Remembering Nick Stavroudis

    Date Posted: 
    Friday, January 31, 2014

    Upon hearing of the recent death of Professor Emeritus Orestes N. Stavroudis, Pamela Shack — wife of Professor Emeritus Roland V. Shack and one-time OSC graduate student — felt moved to share the following memories of her family's time with Nick and his family: 

    In addition to being an early colleague of my husband, Nick was also a good friend to our family and a kind mentor to me. It was Nick who persuaded Roland to attend Imperial College when Roland was trying to decide where to study for his Ph.D.

    I first met Nick Stavroudis in 1955. I was 19 years old. My boyfriend, Roland Shack, invited me to visit the National Bureau of Standards, where he and Nick worked together in the Divison of Optics and Metrology under Dr. Irvine Gardner. We walked through the beautiful grounds filled with cherry blossoms to a small building where Nick and Roland weighed themselves once a week before going to lunch. Afterwards they took me to see NBS’s pride and joy, the computer SEAC, with its 1500 vacuum tubes. I stared in amazement at the huge machine from an interior balcony of the large building in which it was housed, while Nick went to persuade the computer operator to show off its sound system. It played "Yankee Doodle" for me. The following week, we visited Nick and Dorle at their country home in Maryland. We met their two young sons, Chris and Greg, and their newest litter of Great Dane puppies. Shortly after that visit, Nick left the Bureau to go to Fairchild on Long Island. I’ll never forget the address: It was on Skunk’s Misery Road! Roland also left the Bureau, but turned down an offer from Fairchild and decided instead to take a job at Perkin-Elmer.

    We kept in touch with Nick and Dorle. In 1966, Roland invited Nick to visit the University of Arizona and interview for a position at the Optical Sciences Center. As we did with most of our early visitors, we took Nick to the Grand Canyon. I remember clearly the evening we returned home. We had just walked in the door when we got a phone call from the Arizona Children's Home telling us they had a two-week-old baby girl ready to be adopted and that we could bring her home the next day. Nick brought out a bottle of Mumm’s champagne that he’d hidden in the back of our refrigerator to share with us on the last evening of his visit and insisted that we celebrate immediately. We were happy that Nick was the first person outside of our immediate family to greet our new daughter.

    We were delighted when Nick accepted a job offer from Aden Meinel and the Stavroudises moved to Tucson. They bought a house out on the Catalina Highway on the same street as the Meinels. It had a bomb shelter at perfect ambient temperature for Nick and Dorle’s fine wine collection. 

    Christmastime at the Stavroudises' was always fun. Dorle came from Austrian roots and kept to those traditions. The house was filled with music. Their huge tree held real candles. The lighting of those candles was a beautiful Christmas Eve ceremony and one we were privileged to share. We also dropped spoonfuls of molten lead into cold water. Dorle told our fortune for the coming year from the shapes of the hardened lead.

    Roland and I have missed Nick's companionship since he left Arizona. While Roland was still able to attend meetings, we made a point of getting together at SPIE and IODC conferences.

    When I was doing graduate work in optical sciences, Nick was my advisor. My undergraduate major was mathematics, so I naturally came to love the elegance, purity and brilliance of Nick’s research. I also loved his kindness, gentleness and patience.  He will be greatly missed.