A Tribute: Mary Beth Monroe

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Singularities - Profiles in Physics

A Tribute: Mary Beth Monroe

Remembering a Lifelong Champion of SPS


Toni Sauncy, SPS Director

The Society of Physics Students joins the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and many others in the physics community around the country in mourning the loss of Mary Beth Monroe on August 27, 2013. Mary Beth was a lifelong member of SPS and served as the SPS chapter advisor at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, TX, where she taught for over 38 years. She was dedicated to her students and consistently devoted her work to their development. Mary Beth served in many leadership positions, including several terms as the SPS zone 13 councilor and various roles in the Texas Section of the AAPT and the national AAPT. One of her many contributions was leading a study to establish the important role of physics education at two-year colleges, a study resulting in guidelines that continue to have an impact.

In 2010 she was awarded the Melba Newell Phillips Medal, AAPT’s highest recognition for member leadership and lifelong service as an educator and mentor. She had been elected as the AAPT national president elect when failing health forced her to step aside. As an acknowledgment of her leadership capacity and to honor her many years of service, the membership elected her president pro-tem in July 2013.

Mary beth monroe is pictured above at Trinity Site in New Mexico during the 2004 Quadrennial Congress of Sigma Pi Sigma. Photo by Tracy Nolis-Schwab.Mary Beth served as an inspiration to many students and colleagues alike. It was Monroe, in her role as the SPS zone 13 councilor who introduced me to the Society of Physics Students. It is possible that without her advice I might have found SPS eventually, but it was her welcome and encouragement that connected me, as a student, to this group. I was one of hundreds of students over the years whose life was enriched by knowing Mary Beth Monroe. She spent her days empowering her students and furthering their ambitions. She was a true friend of physics and a shining example of what SPS strives to accomplish. She truly embodied the ideal of enriching undergraduate students in their quest to master physics and to pursue physics-based careers. I had the pleasure of interacting with her for many years after I became a faculty member myself. I welcomed several students who transferred from her institution to mine, visited her institution to do outreach and recruitment, and worked on tasks with her for the Texas Section of AAPT. I had the great honor of having a conversation with Mary Beth last summer, during which I made sure that she knew what a powerful impact her nudge into the world of SPS had on me and many of my students, and how her influence helped to set the trajectory that brought me to this office here at the American Institute of Physics.

Mary Beth was special person, an avid scientist, a mentor to so many students and someone whose life serves as a model for what is possible when equipped During an AAPT workshop, Mary beth monroe gives a presentation on the importance of SPS chapters to the health of physics departments.  Photographer unknown.with a love of physics shared with a love of family and an equal love of the divine. She made a difference in many lives, in several institutions, and to the great science of physics, in a small town, and a community college, one student at a time. //



New Memorial Scholarship

In memory of Mary Beth Monroe, friends and colleagues have expressed interest in supporting an endowed scholarship in her name.

Description of Scholarship

The Mary Beth Monroe Memorial Scholarship recognizes the outstanding academic and leadership accomplishments of physics majors who began their studies at a regionally accredited community college and who intend to pursue a career in physics education.

This scholarship is intended to memorialize and honor Mary Beth Monroe’s inspiring lifelong commitment to the support and encouragement of physics students and her dedication to service at all levels in the Society of Physics Students and the American Association of Physics Teachers. Friends and colleagues are encouraged to assist in the endowment of the scholarship by donating through either SPS or AAPT, with the designation “Mary Beth Monroe SPS Student Scholarship.”

Contribute via SPS and the American Institute of Physics at https://donate.aip.org.

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