Published in The Washington Post on Jun. 7, 2020.
1929 - 2020
Donald Stuart Sasscer June 30, 1929 - May 1, 2020.
Donald Stuart Sasscer passed away peacefully at his
home at the age of 90.
He was born and raised in the Petworth neighborhood
of Washington, DC, with his family moving back and forth to Ogden, Utah. He
attended Calvin Coolidge High School (1947). He earned a BS degree in
Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah and an MS and PhD in Nuclear
Engineering from Iowa State University.
After 40 years away, he moved back to the DC area in 2003. Dr. Sasscer was a
pioneer and scientific researcher in the area of innovative sources of energy,
anticipating the world's need for alternatives to fossil fuels. He made significant
contributions to solar energy in the form of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
(OTEC) and served as the head of the OTEC Division of the Center for Energy and
Environmental Research at the University of Puerto Rico where he managed projects
funded by six different organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy and
NASA. He conducted research and consulted at Brookhaven and Argonne National
Laboratories, the Ames Laboratory of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Solar
Energy Laboratory of Florida, University of Florida, the Research Corporation of the
University of Hawaii, and served as Associate Director of the Office of Research and
Sponsored Programs at Northwestern University. Dr. Sasscer received numerous
honors including being a special fellow of the United States Atomic Energy
Commission, a member of the New York Academy of Science and Engineering, and
is listed in Who's Who of American Men and Women of Science.
He was also a beloved and recognized professor, teaching at Iowa State University
and the University of Puerto Rico, where he served as Head of the Department of
His courage and spirit of giving went well beyond academia. As a retiree, he helped
Latino immigrants with job training and placement, guided adult education providers
with grant writing and submissions, volunteered at a homeless shelter, and travelled to
El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity. Perhaps most remarkably, in 2002 he and his
wife, Ruth, braved a trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)
on behalf of their church's mission.
His lasting legacy with his family, friends and colleagues will be his kindness, humor,
empathy, patience, courage, wisdom, and overflowing love.
He will be remembered by many as an avid reader and amateur historian who
engaged in debate for sport. Not only could he recite Invictus by heart but he could
discuss the impact of the introduction of the Messerschmidt 262 at the end of World
War ll with the best of them. And his love of current events and politics informed and
entertained everyone he knew throughout his life. His wife and children will always
remember him as being there for them.
His children remember that not only was he the in-house resource for science and
math homework help, but he always took time to help with extracurricular activities. He
even learned to ride a horse (successfully) and took a stab at surfing (less
successfully) in order to better share in their interests.
Don is survived by his beloved wife of 61 years, Ruth, their four children, Timothy,
James, Julie and David; and six grandchildren.
Services will be scheduled for a later date. Services will be scheduled for a later date.