Thomas Rossing, 1950

Fall 2022 (September 26, 2022)

Thomas Rossing of Palo Alto, Calif., died July 14, 2022, age 93. Thomas Dean Rossing, age 93,  passed away peacefully on July 14, 2022 in West Lafayette, Ind.

He was born in Madison S.D., and grew up in Sacred Heart, Minn., as a “pastor’s kid” in a Lutheran parsonage. After graduating from Luther College in 1950, he completed his Ph.D. in Physics at Iowa State University in 1954. He began his career at UNIVAC in St. Paul, Minn., researching magnetic memories. He joined the Physics Department at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., in 1957, where he discovered his love for teaching that continued throughout his life. He moved to Northern Illinois University in 1971 to be department chair, and he developed an internationally recognized research and teaching program in acoustics. After his retirement in 2005, he was a visiting professor at Edinburgh University (Scotland), Seoul National University (Korea), and Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (2005-2019), teaching musical acoustics.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Torstein Rossing ‘20 and Luella (Grangaard) Rossing, his brother Robert Rossing ‘43, and his son Erik Thomas Rossing. He is survived by four daughters: Karen (Rossing) Grandall ’75 (Elliott) of Spring Valley Minn., Barbara Rossing (Lauren Johnson) of Leavenworth Wash., Jane (Jim) Frankenberger of West Lafayette, Ind., and Mary Rossing (Joel Walinski) of Cashmere, Wash., and his former wife Dorothy Rossing of Minneapolis, as well as two grandsons (David Grandall, Soren (Emily) Grandall), and two great grandsons.

Rossing was widely recognized for his research in several areas of physics, but especially in musical acoustics which combined his love of physics and music. He authored or co-authored 17 books on various aspects of acoustics as well as physics of the visual arts, and over 400 scientific publications. He holds 9 U.S. and 11 foreign patents in acoustics, magnetism, and condensed matter physics. He was a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, the American Association for Advancement of Science, American Physical Society, and IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). He was recognized with the Gold Medal in Acoustics and the Silver Medal in Musical Acoustics, both  from the Acoustical Society of America.

Rossing loved physics teaching, and he developed and published education activities and inspired students throughout his career. He was a leader in the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) including as national president. He was awarded the Millikan Medal by the AAPT for notable and creative contributions to the teaching of physics. He says he had “so much fun” teaching musical acoustics and physics that he created and endowed the Rossing Fund for Physics Education, which has awarded scholarships of $5,000 or $10,000 to 168 students at Lutheran colleges. He also endowed the Rossing Prize for Acoustics Education at the Acoustical Society of America to celebrate the contributions of those who, like him, have made a lasting impression on their students and on the field of acoustics education.

He loved music, directing and singing in choirs, singing in madrigal groups, and singing tenor solos. In his later years, he and his beloved friend Linda Mankin, a pianist, sang together at senior gatherings. He enjoyed  tennis, hiking, and skiing, which he introduced to his children and continued into retirement including competing in Senior Olympics. He relished opportunities to travel around the world, and was proud to have visited all 50 states, six continents, and all but two countries in Europe.

He lived life to the fullest and leaves a legacy of students and colleagues who share his curiosity and love for learning. In a final act of “teaching” he has donated his body to the Anatomical Education Program at the Indiana University School of Medicine to be used in the education of future physicians.

A memorial service was held on Zoom on July 31, 2022.

Memorials may be made to the Rossing Fund for Physics Education or a charity of your choice.