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Leaving a Legacy for McKendree

Leaving a Legacy for McKendree
Cyril Curtis

Cyril Curtis '43, Ph.D., of Albion, Illinois, is a man of many talents. A mathematician and physicist by formal training, Cyril is an admired citizen in his community, and he is a respected member of the Albion First United Methodist Church. He's a charter member of the McKendree University Academy of Science, a recipient of McKendree's prestigious Peter Akers Award, and in his spare time, he is an accomplished pianist.

Cyril's professional career in the sciences allowed him to experience many places in the United States and abroad. These journeys all began in the fall of 1939 when he arrived to study at McKendree. Cyril took all the math and science classes he could fit into his schedule.

With World War II in full swing in 1943, Cyril was scheduled to leave for his military service a couple of hours short of completing his degree in mathematics. Dean Charles Stowell allowed Cyril to complete a special exam that fulfilled his degree requirements and receive his degree. For that simple gesture, Cyril has been forever grateful to McKendree, and he has given back to his alma mater whenever possible.

While serving in the Army Air Corps Cyril had the privilege of studying meteorology and applied those skills while working on the Manhattan Project at the atomic bomb laboratory near Los Alamos, New Mexico. Following his discharge from the military, Cyril received his master's and doctorate degrees in physics from the University of Illinois.

For nearly 40 years his career would involve the study of particle accelerator physics, which included stops at the Argonne National Laboratory to work on experiments for the power plant for the first nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus; teaching physics at Vanderbilt University; and ultimately joining the Fermi Laboratory where he retired in 1986.

It was after retirement that Cyril re-connected with fellow McKendreans through alumni reunions. During this time, he actively supported his alma mater and directed a significant gift to the Heritage, Heart and Hope Campaign as a memorial to his wife who passed away in 2003. As the need has arisen for an addition and a significant renovation to the Voigt Science Building, Cyril has once again stepped up and designated a generous portion of his estate for this purpose.

"When I attended McKendree, I focused on my studies in math, physics, chemistry, and biology in addition to the general coursework. It is vital that we provide new and updated science resources to the students of McKendree so they can become the doctors, researchers, and scientists of tomorrow. I ask others to do the same so we can continue to be proud of our McKendree."