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In Memoriam: Aaron Loether

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

Doctoral degree awarded posthumously to physics graduate student

The University of Delaware honored the late Aaron Loether, a physics doctoral student, by awarding his Ph.D. posthumously to members of his family in a brief ceremony Nov. 6 on the campus.

Mr. Loether, 28, died June 20 after a riptide carried him away from shore in Costa Rica, where he was vacationing with his family. He was a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant at UD, and he was conducting research on how light changes the structure of matter.

Aaron Loether
Aaron Loether

“On behalf of the entire University of Delaware community, I extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Aaron Loether,” UD President Dennis Assanis said. “The loss of a young person is always heartbreaking, even more so in cases such as this young man who had already demonstrated so much accomplishment, talent, engagement and generosity of spirit. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew and cared about Aaron.”

After the Nov. 6 ceremony, ROTC students presented the University of Delaware flag to his wife, Annie Horlick Loether, in Mentors' Circle.  

At UD, Mr. Loether coauthored several research papers and in 2016 was named a finalist for the Daicar-Bata Prize, which is awarded to the best doctoral student research paper in physics or astronomy.

Matthew DeCamp, associate professor of physics and astronomy and Mr. Loether’s adviser, first met Mr. Loether in spring 2012 in a graduate class he was teaching, and he joined DeCamp’s research group that fall. DeCamp praised Mr. Loether’s “motivation and strong scientific mind,” noting “he was able to quickly pick up the details of the research project and immediately contribute in a meaningful way.” In addition to his research work, DeCamp praised Mr. Loether’s skills as a graduate teaching assistant, noting “Aaron was a natural working with students who found physics difficult.”

The family held memorial services this summer in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh.

The program for the Celebration of Life service held in King of Prussia listed among the things Mr. Loether was good at: “math and physics, teaching other people, giving hugs, loving his family and friends, fixing things and being handy, GoldenEye, taking things apart, being a gentleman, admitting if he had made a mistake, eyesight (he was 20/10).” Things he loved included his wife, his brothers and family, as well as “to cook and to eat (in large quantities),” “trying new things,” “sharing his knowledge” and “being generous.”

Mr. Loether grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Drew University in New Jersey, where he graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics. He met his wife at Drew, and they married in 2014.

He is survived by his wife, his parents, Susan and Richard Loether, brothers Zack and Joseph, parents-in-law, Sally Sherwood and Geoffrey Horlick, two grandmothers and many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

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