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In memoriam
John S. TollRemembering John H. Marburger, III
February 8, 1941 – July 28, 2011

John H. Marburger, III, former president of Stony Brook University, director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, science advisor to President George W. Bush and up until a few weeks before his death Vice President for Research at Stony Brook, died at his home in Port Jefferson, New York, on Thursday, July 28, 2011, after four years of treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Dr. Marburger came to Stony Brook in 1980 from the University of Southern California, where he had been a Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, serving consecutively as Physics Department Chairman and Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in the 1970’s.  He was 39 years old when he became the third president of Stony Brook University (1980-1994).

In 1994 he retired from the presidency to return to his primary interest, the field of non-linear optics, as a professor in Stony Brook’s departments of Physics and Electrical Engineering. When the Department of Energy awarded Stony Brook and the Battelle Memorial Institute the contract to operate Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1998, Dr. Marburger became its director.  Under his leadership the Laboratory commissioned the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), achieved ISO14001 certification of the Laboratory's environmental management system, and significantly improved support for the Laboratory by the surrounding community.
In 2001 George W. Bush appointed Dr. Marburger, a registered Democrat, as his science advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Heading that office until the change of administration in 2009, he was longest-serving science advisor in history.

John H. Marburger IIIIn 2009 he returned to Stony Brook University as a physics professor.  The next year Stony Brook’s new president, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., asked him to take on the job of Vice President for Research. He retired from that position for reasons of health on July 1, 2011.

John (“Jack”) Marburger was born on Staten Island, N.Y., grew up in Maryland near Washington D.C. and attended Princeton University (A.B. Physics 1962) and Stanford University (Ph.D. Applied Physics 1967).  In 1965 he married the former Carol Godfrey.  Their sons, John and Alexander, were born in 1970 and 1972.

While at the University of Southern California, Dr. Marburger contributed as a theoretical physicist to the rapidly growing fields of nonlinear optics and quantum optics, subjects transformed by the invention of the laser in 1960. He was a co-founder of USC’s Center for Laser Studies, a consultant at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory on high-power laser phenomena, and a frequent public speaker on science, hosting a series of educational programs called “Frontiers of Electronics” on CBS television.

Dr. Marburger’s presidency at Stony Brook coincided with the opening and growth of University Hospital and the development of the biological sciences as a major strength of the university. During the 1980’s federally sponsored scientific research at Stony Brook grew to exceed that of any other public university in the northeastern United States.

During his presidency he served on numerous boards and committees, including chairmanship of Governor Cuomo’s commission on the Shoreham Nuclear Power facility and chairmanship of the 80-campus Universities Research Association (URA) which operates Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago and operated the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory during the lifetime of that project.  He served as a trustee of Princeton University and a trustee or director of many other organizations.

John H. Marburger IIIDr. Marburger's tenure as the President’s science advisor began immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  It included major policy initiatives associated with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, re-orientation of the nation's space policy following the crash of the Columbia space shuttle in 2003, the U.S. re-entry in the international nuclear fusion program ITER, and the American Competitiveness Initiative that aimed to double federal funding for the physical sciences and engineering. He and senior OSTP officials led U.S. delegations to critical international negotiating meetings on internet governance; telecommunications spectrum allocations; and climate change, leading to the influential summary reports of the International Panel on Climate Change and securing Administration support for the IPCC reports as a foundation for subsequent Administration policymaking. Serving during a time of deep political and ideological divisions, especially regarding climate change and human embryonic stem cell research, Dr. Marburger brought high standards of fairness and objectivity to the science policy process.  His call for a “science of science policy” was instrumental in launching a new field in the social sciences.

The author of numerous papers in the area of non-linear optics and quantum electrodynamics, he co-edited The Science of Science Policy: A Handbook that was published in this spring by Stanford University Press.  In September Cambridge University Press will publish his book on quantum mechanics, Constructing Reality: Quantum Theory and Particle Physics.

He is survived by his wife, Carol, of Port Jefferson, N.Y.; his son John and daughter-in-law Marianne D’Amato of Annandale, Virginia; his son Alexander and daughter-in-law Tracy Lampula of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts; and his grandson Ian, of Annandale, Virginia; and, his sister Mary Hoffman-Habig, of Edgewater, Maryland.

In lieu of flowers, the Marburger family requests that memorial gifts in Jack’s name be directed to the John H. Marburger, III Memorial Fund. The Fund will support fellowships for women undertaking graduate study in the physical sciences, engineering or mathematics; fellowships for graduate students in music performance; and the Pollock/Krasner House. Please contact the Office of Advancement at 632-6300 for information.

