Eugene Vasily Ivash was born July 24, 1925 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada to Vasily Alexander (1893–1981) and Sophia Mashtaler "Sonia" Ivashinnicoff, immigrants from Russia. Vasily, born April 23, 1893, in Vladivostoff, Russia, was a soldier in the Russian army when the Russian revolution began. He and his wife, Sonia, a school teacher, lived in Vladivostok. The Communist leaders in his village created a list with his name on it and asked him to report. Previous individuals on the Communist lists had disappeared, so Vasily, with Sonia’s encouragement, escaped to China. He worked to enable Sophia to join him. They made plans to immigrate to San Francisco, however this required more money than they could accumulate in China. They had a daughter, Galina, in China, however, she died there in an accident. In 1923, Vasily decided he would come first, work, and send money for Sophia to come. He made his way to Yokohama, Japan and boarded the SS Rakuyo Maru, arriving in San Francisco, CA, on the first of September 1923. Working at a sugar factory in San Francisco, he saved the necessary funds, however, there were problems getting permission for her to enter the US. Vasily moved to Vancouver, where she could join him. They next moved to Windsor, where Eugene and his sister, Claudia "Clara", were born. Claudia (Miller) was born November 11, 1926, in Windsor, Canada. Vasily eventually got a job with Ford Motor Co where he trained to be a tool and die maker. In 1928, when Gene was three, Vasily became naturalized and they moved to Detroit and bought a farm. Sonia was naturalized in 1935. Vasily died in Austin, Texas, December 31, 1981 and is buried in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery.
Gene remembers, as early as age five, having an interest in science. He was quite bright and skipped several grades. He became a U.S. citizen at the age of 18. When time for college came, his father wished him to be an engineer; they compromised on engineering science at the University of Michigan, though he had also been accepted to Cal Tech. During his junior year, Gene was drafted. He chose to enter the V12 naval officer program and completed his BS while in the program. Before receiving his commission, the war ended, and he entered graduate school. His supervisor was David Denison, a member of the National Academy. George Uhlenbeck was a member of his committee. He was awarded his PhD in 1952 for a theoretical thesis entitled, The Methyl-alcohol Molecule and its Microwave Spectrum. It was at Michigan that Gene met Edna Alberta Russell, a bright, artistic and independent student. He married Edna in 1953 in Ann Arbor.
In 1952, Gene did a tour to consider various offers for a faculty position. Emmett Hudspeth was chair of the physics department at Texas and convinced him to join the department and provide theoretical support for the Accelerator Laboratory and later the Center for Nuclear Studies. The department consisted of only 11 faculty when he arrived that September.
Gene collaborated with molecular spectroscopy groups at Oak Ridge for three summers and also spent several semesters and summers at General Atomic in La Jolla, California doing plasma physics. Gene, a pacifist, decided he could not work on weaponry and refused to work on millitary related projects. He traveled extensively and gave talks in the U.S. and abroad at many physics gatherings. He had a strong interest in encouraging the development of physics education abroad and served as a physics consultant in Bangkok in 1958–1959 at Chulalongkorn University and as a participant at the Summer Science Institute at the University of Baroda in India.
At the University of Texas, Gene taught numerous physics courses on both graduate and undergraduate levels. His interests in theoretical physics was mainly in the fields of molecular spectroscopy, plasma physics and nuclear physics—his principal interest, particularly, nuclear reactions. Over the years, he served on numerous doctoral dissertation committees. For a number of years, he was connected with UTs Division of Continuing Education, developing correspondence study guides in physics for students.
Gene and Edna had three children, Catherine, Carol and Thomas and three grandchildren, Kevin, Alexandra, and Erik. . In addition to raising the children, Edna earned a master’s in psychology and worked as a social worker. Her 1959 thesis was entitled, Effectiveness of Psychological Reporting by Time and Newsweek. Edna also was and avid painter and reader.
Gene was an early member of the Friends Meeting of Austin, serving as Clerk. In rthe 1960s, Gene and Edna started following the path of Sant Mat (Teachings of the Saints), becoming vegetarians, living simply, and meditating daily.
Gene took half-time retirement in 1987 and totally retired in 2002. Edna died in 2009.
After retirement, Gene continued to pursue his many interests which included piano, classical music and meditation. He and Edna traveled extensively. He was convinced that "even now we have only had partial glimpses of what is a very fascinating, and still largely mysterious world!" Gene was known to quote Einstein: "Logic will get you from A to Z, but imagination will get you everwhere.
Gene Ivash Obituary (augmented by material from austinquakers.org and Mel Oakes)
July 15, 2018
IVASH, Dr. Eugene Vasily "Gene" Age 92, passed away June 8, 2018. Gene was born July 24, 1925 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada to Vasily and Sophia "Sonya" Ivash. The family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where his father worked as an engineer for Ford. Gene recalled having an interest in science as early as age five. He had a voracious appetite for knowledge and a keenly inquisitive nature. His playfulness and sense of humor sometimes got him into trouble as a child.
Gene was accepted into the engineering science program at the University of Michican at sixteen, became a U.S. citizen at eighteen, and was drafted. He entered the V12 naval officer program and after a short time with the U. S. Navy, World War II ended. He was awarded his BS, MS, and PhD degrees in nuclear physics from Michigan and joined the Physics Department at the University of Texas to provide theoretical support for the Accelerator Laboratory and the Center for Nuclear Studies. He collaborated at Oak Ridge, but soon realized that his conscience would not allow him to work on weaponry. Gene retired fully in 2002, marking a career of 50 years at the University of Texas.
While studying in Ann Arbor, Gene met and fell in love with an intelligent, artistic student named Edna Alberta Russell. They married in 1953 and made their lives together, inseparable until Edna's death in 2009. They traveled extensively due to Gene's interest in developing physics education abroad. He consulted in Bangkok for two years at Chulalongkorn University and later at the University of Baroda in India, as well as several semesters in La Jolla and Berkeley, California. They returned to Austin to raise their family, living in the same home for decades. He had many interests including piano, classical music, and meditation. Gene is most cherished and remembered for his deep love of God and for helping others along their spiritual paths. He was an early member of the Friends Meeting of Austin, serving as Clerk and in a number of other roles. Gene and Edna later followed the path of Sant Mat which led to them become vegetarians, live simply, and meditate daily to practice inward loving devotion. He served as a leader in their spiritual group for many years.
Eugene Ivash was preceded in death by his wife Edna, his parents, sister Galina, son-in-law Jeffrey Gabele and many friends. He is survived by his three children, Carol, Catherine (Mark), and Thomas, his grandchildren Kevin, Alexandra, and Erik, his sister Claudia Millar, and her children Jeffrey Millar and Gail Millar Naughton. A Celebration of Eugene Ivash's Life will be held July 28, at 2:00 pm, at the Friends Meeting of Austin, 3701 East MLK Jr. Blvd., Austin TX.
Edna and Gene Ivash Wedding, 1953
Edna and Gene Ivash
Eugene A. Ivash Cooley High School yearbook, Castellan, senior class picture, 1942. Eugene is middle of the bottom row.
Claudia Ivash, sister of Eugene Ivash, Cooley High School, yearbook, Castellan, 1944. She is at right end of fifth row from the bottom.