John David Gavenda
Edward and his wife, Rose, were married in 1922 in Milam, Texas. In 1937, Edward and Rose moved their family to a small farm near Rio Hondo, Texas, where David and his older brother, Steven Edward, attended public school along with the girl who later become David's wife, Janie Louise Yeoman. During the war, Edward worked for the Harlingen Gunnery School in Harlingen, Texas.
In high school, David demonstrated his aptitude for science and mathematics. During his senior year, he was employed by the Brownsville radio station (KBRO) as their control room engineer. He excelled in the University Interscholastic League competitions.
Following graduation from high school in 1950, David entered the University of Chicago's Liberal Arts Program. In 1951, he continued his education at the University of Texas at Austin. There, he was selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa and earned a BS in physics in 1954. He was employed during his sophomore year as a radiotelegraph operator at the Texas Department of Public Safety. From his junior year until the completion of his master's, he was employed as a Technical Staff Assistant at the University of Texas Defense Research Laboratory. His 1956 master's thesis was entitled, An Experimental Study of Acoustic Lenses and Prisms Using Cylindrical Rods. The work was supervised by UT Professor Robert Bardeen Watson.
Following completion of his master's, David entered the PhD program at Brown University in Providence, RI. At Brown, he was an Edgar Lewis Marston Fellow.
David was awarded his PhD in 1959. His dissertation, supervised by R. W. Morse, was entitled, Temperature by the Ultrasonic Technique.
David and Janie Yeoman were married in 1952. She was the daughter of Joseph and Hallie Yeoman of Rio Hondo, Texas. David and Janie have two sons, Victor and Philip.
In 1959, David joined the University Texas physics faculty as an assistant professor. In 1963, he took leave and was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Metals, University of Chicago.
Because of his interest in physics education, David was appointed UT Professor of Physics and Education. In 1969, he was a NATO Senior Fellow at the University of Oslo in Norway.
David was active in a number of professional organizations. Among them were American Physical Society (Fellow) where he helped organize the Texas Section and served as Vice-Chair, Chair, and Secretary-Treasurer; American Association of Physics Teachers (Fellow) where he chaired several national committees; Texas Academy of Science (Fellow); Sigma Xi and the Texas Association of College Teachers (TACT). As president of TACT, David spearheaded an effort to permit a larger role for faculty in the governance of Texas universities. The UT administration objected to these efforts and reduced the salary recommendation for the seven UT faculty that participated in these efforts.
David retired in 1999 and was awarded emeritus professor title.
David and Janie were active in the University Baptist Church, an open and affirming church, known and respected in the university community for its progressive social programs and action.
David and Janie were avid tennis players, continuing to play long after retiring.
His honors and awards include the 1988 Robert N. Little Award for "Outstanding Contributions to Physics Higher Education in Texas" from the Texas Section of AAPT; and the 1994 UT Natural Sciences Advisory Council Award for Teaching Excellence.
In 1996, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the preeminent society for the support and development of physics education, initiated a special program to identify and recognize people who have contributed significantly to physics education. The first cohort of AAPT fellows included John David Gavenda.
In 1997, David received a Distinguished Service Citation from the AAPT 1996 [Citation published in Am. J. Phys. 65, 596–597 (1997)].
In 2009, David received the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Section of the American Physical Society. At right, we see David receiving the award from Suresh Sharma at the Austin meeting, 19 March 2010.
