Hall of Fame – Paul Liebenauer

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On the SUNY Oswego campus, it wasn’t unusual to see Professor Emeritus of Physics Paul Liebe­nauer heading off to a course in French.

For years, Liebenauer studied the language so that he and his wife, Margreta, could travel, which they did extensively throughout France and other European countries.

“The [French] department was kind enough to allow me the opportunity to audit classes, and your experiences traveling are more powerful when you speak the language,” Liebenauer said. “We met some awfully nice people in our travels, and it was because we spoke the language.”

So, too, his command of physics made the experience more impactful for his students. Liebenauer shared an innate enthusiasm for the discipline with both science and non-science majors at SUNY Oswego for more than 30 years. When he retired in September 2001, he had accumulated a resume of service to the college as chair of the physics department, the departmental representative and vice chair of the Faculty Assembly for 26 years and the chair of the personnel policies council, all while working tirelessly to furnish the physics laboratories at Snygg Hall with cutting-edge equipment and ensuring students had hands-on experiences to further their understanding
of physics.

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Liebenauer came to SUNY Oswego in 1968 following the completion of a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in experimental physics from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He was drawn to Oswego’s physics program because it had been awarded an accelerator similar to one he had used in his doctoral program, he said. He would subsequently become instrumental in not only SUNY Oswego accelerator’s installation and operation, but also in its use in undergraduate programming. It eventually led to student capstone projects – including trace element analysis to detect heavy metals in environmental samples.

Liebenauer developed new physics courses, with a focus on digital electronics and electrical engineering devices and systems.

“I wanted to expose our students to hands-on programming and learning,” said Liebenauer, who also authored a college physics laboratory manual. “We always tried to ensure we were student-oriented, and that’s one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Oswego—that it’s student-oriented. Teaching was emphasized over research.”

And, according to Liebenauer, the benefits of that approach extend beyond the students. “Professors should learn from students, as well,” he said.

Liebenauer also served most recently as a member of the Oswego Emeriti Association, as well as its treasurer. For more than 25 years, he volunteered for the Oswego Center for Performing Arts, helping in a variety of ways.

Liebenauer, whose wife, Margreta, died in 2013, has two children, Eric and Kara, as well as several grandchildren.

—Eileen Crandall

Editor’s Note: We regret to report that Dr. Liebenauer passed away on Oct. 22, 2016.

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