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George and Barbara Goedecke create legacy in the department of physics 

When George and Barbara Goedecke moved to Las Cruces in 1961, George had just completed his Ph.D. in physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. At the time they arrived they had no way of knowing that New Mexico State University and the surrounding environs of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County would still be the center of their world more than half a century later.

Beyond George’s work in the university’s physics department, the Goedeckes found numerous activities to pursue.  It didn’t take them long to discover the Southwestern Mountaineers, a local group of outdoor enthusiasts who introduced them to rock climbing in the Organ Mountains. “I think we climbed every route on every peak in the Organs during the ‘60’s and ‘70’s,” George says.

During the heyday of their mountaineering adventures they climbed Mt Whitney, the Grand Teton, Shiprock, several of the highest peaks in Colorado and New Mexico, and backpacked extensively in the Gila and Pecos wilderness areas. They also skied at Sierra Blanca / Ski Apache and many other areas throughout the Rocky Mountains as members of the National Ski Patrol System. George was appointed a National Ski Patrolman and also served one year as ski patrol leader at Sierra Blanca.

George is also a musician, playing clarinet and saxophone.  He was a member of the Sunshine Jazz Band of El Paso, the Creole Dixieland Jazz Band of Las Cruces, and still plays with the Creole Trio.

Barbara received a BA in biology and chemistry from Skidmore College, and earned her master’s degree from the NMSU department of biology. She subsequently worked in the rabies lab of the CDC substation based on campus. She later earned a teaching certificate from NMSU and worked as a substitute teacher in the Las Cruces Public Schools system.

The students in the physics department became a major part of their lives and now, nearly 20 years after retirement, they still are. Although he retired from full-time teaching in 1995, as professor emeritus George continues to teach courses, mentor students, participate in seminars and author papers with his current and former students.

George’s career covered all areas in the department.  His general research area is theoretical physics, with specializations in general relativity, quantum mechanics, mathematical methods, electromagnetism, optics, plasma physics, and acoustics. He taught almost all the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the department. He served two terms in the NMSU Faculty Senate, including two years as chair of that body. He served as physics department head from 1988-95 and was always looking for ways to attract quality graduate students to study at NMSU.

He is still doing that.  The Goedeckes have created an endowment that supports the George and Barbara Goedecke Physics Excellence Fund.  Between current and future estate gifts, their fund will support “exemplary graduate students who will sustain excellence in physics education and research.” A portion of their gift will name the George and Barbara Goedecke Conference Room in the department. The Goedeckes are now members of the university’s 1888 Society which celebrates individuals who are supporting NMSU’s future through estate gifts.

Department head Dr. Stefan Zollner believes this gift will have a major impact on the physics department. “This generous donation can supplement assistantships for excellent graduate students. It will allow us to recruit and retain more students, especially those from the region.”


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