This summer, the Trinity community was shocked by the sudden passing of Daniel Spiegel, who held a doctorate in physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is survived by his parents, son and ex-wife.
In the wake of this loss, students, faculty and staff are now reflecting on their relationships with this cherished and esteemed professor.
“He was a shining light in the sciences, a truly brilliant teacher and scientist who was doing cutting edge research on liquid crystals,” said Adam Urbach, professor of chemistry.
Spiegel influenced his fellow faculty members in their own studies as well.
“We had many conversations, and he became a mentor to me.” Urbach said.
Urbach also took the time to reflect on how Spiegel impacted him and other students as a talented professor.
“I remember fondly when Dan taught a biophysics course that really captured one of our chemistry majors, Nicole Bouley Ford. Nicole talked about his class all the time, and one day she insisted that we go over to Dan’s office to talk with him about the thermodynamics they were discussing in class,” Urbach said.
The discussion that followed between the student and professors remains memorable to this day. “It resulted in an amazing hour of lively conversation. Nicole went on to earn a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) and I really believe Dan played a part in inspiring her.”
Spiegel made his classes engaging by building good relationships with his students through meaningful interactions that enriched the class structure and content.
“I liked having Dr. Spiegel because he made class a lot more interesting,” said Stephen Chang, a junior physics and computer science major.
Spiegel had been able to bring humor to his more challenging classes.
“I remember one day he told us, “˜I really have to thank you guys for not making fun of me because I’m so old’. And he wasn’t that old.” Chang said.
Outside of the classroom, Spiegel was known for his volunteer work with organizations such as Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity; he enjoyed building machines from scratch, and brought his talent to life in every aspect of his life. During his time in the classrooms at Trinity, Spiegel and his work became inspirations to students and colleagues alike.
“Dr. Spiegel was greatly devoted to his research program and to undergraduate involvement in it,” said Dennis Ugolini, professor of physics and astronomy. “Over two-thirds of his published papers included undergraduate co-authors.”
Spiegel achieved great success in his own research and enjoyed helping other students to prosper as well.
“He supported four student summer projects during my first year at Trinity, all completely different,” Ugolini said. “He won grants and awards for his own work, and his students were also recognized with Goldwater scholarships and NSF [National Science Foundation] fellowships.”
In the months following Spiegel’s passing, the memory of his brilliance is still burning strong in the minds of students, faculty, staff and other members of the shaken Trinity community.
“He was sharp as a tack, and whatever question followed his dissembling could take hours of thought to truly consider,” Ugolini said.
His fellow peers were quick to praise him. “And there was no more hard-working professor at Trinity University. Dr. David Hough once wrote about Dan that “˜when the task calls for it… days make no difference, nights make no difference; he gets the job done,'” Ugolini said.
Spiegel passed very unexpectedly and much of the Trinity community is still in shock. In the wake of this loss, many have and will come together to remember him. A memorial service for Spiegel will be held on Friday, Sept. 16 at 1:30 p.m. at Margarite B. Parker Chapel.
His passing still affects the community as classes begin. “He passed so suddenly and well before his time, and I know will be deeply missed by us all,” Ugolini said.
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