Physics Forever

7 February 2017

Williams FamilyThe science complex will house the Mark Williams ’73 Physics Lab, in honor of a leading voice for science education.

By the time Candace Larson Williams ’73 met her future husband, Mark Williams ’73, at age 16, he had already built his own telescope, including its hand-ground lens. “He was a science and math whiz who loved problem-solving,” she says.

Education was also a passion for the Rhodes Scholar, whose lifelong dream was to build his own astronomical observatory. Originally from Kansas City, Mark and Candace enrolled at Carleton together and married a year after graduation. Between Texas and London, where Mark rose through the ranks from petro-physicist to head of worldwide downstream production with Royal Dutch Shell, they raised a family, eventually seeing both their children off to Carleton, too. Both Mark and Candace served as Carleton trustees.

In 2008 Mark achieved his observatory goal, outfitting the couple’s Texas ranch with a 24-inch, research-grade telescope usable worldwide via the internet. A few years later, students from nearby Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, were using Mark’s observatory to conduct stellar research—one senior wrote his entire thesis based on images taken remotely with Mark’s telescope.

Though Mark passed away from cancer in March 2016, his legacy of helping students pursue science education will continue. His family—Candace, son Dave Williams ’06, and daughter Megan Williams ’11—have made a gift to Carleton’s new science complex, and the building will include the Mark Williams ’73 Physics Lab.

“Education is important to our family,” says Candace. “Mark had the greatest affection and respect for the quality of the Carleton physics department. And he was delighted that our son, also a physics major, had the same wonderful experience.”

“Mark was not the kind of person who would have cared about having anything named after him—but to our family, and his memory, this will mean a lot.”