In Memoriam: Dr. Stewart Novick

Dr. Stewart Novick, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics

It is with profound sorrow that the Chemistry Department announces the passing of Dr. Stewart Novick. Stew was an esteemed figure within the Wesleyan community, revered for his significant contributions to molecular spectroscopy, the department, and the university. In recognition of his legacy, the Chemistry Department is planning a memorial event, and shall soon share the details here. Condolences may be sent to the family here.

Announcement from the Provost:

“It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you that our dear friend and colleague, Stewart E. Novick, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, Emeritus, passed away last week at the age of 78.

Stew received his BS from Stony Brook University and his AM and PhD from Harvard University. He served as a research fellow at Harvard and a research associate at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado at Boulder, before he arrived at Wesleyan in 1978, where he taught until his retirement this past summer. During his 45 years at Wesleyan, he was named an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, a National Science Foundation Fellow, and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

“Stew was the consummate educator: demanding, caring, capable of intense precision and joyful inspiration,” recalled President Michael Roth. “When I think of the sciences at Wesleyan, I will always think of Stew Novick.”

David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry, reflected that “Stew Novick was the heart and soul of both the Chemistry Department and the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division. He was a prolific researcher, a talented and much revered teacher, and a steadfast colleague and friend to many at Wesleyan and around the world. But perhaps his greatest legacy is in the scores of undergraduate and graduate students who were transformed by his mentorship. He was truly the epitome of what a Wesleyan professor should be.”

“He was a curmudgeonly mensch. He believed in the goodness and potential of everyone, pushed me to be my best self and (thankfully) forced me to apply to grad school,” said Stew’s former student, Alison Williams ’81. “His love of chemistry was infectious. He was the epitome of a colleague, always bringing people together. The Tuesday science faculty lunch tradition that he began 33 years ago still continues. Even when he was bedridden, he was deeply concerned about Wesleyan, his colleagues, and students, and refused to dwell on his health.”

Beach Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, Joe Knee said, “Stew was beloved by students, faculty, and the entire Wesleyan community. His passion for science was extraordinary and inspired the many students he taught in his classes and the large number of graduate and undergraduate students he mentored in his laboratory.”

Former student Alison Spodek Keimowitz ’97 reflected, “He was incredibly patient in explaining difficult concepts, flexible and willing to follow students’ lead on projects. He brought a sense of fun to everything he did—from complicated quantum mechanics to catching (and releasing!) dozens of mice from the lab.”

“His guilelessness was endearing, as was his cutting sense of humor,” reflected Brian Stewart, professor of physics. “His devotion to his students, to his craft, and to science were absolute. The latter evidenced not only by the NSM Luncheon but also by his annual question at the final faculty meeting of the year. Stew was a true mensch, but his was a unique, maybe slightly cockeyed sort of Menschlichkeit.”

Stew is survived by his brother, Dennis. The family will hold a service on Sunday, October 22, at 3:00 p.m. at Summer Hill Cemetery, 564–598 Old Toll Road in Madison, Connecticut. Memorial donations may be made to a charity of one’s choice, in honor of Stew.”

Nicole Stanton
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Dance