater in 1937 and was one of only two professors hired during that year of the great depression in the Arts and Sciences College. He earned his Ph. D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1929 and previously taught at Montana State College in Bozeman. “I taught math to make a living,” he says, “ but it is obvious that astronomy was always his primary interest.
Dr. Mendenhall spent one summer at the Boeing Company in the 1950s. While in Seattle he used the 36-inch telescope at the Lake Afton. He was also familiar with the Lick Observatory at Berkeley. And, “for the record,” he noted during a recent interview, “I have seen Haley’s Comet on two of its visits during my lifetime.
During WWII, Dr. Mendenhall, like other campus professors, took military leave and served as a celestial navigation instructor. Eventually, he achieved the rank of captain in the U.S. Army air force. Upon retiring from OSU in 1965, he and his wife Phyllis, then took time to enjoy the outdoors, especially canoeing and camping on Lake Superior.
Dr. Mendenhall is still active in the Stillwater community. He participates in the OSU Emeriti Association and the Sunshine Nutrition Center.
Some Local Resources:
View the items in the Mendenhall Endowment for the Study of Astronomy--Coming Soon
View items held in the OSU Libraries about Astronomy
For information on the H. Louise & H.E. "Ed" Cobb Speaker Series presented by the Friends of the OSU Library, contact Debbie Clemons at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-744-7273.