And Mike Casper too…

February 1st, 2007

Mike Casper has died.  I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without his influence, nuclear waste, transmission lines, power plants, all those crazy trips up to Chisago and those awful hours long “coalition” meetings got me firmly entrenched.  I’m so grateful to have had his guidance and direction and coaching and encouragement, he and Nancy were so supportive as I headed off on this electrical path.

This just came in from Joel Weisberg:

To friends and colleagues of Mike Casper,

It is my sad duty to inform you that Mike died on January 27, 2007 in  Northfield from complications related to dementia.  He caught  pneumonia about ten days before he passed away, and his family and  local friends surrounded him at his bedside through his last days.

Let me take this opportunity to remind you of some of the highlights  of Mike’s life. Thanks to Daniel Casper for providing the document  from which most of this was drawn.

Along with being a Professor of Physics at Carleton College,  Mike  was a tireless political activist.  He was a leading figure in the  peace movement for decades. Among his many projects, he helped to  mobilize the scientific community in opposition to an anti-ballistic  missile system, served as executive director of the Minnesota Nuclear  Weapons Freeze Campaign, and, with the help of his wife, Nancy, ran  the Nuclear War Graphics Project.  He helped to found the APS  Congressional Science Fellows Program which brings scientists to work  with Congressional representatives, a program that was so successful  that many other scientific societies went on to copy it.  He was one  of the cofounders of the American Physical Society’s Forum on Physics  and Society, where these kinds of issues are studied and debated. He  also cofounded a program at Carleton called Science, Technology, and  Public Policy, and as part of that program, Mike supervised annual  technology policy projects in which he and a group of students  studied a problem and then developed policy solutions. Over two  decades, Mike and his students tackled issues ranging from  alternative energy to HIV/AIDS policy.  In a fitting legacy to Mike  and the other founders, the STPP Program itself continues to  thrive  at Carleton under the name Environment and Technology Studies.  Personally, I most deeply admire Mike for his work on science in the  public interest, and for taking that work to the towns and streets  rather than leaving it irrelevantly in the ivory tower.

While at Carleton, Mike developed a lifelong partnership with faculty  colleague Paul Wellstone, the late Minnesota senator. The two became  intimately involved with the 1970s struggles of western Minnesota  farmers to oppose a high voltage power line. In 1978, Mike ran for  lieutenant governor in the DFL primary with Alice Tripp, whose  campaign for governor grew out of the anti-powerline movement. Casper  and Wellstone later chronicled the story of the powerline struggle in  the book Powerline: The First Battle of America’s Energy War  (University of Massachusetts Press, 1981). Mike was a key strategist  in Paul’s 1990 U.S. Senate campaign and went to Washington as Paul’s  policy advisor, an experience that informed what would be Mike’s final  book, Lost in Washington: Finding the Way Back to Democracy in  America (University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.

Mike is survived by his wife, Nancy; sons Daniel (Linda), Benjamin  (Marisela), and Michael (Beth) Casper, Jay and Aaron (Cecy) Syverson,  daughter Kaarin Madigan, and five grandchildren. He was preceded in  death by parents Barry and Florence Casper and brother Jonathan Casper.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, February 18, 2007,  at Carleton College’s Skinner Memorial Chapel. A reception will  follow in the Severance Great Hall.  Should you wish to attend, I  would be glad to assist in finding you accommodations with a local  family or at a local hotel.  In lieu of flowers, please direct  memorial gifts to the Mike Casper Memorial Fund at Carleton College,  Gift Accounting Office, One North College Street, Northfield, Minnesota, 55057.

If you feel so moved, I am sure that Mike’s family would appreciate  any messages you would like to send.  Daniel Casper can be reached at  dcasper8[at]

Joel Weisberg, Mike’s friend and colleague in the physics department

One Response to “And Mike Casper too…”

  1. Aaron Syverson Says:

    He was profound and driven. Sometimes his far reach in academics made him untouchable. He was a man that impacted me very much. I’ll never forget him. He gave my mother wings to address herself and issues still poignant…by HER own accord. Wonderful man.

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