Richard Paul Barber, Jr. ’84

Richard Paul Barber, Jr., of Santa Clara California, died peacefully June 25, 2024 from complications of a bone marrow transplant. He was 62.

Rich was born December 14, 1961 in Iredell County, North Carolina and grew up in Mooresville, North Carolina. After graduating from Mooresville High School in 1980, he attended Davidson College where he received a B.S. degree in Physics in 1984. Following that, he received a Ph.D. in 1990 at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied superconductivity in disordered films.

He then worked as a post-doctoral researcher at UC San Diego and then two more years as a post-doctoral fellow in oceanography studying air-sea interactions at the University of Delaware.

Rich came to Santa Clara University in 1995 and built a lab that became a hub for cross-disciplinary undergraduate research. During his career there, he mentored 48 undergraduates and three high school research students whose majors included Physics, Engineering Physics, Biochemistry, Biology, and Public Health. Thirty-six of these students were co-authors with Rich on one or more peer-reviewed publications.

On projects ranging from superconductors to solar materials to insect silk to dance, he engaged students and colleagues with kindness and a deep love for learning. In 2023, Rich received the Bernard Hubbard S.J. Creative Collaboration Award, a testament to his gift for teaching through professional research projects and creative work. Beyond the classroom and research lab, Rich served as, among other positions, Chair of the Physics Department, Director of the Center for Nanostructures, Chair of the University Rank and Tenure Committee, and advisor to Sigma Pi Sigma, the honor society for Physics and Astronomy students.

Other than his phenomenal teaching skills, Rich was known for his brightly colored ties, which he wore with equally brightly colored short-sleeved shirts. He was also known for his talkative nature, meaning if you asked him what time it was, he would tell you how to build a clock.

He had high expectations of his students, and mentored them with gentle encouragement, sometimes with a boisterous gaffaw. His colleagues also described him as authentic, loving, loyal, sacred and mildly profane. They said he was “a man of science who knew there was more.”

He met the love of his life, Letel, in high school and they married in 1985. The two enthusiastically embraced the local culture of whereever they lived, including a deep love for the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland crabs and the San Francisco Giants. His son Charlie was born in 2000.

He often cycled with Charlie and taught him how to build, weld, plumb and use any tool in the shed. He enjoyed cooking–especially Lebanese cuisine, as it was his heritage–eating and traveling. But most of all, he loved spending time with Charlie.

He additionally served as the Commissioner of Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Scouting Association and with his beautiful bass voice sang in the choir for more than 25 years at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Trinity Cathedral in San Jose.

Rich’s health started to decline in 2021 and he overcame three various cancer diagnoses. Sadly, he was diagnosed again last November with MDS, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a form of blood cancer. He received a stem cell tranplant at Stanford University Hopsital on June 7. After doing well for several weeks, he became critically ill from complications of the transplant June 17.

He is preceded in death by his mother, Martha Barber of Mooresville, North Carolina and then Santa Clara (2021) and his father Richard P. Barber, of Mooresville, NC who passed in 1980. He is survived by his wife Letel; his son Charlie, of Santa Clara; his uncle Richard A. May of Burlington, North Carolina; cousins in Massachusetts, Tennessee and North Carolina and many, many friends and colleagues.

Donations in his name can be made to Ventana Wildlife Society, which conserves native wildlife and their habitats through science, education and collaboration or the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley Food Bank.

A memorial service is pending.

William Anderson “Andy” Miles ’84

Andy Miles died peacefully on June 20th in Charlotte, NC. He is survived by his wife Sabine Vellucci, his son Sebastian, his mother Barbara Benchoff Miles, sister Ann Miles (Peter Colgrove), Locust Valley New York, brother John Miles (Monica Miles) of New York City, sister-in-law Christina Vellucci (Dennis McDonald) of Charlotte North Carolina. He is also survived by his nephews and nieces, Matthew, Samantha, Andreas, Adelaide, Declan, and Lachlan.

Andy was born in Troy, New York, the youngest son of Barbara and Wesley Miles. After a short childhood in upstate New York, the family moved first to Liverpool, England, then to Athens Greece, where his father took a teaching job, and his mother became a librarian. After many years travelling around Greece and Southern Europe, the family moved back to the US to Long Island, New York in 1972. There Andy attended and graduated from Portledge School before heading south to Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina where he achieved a BA in English and was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity that meant so much to him.

After a short stint back in New York right after college, Andy moved back to North Carolina, marrying Sabine in 2008 and welcoming their son Sebastian in 2011. Andy and Sabine had just begun a new adventure to move up to Locust Valley, New York when he was stricken with Glioblastoma (a fast-growing and aggressive brain tumor), precipitating a stay in Charlotte to receive treatment. Andy spent eight months battling the disease and had many good months due to the effectiveness of the treatments during certain times.
Andy was devoted to Sabine and Sebastian, and they built a wonderful family life in Charlotte. Among Andy’s many passions were music, word games, music festivals, his work, golf, travel, barbecuing, politics, sports, and spending time with his family at Topsail Beach on the coast of North Carolina and the Great Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.

