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Jack Waggoner: Dedicated professor, loving husband

Jack Holmes Waggoner, a longtime Harvey Mudd College physics professor, died Saturday, July 2, 2016. He was 88.

He was born September 4, 1927 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. His family soon moved to Newark, Ohio where he attended public schools, graduating from Newark High School in 1945. He earned a Bachelor of Science at Ohio State University in 1949 and received his PhD in physics at the same university in 1957. His dissertation was on molecular energy levels, particularly infrared vibration-rotation bands.

Mr. Waggoner taught from 1959-1961 at the University of California, Riverside. He then was hired to join the faculty of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont as an assistant professor of physics. He received tenure in 1965 and became a professor of a variety of courses in physics, including electromagnetic waves and optics, theoretical mechanics—for which he had a particular fondness—and a variety of laboratory courses. He undertook his first sabbatical in 1967, spending a year as a visiting associate professor at Caltech where he studied theoretical physics and observed the undergraduate physics program. He retired from HMC in 1994 after 33 years on the faculty but continued to be a strong presence in the department for some years.

In 1961, Mr. Waggoner married Anne Bowers and they lived their lives in Claremont. Mrs. Waggoner, an English teacher who taught for 40 years, 21 of them at Claremont High School, shared her husband’s passion for education. 

Jack enjoyed reading, particularly biographies and books on history, and amassed a large personal library of books on many subjects. He also loved travel, archery, target shooting and collecting model cars and cameras. He delighted in music, particularly classical, which at one point he listened to on a hi-fi system of his own design.

Following the death of Mrs. Waggoner in January of 2013, he moved to Pilgrim Place, where he received loving care until his death.

“Jack was a gentle, friendly man and an important part of the development of our physics program—he will be missed,” Jack Groves, vice president and R. Michael Shanahan Dean of Faculty at HMC, said in an recent online tribute. 

Mr. Waggoner was preceded in death by his sister, Margaret Waggoner Wahls of Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2007, as well as by his wife. He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Chandler and Judith Waggoner of Carmel, Indiana, his brother-in-law Harvey Wahls of Raleigh, North Carolina, four nephews and two nieces. A private burial was held at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Covina Hills.

Contributions in memory of Dr. Jack H. Waggoner may be made to Harvey Mudd College, 301 Platt Blvd., Claremont, California 91711.