David’s research was concentrated on the study of the interaction of conduction electrons with lattice vibrations in metals. These investigations have used the magnetic field dependence of the attenuation and velocity of high-frequency sound waves at liquid helium temperatures as a means of measuring the interaction. Recent work was directed toward the use of surface acoustic waves to study the properties of electrons near the surfaces of metals. He was also engaged in projects related to the measurement and suppression of electromagnetic emissions from computers. This includes the development of models for the propagation of electromagnetic waves inside semi-anechoic chambers and in other real-world environments of interest to test engineers. He published more than 50 papers on these topics, plus numerous reports and oral presentations.David's research resulted in a book in collaboration with Volodya Gudkov of the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Volodya kindly provided an account of the collaboration, "When I was a senior student, I had read David's paper (in co-authorship with J.R. Boyd) on ultrasonic experiments in copper (Phys. Rev. 152, 645 (1966)). Actually, it was the first publication in which a precise method of measuring the rotation of polarization (of ultrasound) was reported and applied to a crystal. This paper had been offered to me for reading by my teacher, Kirill B. Vlasov, an outstanding theorist (who worked at the Institute of Metal Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences in Yekaterinburg). Prof. Vlasov had developed the theory of ultrasonic analogs of magneto-optical phenomena, such as Faraday effect, Cotton-Muton effect, and Kerr effect and was very interested in their observation. Based on David's approach of experimental data processing, we generalized the method to measure not only the angle of the polarization rotation, but also to measure the ellipticity of the former linearly polarized wave. Actually, it is a complete set of the parameters which characterize the polarization of a shear wave. The method was published in 1978 and later it was applied to many objects, magnetics among them. By the middle of 1990s, many papers had been published by our group in this field, and I decided that it was time to write a monograph about this section of physical acoustics. Since our methodology was based on the pioneering paper by David and his colleague, I considered that it was correct to write a book together. I used an opportunity to attend a meeting of Acoustical Society of America held in Austin in 1994 to meet with David. At that time, we came to the conclusion to write the book together. We applied for a grant from NATO scientific program that enabled me to visit Austin and for David and Janie to visit Yekaterinburg. We worked for five years and, in 2000, the book was published by Springer NY. I must emphasize that working together, we became very good friends and warm relations with David and Janie did not stop after publication of our work. David's passing is a very painful loss for me."
A list of David's publications can be found here; Publication List
He has been a leader in course and curriculum development in physics at the local, state, and national levels. He developed an experimental course in physical science for liberal arts students; developed one of the early computer-based introductory physics courses for science majors; and directed academic-year institutes for high school science and mathematics teachers. He was among the founding members of the graduate program in science education.
Consultant to the Electromagnetic Compatibility Department of IBM/Austin on problems related to the measurement and reduction of electromagnetic noise emitted by computing devices (1983–92).
Consultant to Ray Proof Shielding Corporation on improved methods for measuring the properties of electromagnetic absorbing materials (1992–1995).
Consulted on various science curriculum projects for elementary and junior high students, including the 1967 summer writing conference for the Intermediate Science Curriculum Study project.
Formulated the content and methodology related to physical science for a series of elementary and junior high science textbooks published by Ginn and Company in the 1970s.
Chaired the National Steering Committee of the American Institute of Physics' Tech Physics Project, which developed a new physics course for technology students.
Developed one of the first computer-based introductory physics courses for science majors.
Served on the National Advisory Board for the NSF-sponsored Solar Tech Project which developed a curriculum for solar energy technicians.
Served as a member of the Review Board and the Advisory Board for the National Science Teachers Association project to develop a new public school curriculum in the sciences: Scope, Sequence and Coordination of Secondary School Science.
Developed a computer-based system for introductory physics laboratories.
Directed the UT Academic Year Institute for high school science and mathematics teachers, 1960-62.
Consultant to several major publishers of physics textbooks.
Chair or member of a number of standing committees of the general faculty.
Vice-Chair of the Faculty Senate of UT (1987–1988, 1989–1990).
Served as External Reviewer for the evaluation of the UT Arlington Physics Department 2007.
From Professor John Markert: "David was a kind, gentle person, but he spoke up when he knew he was in the right. He was a mentor to me, and much of his old equipment is still in use in my lab; his legacy included detailed Fermi surface studies using ultrasound. At our weekly condensed matter lunch, he provided wisdom and humor, whether it be debating Tom Griffy and the CIA, or trading science news with Bill McCormick and Jim Thompson, or discussing exercise and health with Pete Antoniewicz. He was a true gentleman and he respected others. He will be missed."
