One-of-a-Kind Physicist Nelson Duller Passed Away
1923 – 2020
Nelson Mark Duller, Jr., 96, long-time resident of Bryan, Texas A&M Professor Emeritus of Physics, with a combined total of 55 years of teaching, passed away January 23, 2020, at CHI St. Joseph Health Regional Hospital, Bryan, after a brief illness. Nelson was a believer of Christ and an eternal optimist.
He was born in the Houston Heights, on March 6, 1923, to Nelson Mark Duller, Sr. and Sue Hardcastle Duller. As a member of the Class of 1941, John H. Reagan High School (now Heights High School), he served as class president, ran for the track team, and earned valedictorian honors.
Nelson and his beloved younger brother, Jean, enlisted for World War II. Both survived the war. Nelson served in the U. S. Army 413th Infantry Regiment. Normandy Invasion. Battle of the Bulge.
Nelson was able to capitalize on his love for electronics, building radios from scratch, and amateur “ham” radio. He was introduced to Texas A&M by an uncle from the Class of 1932. As a physics major, Nelson received his bachelor’s of science from Texas A&M University in 1948 (spring semester valedictorian—a Kyle Field speech was required); followed by a master’s of arts and doctorate from Rice University. His doctorate was a study of cosmic ray measurements in Colorado’s high altitudes.
Teaching summary: Texas A&M 1953-54; University of Missouri-Columbia 1954-1962; Texas A&M 1962-2008. Volunteer assistance with teaching until a few weeks ago.
At TAMU, Nelson, in addition to teaching required physics courses, longed for the challenge of presenting physics and astronomy to non-science majors. He said this might be their last chance to get the basics. He never “rushed” the material and was always available for student consultation and advice.
Nelson became known for his creative ways to present physics experiments. He demonstrated the concepts with his near perfect pitch of singing to the students. He showcased his teaching skills to public school teachers in Houston and Galveston. He mentored and advised many graduate students’ dissertation projects with attention to detail. Laboratory materials and examinations were written with precision. He published papers with colleagues and made presentations at international conferences. A long-time interest in nuclear magnetic resonance was the final work.
Three-time recipient of the TAMU Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching. A 2007 inductee to the TAMU College of Science Academy of Distinguished Former Students.
The classroom was his environment. A born teacher, he wanted to instill his love for science, astronomy, math, music of all kinds—classics to the Beatles, and great writers (Graham Greene, Herman Wouk, James Thurber) to as many people as he could. He took joy in knowing his beloved classrooms at Helms Elementary School in Houston are still in use today.
He had his stories. Early in his career he presented a paper to a large audience with Albert Einstein in attendance. Nelson had to “really” concentrate. During the war, he met Bette Davis and Ernest Hemingway. During war training, he was intrigued by discussions with future writer Paddy Chayefsky. Nelson’s son witnessed his complimenting theater legend Robert Morse. Nelson was fortunate to see and hear the late great singers Paul Robeson and Judy Holliday perform in New York.
Nelson loved biking to work. An avid jogger and tennis player until his 70s. Aggie Football season ticket holder. Prostate cancer survivor at age 73. Nature lover, fisherman, and language specialist in Spanish, French, and German. Reader of Time Magazine. Community service: Junior Warden on the Vestry at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in the early 1980s. Serving under the leadership of the late Reverend William R. Oxley was very rewarding.
Among the people who impacted Nelson were many of his teachers (some born in the 1880s) who shaped his future as a teacher. What he poured into the thousands of his students with knowledge and inspiration could fill a book, including the devotion and love for his Aggie son, David, born on his 35th birthday. We rejoice that Nelson had his memory and sense of humor intact. Mentored by all four of his grandparents, he wanted people to enjoy school, life, and to use their talents to the maximum.
Predeceased: His parents, brother Jean L. Duller, sister-in-law Mae Belle Chappell, and his phenomenal wife, the love of his life, Joe Ann Chappell Duller (1927-2010), originally of Houston. Nelson was blessed with 55 years of marriage.
The family salutes the expertise of Dr. Stephen A. Braden and assistant Monica Reyes; CHI St. Joseph Rehab (The Manor); The Isle at Watercrest-Bryan (former resident); Visiting Angels; and Encompass Health Home Health.
There will be no funeral service in keeping with Nelson’s wishes. A private burial at a future date will take place at the College Station City Cemetery near his parents’ gravesites. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the charity of your choice.
Please visit Nelson’s tribute page at www.HillierFuneralHome.com to share memories and stories.
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This obituary for Duller Jr., Nelson Mark was originally posted on The Eagle.