2010-12-11 / Obituaries

Douglas Cornell

Samuel Douglas Cornell, once the president of Mackinac College on Mackinac Island, passed away Friday, November 12, 2010 at the age of 95. He was living in Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Cornell was born April 16, 1915, in Buffalo, New York, to Douglas and Gwendolyn Cornell. In 1931, at 16, he was graduated from the Park School in Buffalo and entered Yale College, where he was graduated magna cum laude in 1935. He continued in graduate school at Yale and in 1938, at 23, completed a Ph.D. in physics and joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, as an optical physicist.

He and Priscilla Mary Greene of Buffalo were married in 1939 and, in 1942, he joined the United States Naval Reserve as a research physicist working first on anti-aircraft technology and later on new weapons development, including work on the Guided Missiles Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of commander.

He then joined the Planning Division of the Research and Development Board of the Department of Defense, moving his family to Washington, D.C., and, in 1949, he was appointed director of the Planning Division with responsibility for, among other things, the formulation of a master plan for military research and development.

Dr. Cornell left the Department of Defense in 1952 to become executive officer of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council in Washington, and over the next 13 years, as chief of the staff of the NAS/NRC, he worked closely with numerous scientists and federal agencies on new scientific and technological developments, including early planning for the exploration of space.

He became the president of Mackinac College in 1965, a new liberal arts college, and served there until 1970.

Priscilla Cornell died from cancer in 1959 and, in 1968, Dr. Cornell married Judithe Friderichsen of Denmark.

The couple moved to Washington in 1970, where he returned to the National Academy of Sciences as special assistant to its president, a position he held until his retirement in 1981.

The Cornells moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1983, and to Tucson in 2004, where three of his four children with Priscilla live.

In addition to his wife, Judithe, he is survived by his two daughters, Susan Cornell Wilkes of Minneapolis and Deborah Cornell Colwell of Tucson; his two sons, S. Douglas Cornell III and Stephen E. Cornell, both of Tucson; 10 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

Interment will follow a private ceremony in Buffalo.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Peppi's House, Tucson Medical Center Hospice, 5301 E. Grant Road, Tucson, Arizona 85712.

Arrangements are by Hudgel's Swan Funeral Home in Tucson.

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