From Professor Michael Marder: " I must have told David about my thoughts on education long before I had formal association with education reform. He contrived to have me debate David Mermin at an APS meeting on the topic of whether there was a need for a second edition of the book by Ashcroft and Mermin. Having argued there was a need (Mermin argued there was not) I sat down to write my own book. I spent 20 years on it. Without David it would not have happened. He probably steered me in other ways I no longer remember and at the time, may not have recognized. "
John David Gavenda, highly respected condensed matter physicist at the University of Texas, died peacefully in Austin, on November 13, 2021.
David was a kind and intelligent man—a physicist who worked well with his hands building things; interested in travel, history, and genealogy; had a great interest in classical music and had a decent baritone himself; loved the outdoors and hiking, especially in Colorado; an avid tennis player for over seventy years; a faithful
church-goer and Sunday School teacher at University Baptist Church, and a devoted fan of University of Texas sports, men’s and women’s. He was devoted not only to his research but to education itself.
He was born on March 25, 1933, in Temple, Bell County, Texas, to Edward and Rose Katharine Machalek Gavenda. In 1937, the family moved to a small farm near Rio Hondo, Texas, where David attended public school along with the girl who later became David's wife, Janie Louise Yeoman. In high school, David demonstrated his aptitude for science and mathematics. During his senior year, he was employed by the Brownsville radio station as their control room engineer. He excelled in the University Interscholastic League competitions.
Following graduation from high school in 1950, David entered the University of Chicago, then transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. There, he made Phi Beta Kappa and earned a BS in physics in 1954. He continued in graduate school at UT and worked at the Defense Research Laboratory. His 1956 master's thesis was an
experimental study of acoustic lenses and prisms. David then entered the PhD program at Brown University and was awarded his PhD in 1959. His dissertation was a study of temperature by ultrasonic techniques
David and Janie were married in 1952. They had two sons, Victor and Philip.
In 1959, David joined the University Texas physics faculty. In 1963, he took leave to serve as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Chicago. In 1969, he was a NATO Senior Fellow at the University of Oslo in Norway.
In the 1960s David and Janie bought a piece of land in Volente to provide a home for their sailboat. Soon after their return from Norway the family—led by David—spent evenings and weekends building a vacation house on the property themselves. When David neared retirement in the early 1990s he and Janie had the house enlarged and
moved into it in 1994. They remained in residence there until their move to The Village in 2018.
David’s principal research was concentrated on the study of the interaction of conduction electrons with lattice vibrations in metals. David and a Russian colleague co-authored the book, Magnetoacoustic Polarization Phenomena in Solids that summarized David’s work over the preceding four decades. In all, David published more than 50 research papers, plus numerous reports and oral presentations.
Because of his interest in physics education, David was appointed UT Professor of Physics and Education, and was a leader in course and curriculum development in physics . David and Janie formed close personal relationships with many of his graduate students. David was active in a number of professional organizations, including the American Physical Society; the American Association of Physics Teachers; the Texas Academy of Science; Sigma Xi; and the Texas Association of College Teachers (TACT). Among David’s many honors was his selection as a member of the AAPT first cohort of fellows; a Distinguished Service Citation for AAPT in 1996, and in 1988 the Robert N. Little Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Physics Higher Education in Texas” from the Texas Section of AAPT.
He was a fierce advocate for academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty to have a say in their education, free from the influence of politics. This culminated in his being a plaintiff in a suit against the UT President and the Board of Regents (He lost on appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.)
David retired in 1999 and was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus. David and Janie were avid tennis players, continuing to play long after retiring. Travel remained important in their lives, with the mountains near Boulder, CO a favorite destination. They were long time members of University Baptist Church, where David served on the Board of Deacons and as Moderator for many years.
David is survived by his wife of 68 years, Janie; sons Victor (Linda) and Phil, granddaughter Emma (Kenny), and brother Steven (Darlene), niece Beverly, nephew Steve (Rachel).
A Memorial Service will be held at University Baptist Church on Wednesday, May 11, at 2 pm, with reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to Hospice Austin’s Christopher House, the J David Gavenda Plan II scholarship at the University of Texas, or the charity of your choice.
John David and Janie Gavenda Photo Album