In Memoriam - Jim Stevens

Posted on Monday, June 14th, 2021

Written by Joanne O'Meara


Three images of Jim Stevens at different ages.
Jim Stevens through the years.

It is with great sadness that we share the news that James R. Stevens, University Professor Emeritus, passed away June 11th, 2021 in his 91st year.   Jim’s research focused on understanding the fundamental properties of polymers, substances made up of long chains of repeating molecules, and he was respected around the world for his pioneering techniques of using laser-light scattering to better understand these materials. Jim’s cutting-edge research led to the awarding of the Swedish Innovation Cup in 1988 for an electrochromic device he created in collaboration with Swedish researchers. Jim was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society for his leadership in the field of polymer electrolytes and a recipient of the Order of Niagara. Jim’s innate curiosity and love of science fueled explorations well past retirement. We remember fondly the engaging departmental colloquium on “smart” windows Jim gave in 2018, more than 60 years after he began his career as an assistant professor at the University of Guelph.

His passion for science was matched by Jim’s commitment to his communities, both professionally and socially, as evidenced by his work with organizations such as the Science Teachers Association of Ontario, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, and the American Association of Physics Teachers (Ontario Division). Many in the wider Guelph community knew Jim well as a long-time member of the Guelph Rotary Club and Jim sang in the St. George’s Church choir for over 60 years. Within our department, Jim started the annual corn roast the day after arriving as an assistant professor, on September 3, 1957. This beloved community event continued annually at the Stevens’ farm until 2010, when Jim and his wife Karin moved into the city. Since then we have gathered at Riverside Park to celebrate the new school year, with Jim and Karin regularly in attendance.

A scholar, a community leader, and also a devoted athlete and Gryphon supporter, Jim exemplified the best of what we aspire to be. His sense of community and love for physics of all stripes helped to form the core philosophy of who we are as a department today. The twinkle in Jim’s eye as he walked the halls of the MacNaughton building will be deeply missed by us all.

Jim was featured in an article last posted September 10, 2020.   Meet the department – Jim Stevens, University Professor Emeritus, gentleman farmer, community leader. 

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