A memorial service will be held at Stony Brook University University on Friday, September 16, 2011.



Dr. John H. Marburger, IIIFrom Stony Brook President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD
Jack Marburger was a superb advocate for science, a visionary leader, and a highly skilled administrator who successfully led three vital institutions, Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Jack’s devotion to Stony Brook University was matchless. He was a man of extraordinary energy, a man who loved solving problems both scientific and administrative, a man of action, who was also thoughtful, contemplative, and very strategic.
Read complete message from Dr. Stanley »


From former US President George W. Bush
I am saddened by the loss of Dr. John Marburger. I was honored to serve with Jack at the White House. He was my top advisor on science and technology policy throughout my Administration, and he was a joy to work with. Jack was dedicated to his field, his family, and his country. He was respected and admired by all who were privileged to know him. Laura and I will keep Jack’s wife, Carol, and their family in our thoughts and prayers.


from SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher
On behalf of the entire SUNY community I want to extend my most sincere condolences to the family of John H. Marburger III. Jack's stalwart leadership as president of Stony Brook University from 1980 to 1994 and his subsequent association with Brookhaven National Laboratory took Stony Brook to new and unprecedented levels. Stony Brook University Hospital is the leading, world-class facility that it is today in large part because of Jack's expansive vision and guidance. Generations of students and patients will continue to benefit immeasurably from his intellectual largesse. There is no overestimating Jack's achievements and contributions to higher education and life-improving research. We at SUNY are incredibly proud and grateful to count him among our ranks.


From Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, former President of Stony Brook University
Jack Marburger had a remarkable ability to defuse explosive situations and get people to collaborate for the greater good.  In all his extraordinary leadership positions, he brought the institutions’ stakeholders together from disparate viewpoints to move forward.

When Stony Brook became co-manager of Brookhaven National Lab, it was clear that Jack was the best person to be Lab Director.  As National Science Advisor he once again managed to calm stormy waters and move the agenda ahead.  But it was as President of Stony Brook that he is most gratefully remembered—he led the University from its tumultuous early years to maturity, at the same time building the School of Medicine and the Hospital, a major new enterprise. 

In every instance and with every person, he was a kind and humane leader.  He instilled in the University a sense of its responsibilities and its possibilities. 


From Dr. Samuel Aronson, Director, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Jack Marburger was an inquisitive thinker and a champion of Brookhaven Lab’s research. Throughout his long and fascinating career, his finest qualities included his ability to listen and to find common ground among people with very different points of view. He led Brookhaven Lab through one of the most challenging times in its history, restoring public trust and putting in place policies of openness, inclusion, and environmental stewardship that still guide us today. Jack was an expert in bringing people together -- even in his final weeks and days, he dedicated his time to enhancing the relationship between Brookhaven and Stony Brook University through strategic collaborative initiatives. His calm, reasoned demeanor, elegance, and bright smile will be missed by all.


From John P. Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
It is with great sadness that I note the passing of Dr. John H. Marburger, III, former Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to President George W. Bush.

Jack Marburger leaves a legacy of exceptional public service and substantial scientific contributions. He was the Nation's longest-serving Presidential Science Advisor, and his focus on basic research as a driver of economic growth was a common thread across Congresses and Administrations. Even while battling cancer, Jack continued to serve in the White House and improved the ways in which the benefits of scientific investments are measured and valued. His input and contributions to the Nation, the science community, and academia will be sorely missed.

Jack was an esteemed scientist and public servant. Those of us who had the privilege to know him benefited greatly from his extensive knowledge, pragmatic thinking, and warm friendship, and we take comfort in knowing that his determination to explore new scientific frontiers and his enduring commitment to America's farsighted focus on science and technology will be continued by all those he inspired. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his family.


From Dr. Robert McGrath, former Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Brookhaven National Laboratory Affairs
For years I knew Jack as president of Stony Brook, but it was when the university put together the proposal to manage BNL that I got to know him well. As the first director in a new era for BNL he was brilliant in smoothing BNL’s relations with the Long Island community, state and federal politicians, the DOE, and BSA’s management partners themselves. His management approaches and style were essential in the early days of BSA  in setting the lab on a course that led to its strength today. He was a smart academic who never forgot the love of learning even while leading large complex institutions.  He was unflappable and an easy communicator no matter the circumstance. He was a gracious man. I was privileged to have known and learned from him, and so many of us have benefited from what he did.


From Association of American Universities staff
It is with sadness that we share the news that John H. Marburger, III passed away yesterday. So many of us in the AAU community knew and worked with Jack over his distinguished career in academia and government. He served with distinction not only Stony Brook University, but the research university community and the nation. He will be greatly missed.

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