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In Memoriam: Robert Stark

Professor emeritus taught mathematics, engineering at UD

Robert Martin Stark, professor emeritus of mathematical sciences and civil and environmental engineering at the University of Delaware, as well as a doctoral alumnus of UD, died Nov. 18, 2017. He was 87 and lived in Newark, Delaware.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Prof. Stark attended Long Island University and Johns Hopkins University. He met his wife, Carol LaSage, at the University of Michigan, where he earned his master’s degree, and they married in 1955.

Robert M. Stark
Robert M. Stark

Prof. Stark was employed briefly at Bausch & Lomb, at Rochester Institute of Technology and as assistant dean of engineering and assistant professor of mathematics at Cleveland State University, before joining the University of Delaware as an instructor in 1962.

He earned his doctorate in civil engineering at UD in 1965 and rose to the position of professor and, in 2001, professor emeritus, with appointments in the departments of Mathematical Sciences and of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He authored numerous research papers and books and was a visiting associate professor of civil engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1972-73.

In addition to his work in math and engineering, Prof. Stark was a lifelong student of American history. He taught several classes and completed a manuscript, “Benjamin Franklin, An American Innovator.” He also published research on the first silver dollars of the United States and formed a large collection of them over 45 years.

Prof. Stark was a member of several scientific societies and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He volunteered and served on many boards and offices of nonprofits, including Delaware Academy of Science, Generations Home Care and Delaware Heritage Commission, and was a founder of the UD Association of Retired Faculty and at one point served as its president.

In 1999, he received an Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Engineering.

UD faculty members and former students remembered Prof. Stark as a generous colleague and mentor, a thoughtful friend and a loving family man.

"Bob has been a wonderful friend and colleague and always provided exemplary guidance to me,” said Nii Attoh-Okine, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who said Prof. Stark went out of his way to help others. “He contributed immensely to my career and as a person, and I will always be grateful. I will always cherish his kindness and friendship."

Carla C. Morris, associate professor of mathematics in the Associate in Arts Program, earned her doctorate in operations research at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources with Prof. Stark as her dissertation adviser. After she completed her degree, she said, he continued to serve as her mentor, and they wrote two textbooks together, Fundamentals of Calculus and Finite Mathematics: Models and Applications.

Prof. Stark was well known, Morris said, for maintaining contact with his former students throughout their careers.

One of those students, Robert Mayer, earned his doctorate in engineering at UD in 1982 and is now a professor of ocean engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy. He called Prof. Stark “a valued mentor, fond colleague and true friend,” and said he knew that many others feel the same sense of loss.

“Both a gentleman and scholar, Dr. Stark cared and shared much with others that they might succeed, finding his reward in their accomplishments,” Mayer said. “He leaves behind a fine heritage both through personal achievements and those of his children and past students.

“Personally speaking, by his example, he inspired me to seek a career in academia … for which I’ll be eternally grateful.”

Prof. Stark, who was preceded in death by his wife, Carol, is survived by his four children, Bradley, Timothy, Steven and Candice; eight grandchildren; his partner, Phyllis Bierstedt; and brother, Richard Stark.

Services were private. To send online condolences, please visit www.rtfoard.com.

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