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Shirley Dow Stekel Collection, 1955-2018

By Karl McCreary

Collection Overview

Title: Shirley Dow Stekel Collection, 1955-2018

Predominant Dates: 2016-2018

ID: MSS Stekel

Primary Creator: Stekel, Shirley L. (Shirley Lillian) (1936-2018)

Extent: 0.08 cubic feet. More info below.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2018

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Shirley Dow Stekel Collection consists of biographical materials, essays, and photographs documenting alumna Shirley Dow Stekel's student experience at Oregon State College. This collection also contains materials relating to Stekel's career as a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Stekel studied physics at OSC and earned undergraduate and masters' degrees in 1958 and 1961, respectively. Stekel is among the first women to earn a graduate degree in physics at OSU.

Scope and Content Notes

The Shirley Dow Stekel Collection consists of biographical materials, essays, and photographs documenting alumna Shirley Dow Stekel's student experience at Oregon State College.

In the two essays, "The First Computer at OSU" and "The OSC Physics Department Moved to Weniger Hall" Shirley describes her experience using the ALWAC (Alex L. Werner-Gren Automated Computer) computer as a student and the conditions for physics faculty and students in Covell Hall before the Physics Department's move to Weniger in 1959. Shirley wrote these recollections in 2016.

The photographs reflect Shirley's involvement as a counselor for the 4-H Summer School held on the OSC campus from 1955 to 1959. All of the images are group shots of summer school participants and Shirley is among those featured in the photos.

The biographical materials consist of photocopies of documentation relating to awards and honors received by Shirley as well as an article about her volunteer work with the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin. There is also an essay about Shirley's life written by Frank Stekel, Shirley's husband.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Shirley Dow Stekel was born in San Francisco in 1936 to Alma and Verge Dow. At the end of World War II, the Dow family relocated to a farm near the town of Rogue River, Oregon.

Shirley came to Oregon State College in 1954 with an interest in studying engineering, but switched to physics soon after as her major. Among the courses Shirley took as an undergraduate was the first computer programming class offered at Oregon State College. Graduating with a bachelor's degree in physics in 1958, Shirley continued her studies at OSC and earned a master's degree in 1961. Her thesis, "Neutron total cross sections using the optical model of the nucleus," can be accessed in ScholarsArchive.

Shirley began her teaching career at Yakima Valley Junior College in Yakima, Washington, where she taught from 1960 until 1962. After a brief part-time teaching appointment at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan where she pursued additional graduate work in physics instruction, Shirley accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater (UWW) in 1963. She worked at UWW until retiring in 2000. Shirley placed a strong emphasis in her teaching on using hands-on and activity-oriented techniques to approach science instruction, particularly in classes geared toward prospective elementary school educators. In recognition of Shirley's long career in instruction, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wisconsin section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Shirley met Frank Stekel in 1965 when he joined the UWW Physics Department as an instructor. They married in 1967 and together raised three children: Sharon, Sandra, and Wayne. Shirley died in 2018.

Author: Karl McCreary

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 8 photographs; 1 box

Statement on Access: This collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: These materials were transferred to the Special Collections and Archives in 2018 by the OSU Foundation, which in turn had received them from Frank Stekel, Shirley's husband.

Related Materials:

Portrait shots of Stekel during her time at Oregon State College can be found in the Beaver Yearbooks.

Other collections documenting the development and use of the ALWAC computer include the Gwil Evans Photograph Collection (P 082) and the Mathematics Department Records (RG 136).  

Photographs depicting 4-H Summer School activity at OSU can also be found in the 4-H Photograph Collection (P 146); the Extension Service Photograph Collection (P 062); and the Harriet's Photograph Collection (P HC).

Preferred Citation: Shirley Dow Stekel Collection (MSS Stekel), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Stekel, Shirley L. (Shirley Lillian) (1936-2018)

People, Places, and Topics

4-H clubs--Oregon.
History of Science
Oregon State College--Alumni and alumnae.
Physics--Study and teaching (Higher)
University History
Women--Education (Higher)--Oregon--Corvallis.

Forms of Material

Photographic prints.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.