James F. Stevenson

James F. Stevenson

James F. "Jim" Stevenson passed away Saturday, December 5, 2020, age 77, after complications from brain tumor surgery.

Jim was a retired aerospace engineer, polymer scientist, and university professor. He holds patents to more than 20 inventions and earlier co-founded a landmark research program while a tenured professor in chemical engineering at Cornell University. In his retirement, he devoted himself to family, travel, environmental and political causes, and philanthropy, while still consulting and teaching classes.

Jim met his wife and life partner, Stefanie "Steffi" Stevenson (née Handelman), a New York City public school teacher and former volunteer with the Peace Corps in Africa, in 1970 and they were married for 49 years. They raised their family together, first in Ithaca, New York and later in Hudson, Ohio, where they were active in supporting the Hudson local schools and their sons' scout Troops 333 and 321. They moved to Morristown, New Jersey in the late 1990s. Jim and Steffi enjoyed traveling together around the world; recent trips included Russia, the Galapagos Islands, Cuba, and Costa Rica.

Jim was always interested in his grandchildren's latest creations and achievements, and he shared his passion for science with them and his two sons. The family home was a make-shift laboratory, any given weekend featuring superconducting magnets, railguns, hovercrafts, water-based "jet packs," or a homemade artificial heart, in addition to Jim's own science experiments he carried on well into retirement.

Jim claimed not to want a family pet, but since 1984 their family has always included a dog, and Jim was inseparable from Buffy, later Lucky, and now Amber. For the last 40-plus years, Jim designed unique optical illusion holiday cards that he inflicted annually on friends and family; the 2020 holiday season will be less joyfully puzzling with their absence.

Jim, a former Eagle Scout, had a great enthusiasm for the outdoors. He took family (including dogs) on camping adventures in Ohio and New Jersey and rides in a wooden canoe he built by hand in his college years. More recently, he supported environmental causes, including a green energy challenge grant to the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, which he and Steffi joined in 1997. Jim, in his alter-ego as "Mr. Fun," was the long-time hyper-enthusiastic entertainment coordinator for his sons' Cub Scouts Pack 3321. He was also an avid genealogist, reveling in the detailed and occasionally checkered past of his ancestors while he filled in many branches of the family tree.

Jim benefited from a full scholarship to college, and afterwards sought ways to help other students benefit from an affordable education. He and Steffi fund a science scholarship program and an undergraduate science competition at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and contribute to the Stevenson scholarship for graduates of Hudson High School. From NJIT, he received the "Special Friend of the University" award and he and Steffi were inducted into the Colton Society for their philanthropy.

James F. Stevenson was born July 15, 1943, in Greenville, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he edited the school newspaper. He received his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and was a post-doctoral student in biomedical engineering at Columbia University. After teaching and doing research at Cornell, he worked 19 years for GenCorp (now Aerojet Rocketdyne) in Akron, Ohio, before joining Honeywell in 1996, from where he retired in 2011.

He is survived by his devoted wife Steffi, son Daniel (Shang-Lin) of Taipei, Taiwan; son Jason (Jacqueline) of Salt Lake City, Utah; beloved grandchildren Amelia, Mitchell, Jia-Hao, Jia-Chen, and Calvin; loving sister Nancy of Greenville and brother John of Philadelphia, and many extended family members. He was preceded in death by his beloved parents Myron and Martha, and a sister, Ann, who died shortly after birth.

An online service for family and friends will be held in the coming days. This summer, his family plans to hold a celebration of Jim's life and interment in the Stevenson Cemetery in Greenville, Pennsylvania. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The family can be contacted at jfsmem2020@gmail.com.

Posted online on December 13, 2020