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Roger Finlay

Roger Finlay

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University mourns death of Distinguished Professor of Physics

Roger Finlay was University's first nuclear physicist


Ohio University Distinguished Professor of Physics Roger W. Finlay died suddenly on Sunday, March 13, while hospitalized near his home in South Carolina. 

Finlay became Ohio University's first nuclear physicist in 1962.  Despite starting with limited resources, he led the development of a highly successful research program. During his illustrious career, he published or co-published more than 100 papers and secured more than $5 million in grants.

"Roger Finlay's leadership was critical to establishing an international reputation for nuclear physics research at Ohio University, and a forefront role for the Edwards Accelerator Lab in experimental low-energy nuclear physics that continues to the present day," said Joseph Shields, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Finlay secured the University's first physics research grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. He also led the development of a major grant proposal to the Atomic Energy Commission, which resulted in a $1 million award for the acquisition of a 4.5 MeV tandem Van de Graaff accelerator in 1967.

Among his many honors, Finlay was selected for Fellowship status in the American Physical Society and was recognized as Distinguished Professor at Ohio University in 1991. He was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher Award in 1989 and honorary membership in the Lambda of Ohio Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1992.

Finlay supervised Richard Castle, who became the first Ph.D. graduate in physics in 1963, and was primary adviser for a department-record 18 dissertations.

"Roger Finlay was an excellent physicist who was very good at seizing initiatives that helped create our excellent department," said Louis Wright, former chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. "These included helping obtain the funds for the Van de Graaf accelerator and building, writing an NSF Development Grant Proposal that helped the department move to a higher level of research in the late 1960s and recruiting outstanding physicists for the nuclear program. These initiatives played a major role in the department's success."

A native of Pittsburgh, Finlay earned his A.B. and Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University. He moved to part-time early-retired status in 1995 and fully retired in 2001.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in the name of Roger W. Finlay to the Ohio University Foundation, P.O. Box 869, Athens, OH 45701. A memorial service on campus will be announced at a later date.