All will miss his quick-witted humor, keen intellect, and jovial character, especially those who worked with Andy during his almost 30 years at Donnelley Financial Solutions. Andy loved his job and had most recently moved into a new position when the diagnosis came. Andy was devastated that he was never able to go back to work and wrap up the projects he had started and be a part of the fall proxy season. Above all, Andy loved being with people, family and enjoying life.

In lieu of flowers, Sabine, and Andy request that donations be made to the Humane Society of Charlotte;

July 19th (Friday) 4-7pm, a Visitation with the family will be held at Hankins & Whittington Funeral Home, 1111 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203. All are invited to visit.
July 20th (Saturday) a private Celebration of Life will be held.
July 27th (Saturday) 11am, a Memorial Service will be held at Christ Church, 61 E. Main Street, Oyster Bay, NY 11771.

Both the Celebration of Life and Memorial Service will be webcast and recorded for those not able to make the services. More details can be found on Andy Miles’ Caring Bridge website.

Debra Ann Elleman Mlsna ’86

It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of the amazing Dr. Debra Ann Mlsna, a cherished member of the Mississippi State University (MSU) community and a distinguished scholar and teacher in the field of chemistry. Deb passed away peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her family after a long battle with breast cancer. She leaves behind a legacy of academic excellence, dedicated mentorship, and an unwavering commitment to student success.

Born to Charlotte Ann Moyers (1930–2024) and Thomas Smith Elleman (1931–2010), Deb was raised in a loving family alongside her siblings, Bruce Elleman Ph.D. and Dr. Rebecca Hodge CVM. In 1989, she married the love of her life, Todd Mlsna, in Austin, Texas. Through all the joys, pains, struggles, and triumphs in life their relationship was constant and loving and easy and joyous. Their union brought forth three talented children: Hannah Mlsna (1994), Matthew Mlsna (1996), and Jake Mlsna (1998) (married to Annie Mlsna). The bonds of family were the foundation of Deb’s life, and her love and devotion to her husband and children were unwavering.

Dr. Mlsna’s academic journey began at Davidson College, where she earned a B.S. in Chemistry in May 1986. She continued her studies at the University of Texas at Austin, obtaining her Ph.D. in Chemistry in May 1992. At Mississippi State University, she served as an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and as Director of General Chemistry Programs for several years. She also co-directed and founded the Randle R White PreMed Advising Office.

Before her tenure at MSU, Dr. Mlsna was a Senior Scientist at Seacoast Science Inc. in Carlsbad, CA. There, she was a key scientist on the development team for the Seacoast Science/Vernier MiniGC and authored its lab manual. She also held teaching positions as a Lecturer at Miramar College, a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Maine, and served as Assistant Director of Laboratories at Clemson University.
Deb was deeply passionate about her work, dedicating herself to teaching full-time right up until the end. Her remarkable contributions to education and research earned her numerous prestigious awards. Among these accolades were the Grisham Master Teacher Award, Mississippi State’s highest teaching honor, and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Professor Award, the college’s top teaching award. She also received multiple Outstanding Faculty Awards from the Department of Chemistry, the Shackouls Honors College Award for Outstanding Faculty Member, the Mississippi State Pride Faculty Awards, the “Teacher of the Week” recognition from the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, and the Arts and Sciences Teaching Award. Each of these honors stands as a testament to her dedication, expertise, and the profound impact she had on her students and colleagues.

Dr. Mlsna’s innovative approach to undergraduate teaching was evident in her creation of a comprehensive summer research program and the development of three highly regarded courses at MSU. One course was a study abroad program on Alternative Sources of Energy, co-taught with her husband Todd, which took students to Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden each summer, offering a global perspective on sustainable energy. Another course, Science and Cinema, intertwined scientific concepts with modern apocalyptic films, fostering critical thinking and a deeper appreciation of science and storytelling. She also designed a popular general chemistry course for pre-health students, emphasizing its applications in the medical field. Dr. Mlsna’s ability to make complex scientific principles accessible and relevant was unparalleled.

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Deb demonstrated remarkable discipline and dedication in her personal life as well. She was a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, recognized for her grace and strength. Her martial arts prowess led her to become a multiple-time state champion in California and culminated in her winning a national championship in 2007. This discipline and dedication in Tae Kwon Do mirrored her relentless pursuit of excellence in life.

Additionally, Deb was an avid traveler. In the final months of her life, she planned and enjoyed two memorable trips: a magical Christmas journey from Budapest to Germany and a vibrant family trip across Costa Rica. These journeys, which capped a lifetime of travel, reflected her adventurous spirit and her desire to create lasting memories with her loved ones. Deb’s legacy is one of passion, perseverance, and a profound love for both knowledge and life.

Dr. Debra Ann Mlsna’s memory will live on in the hearts and minds of her family, friends, colleagues, students and the countless individuals whose lives were touched by her remarkable contributions to science and education. Her legacy as a loving wife, devoted mother, and visionary teacher will continue to inspire future generations.

