Renowned physicist remembered in rotunda

By Jordan Duncan

Academics and social activists shared tearful eulogies Saturday around a framed picture of a mentor, professor and community leader in Morris Library.

The memorial commemorated Fazley Bary Malik, a professor of theoretical physics, who died July 4 after becoming ill at an airport in Istanbul, according a press release from David Vitoff, an Illinois Education Association organizer.

The university’s memorial from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. included a luncheon where several speakers shared memories of Malik. Speakers included civil rights attorney Richard Whitney, SIU professor and author Albert P. Melone and Esen Ercan Alp, who was recruited to the university from Turkey by Malik.

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“Bary Malik was an eminent scholar of unusual intellectual ability,” Melone said.

Alp said Malik helped international students adapt to life in America.

“He was quite sensitive to recognizing their weaknesses and their strengths, and help them make the transition,” he said.

Alp said Malik helped him receive a visa and relocate to the U.S. in 1980, a process that requires a professor to identify a student with potential and help provide necessary resources.

Malik was also influential in faculty and administration relations.

James F. Clark, former IEA UniServ director, said Malik was never afraid to fight for collective bargaining.

“His courage to put his name on the line was a … contributing factor to our organizing success in 1996,” Clark said.

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Richard Whitney, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, said one of Malik’s major contributions within local social activism was mediating arguments.

“He was a model of collegiality, civility, deliberateness, respectfulness and calm,” said Whitney, who worked with Malik on students’ rights issues when Malik was chair of the southern Illinois union chapter.

Malik was born Aug. 16, 1934, in West Benegal, India. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Calcutta University in 1953 and his doctorate in theoretical physics in Germany under the supervision of Werner Heisenberg, a pioneer of quantum mechanics.

Malik served as post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University, assistant professor at Yale University and a professor at Indiana University before coming to SIU in 1980, where he served as chair of the Department of Physics. He stepped down in 1985 to focus on research.

He received the American Physical Society’s John Wheatley Award in 2007 for “extensive contributions to developing physics and inspiring physicists in emerging nations through insightful personal collaborations,” according to a press release.

Whitney said Malik was humble about his accomplishments in the scientific field.

“He never brought it up, and I was too absorbed in the subjects of the moment to ask what he taught and what he researched,” Whitney said. “Today, the expression that someone is a ‘gentleman and a scholar’ is viewed as a mildly humorous or ironic compliment. For Bary, it would be a spot-on description.”

Jordan Duncan be reached at [email protected]

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