Rich Schmaeng will retire from the Department of Physics after almost 50 years of service on June 30th, 2022.
Rich began in the physics department in 1973 as the technician in charge of lecture demonstrations. He moved into computing after the department acquired its first computer, a minicomputer from the Digital Equipment Corporation. As microcomputers and the internet developed in the 1980's, Rich supported their use in the department as well; he has continued to acquire new knowledge and skills as the landscape of academic computing has grown.
Rich retires as Senior Computer Systems Manager for the Department of Physics. His current duties include hardware and software support for all department computers. In addition to computers used by individual department members, this includes departmental web and other servers, a scientific computing cluster, and computers interfaced to scientific instruments. He works with other members of the Washington University IT community on issues such as computer security and university networks.
Rich played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the height of the pandemic, the department's computing facilities stayed up, but almost all department members were working from home, carrying out research, teaching, and administrative duties remotely. Rich solved many problems department members encountered in working remotely.
Rich is widely known for his strong interpersonal skills as much as his technical ones. James Schilling, Professor Emeritus of Physics, wrote that "Rich has the enviable ability to interact one-on-one and hands-on with members of the department on all levels, even with those who have rather limited computer knowledge. He is a fabulous communicator."
On June 13th, the Physics Department held a retirement party for Rich in Compton Hall. Mark Alford, outgoing chair of the department, presided over the celebration, at which Rich was presented with tokens of the department’s appreciation.