A private memorial service in honor of Deb’s life will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family graciously requests that those who knew her find joy in life’s simple pleasures – take a leisurely walk, savor a special meal, embark on a journey, or spend quality time with loved ones. Let these moments of enjoyment be a tribute to the memory of Dr. Debra Ann Mlsna.

Below are links to a music playlist of her favorite songs that she put together in her last week, and a video featuring a collection of her children’s favorite pictures.

Link to music playlist:

Links to the pictures:
On YouTube

On Google Drive

On Vimeo

David Trent Westmoreland ’84

David Trent Westmoreland, 62, passed away on January 15, 2024, at his home in Wilmington, North Carolina. Trent was born on October 18, 1961, to parents Alvis and Marie Westmoreland, in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Angela Blackwell Westmoreland, two daughters Cara and Sydney Westmoreland, and brother Edwin Westmoreland, all of Wilmington. Trent graduated from Davidson College in 1984 with a degree in economics. After graduation, he pursued a career in the construction industry. Trent later became a licensed general contractor, began his own business, and built many beautiful homes throughout eastern North Carolina. He enjoyed a reputation for honesty and integrity in all things, but especially his business.

While often reserved, Trent exuded kindness and generosity, allowing for his family to extend far beyond blood. He was known for his quick-witted sense of humor and his ability to show appreciation for everyone he met. He was selfless and always acted in the interest of others, while cherishing those he held close.

A small family service will be held to honor Trent’s wishes of burying his ashes with a tree.

John Browning Odell Jr. ’83

John Browning Odell Jr., a man devoted to his family, his faith in God, and his community, passed away Monday morning, July 17, 2023, following a valiant battle with pneumonia. His wife and children were with him. He was 62.

Born July 9, 1961 in Sacramento, California, he was the son of the late John Browning Odell and Shirley Hartmann Odell Kirby.

When he was a toddler, the family moved back to Newport News in Tidewater Virginia, where generations of Odells lived. He attended Davidson College in North Carolina, where he earned his degree in history. (He recently attended his 40th reunion and was a proud Wildcat.)

His love of history led him to the National Park Service where he was a park ranger at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, and then to the Curator’s Office at the United States Senate in Washington, D.C. He met Margaret “Peg” Schmid at the Senate. They married in 1992 and lived in Arlington, Virginia. While working at the Senate full-time he earned his Master’s in Museum Studies at George Washington University. After 14 years at the Senate, he read a job listing that merged his museum vocation with his lifelong passion for baseball.

As a result, John has served as Curator of History and Research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for 24 years, working with great people and telling wonderful stories through print and exhibits. He was frequently told he had the best job, and he agreed.

John served his community in many ways. A faithful and dedicated member of Christ Church in Cooperstown, he was currently serving as Senior Warden. He participated in and then led a weekly 6 a.m. Men’s Bible Study for almost two decades. He had been a coach and board member for Cooperstown Youth Baseball. While he was an Orioles fan, he loved seeing any baseball game, at any level, especially when it was live and in person.

He had served on the Parks Board for Cooperstown, and on the board of Friends of the Parks for many years. He stepped back from volunteering in March 2020 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, which he fought bravely with the guidance of Bassett Healthcare and the caring people there. He was delighted to “ring the bell” marking the end of his chemotherapy in August 2022, and he and Peg celebrated with a trip to Portugal.

John loved the outdoors and instilled a love for it in his children. The family enjoyed hiking locally and on vacation. He was an excellent trivia player, crossword puzzle completer, and he grilled up excellent salmon.

John is survived by his wife, Peg Schmid Odell, of Cooperstown and their three children, Rebecca Louise Odell of Albany, John Floyd “Jack” Odell of Cooperstown, and Emrys Carleton Odell of Cooperstown. His family love him very much and will miss having such a thoughtful, funny, caring, and supportive husband and dad. He is further survived by a sister, Beth Odell Dunn of Newport News, Virginia, and a brother, Scott Odell and his partner Marci Kisling of Quinton, Virginia, as well as his wife’s mother, Ruth A. Schmid of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and Peg’s siblings, Barbara Schmid Heifetz and husband, Hal, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, and William O. Schmid and wife, Lori, of Allendale, New Jersey and their families, his aunt Nancy Hartmann Welker, and a stepfather, Douglas Kirby. He enjoyed spending time with family, including much loved cousins, at the holidays, in creeks, at the beach, and at Taff Family reunions.

Friends are welcome to pay their respects to the Odell family from 4-7 p.m. on Monday, July 24, 2023 at the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown. A service will be offered at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 25, 2023 at Christ Church, 46 River Street in Cooperstown, with Father Nathan Ritter, Rector, officiating. Immediately following the funeral there will be a reception in the Parish Hall.

Interment will be private in Lakewood Cemetery, Cooperstown, where John will be laid to rest near Fairy Spring, where he and his family enjoyed picnics, cooling off in the lake, and kayaking.

In lieu of flowers, John’s family respectfully requests that memorial donations be directed to Friends of the Parks, PO Box 1008, Cooperstown, NY 13326.

John would encourage each of us to take that trip, to enjoy a hike, to call a friend, to spend time with family, and to go see a ballgame.