Vic Mansfield, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Colgate University, died peacefully in Strong Memorial Hospital on June 3 after a valiant two-year struggle with lymphoma. He was 67 years old and is survived by his wife Elaine, two sons David and Anthony, and his mother, Virginia Pepitone. He will be greatly missed by many devoted friends, colleagues and students.
Vic was born March 7, 1941 in Norwalk, CT. He attended Dartmouth College and completed graduate studies at Cornell. Vic and Elaine married in 1968 and, after a stint as encounter group leaders in California, they bought an old farmhouse with 70 acres of land in Hector, NY in 1972. They were among the founding members of Wisdom’s Goldenrod Center for Philosophic Studies in Valois, where they were students of Anthony Damiani and were later class leaders in their own right. Hector remained their primary and beloved home throughout the years that Vic taught at Colgate. In 2005, they celebrated their commitment to the beauty of the Finger Lakes by placing their land under a conservation easement with the Finger Lakes Land Trust.
Vic joined the Colgate faculty in 1973, armed with a Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics from Cornell University and burning interests in cosmology, computational methods, and the conjunction of science and spirituality. In his 35 years at Colgate, he lectured in physics, astronomy, numerical analysis, and in all components of the Core Curriculum, inspiring students with his eloquence, enthusiasm, expertise and high expectations. Students consistently described his classes as rigorous and challenging, yet always a joy to attend. His Core:Tibet course was a perennial favorite with students, who called it transformative, citing Vic’s passion, humor, and spontaneity. In April, 2008, he was the co-recipient of the Sidney J. and Florence Felten French Prize for inspirational teaching.
Vic’s interest in understanding the universe was matched by his profound personal dedication to living the examined life. His deep connection to Tibetan Buddhism launched him on a scholarly quest to compare scientific thought with Buddhist teaching. His many years of studies resulted in numerous published articles as well as three highly regarded books. The latest, Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Science (2008, Templeton Foundation Press), was graced by an introduction written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and was presented by Vic to His Holiness during a visit to Colgate in April. This was the culmination of Vic’s scholarly endeavors, the most poignant moment of his intellectual life. What could have been sweeter than the affectionate embrace bestowed on him by the Dalai Lama upon accepting Vic’s final book? Vic felt that it was worth the physical struggle of the last months to receive this embrace and the French Prize for inspirational teaching.
A memorial service was held on Sunday, June 8 at Wisdom’s Goldenrod Center for Philosophic Studies, 5801 Rt. 414, Hector, NY. Memorial gifts may be made to Wisdom’s Goldenrod or Namgyal Monastery, 412 N. Aurora St, Ithaca, NY 14850.