University of Texas
John David Gavenda
March 25, 1933–



John David Gavenda


John David Gavenda   

Rose Machalek Gavenda
John David Gavenda was born on March 25, 1933, in Temple, Bell County, Texas, to Edward K. and Rose Catharine Machalek Gavenda. Edward's father, Martin Gavenda had brought his family to Galveston, Texas, from the village of Hostalkova in North Moravia, Czechoslovakia. They settled on farms east of Caldwell, Texas. Great-grandfather Joseph Machalek came a few years later from the neighboring village of Ratibor. They settled in Edgeworth near Temple. Rose's parents were also both born in Moravia

Edward and his wife, Rose, were married in 1922 in Milam, Texas. In 1937, Edward and Rose moved their family to a small farm near Rio Hondo, Texas, where David and his younger brother, Steven Edward, attended public school along with the girl who later become his wife, Janie Louise Yeoman. During the war Edward worked for the Harlingen Gunnery School in Harlingen, Texas.

In high school, David demonstrated his aptitude for science and mathematics. During his senior year, he was employed by the Brownsville radio station (KBRO) as their control room engineer. He excelled in the University Interscholastic League competitions, Laboratory.

Following graduation from high school in 1950, David entered the University of Chicago. Liberal Arts Program. In 1951, he continued his education at the Universtiy of Texas at Austin. There, he was selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa and earned a BS in physics in 1954. He was employed during his sophomore year at Texas as a radiotelegraph operator at the Texas Department of Public Safety. From his junior year until the completion of his masters, he was employed as a Technical Staff Assistant at the University of Texas Defense Research Laboratory. His 1956 master's thesis was entitled, An Experimental Study of Acoustic Lenses and Prisms Using Cylindrical Rods. The work was supervised by Professor Robert Bardeen Watson.

Following completion of his master's, David entered the PhD program at Brown University in Providence, RI. At Brown, he was an Edgar Lewis Marston Fellow.

David was awarded his PhD in 1959. His dissertation, supervised by, (maybe) R. Bruce Lindsay, was entitled, Temperature by the Ultrasonic Technique.

David and Janie Yeoman were married in 1952. She was the daughter of Joseph and Hallie Yeoman of Rio Hondo, Texas. David and Janie have two sons, Victor and Philip.

In 1959, David joined the University Texas physics faculty as an assistant professsor. In 1963, he took leave and was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Metals, University of Chicago.

Because of his interest in physics education, David was appointed Professor of Physics and Education. In 1969, he was a NATO Senior Fellow at the University of Oslo in Norway.

David was active in a number of professional organizations. Among them were American Physical Society (Fellow) where he helped organize the Texas Section and served as Vice-Chair, Chair, and Secretary-Treasurer:; American Association of Physics Teachers (Fellow) where he chaired several national committees; Texas Academy of Science (Fellow); Sigma Xi and the Texas Association of College Teachers (TACT). As president of TACT, David spearheaded an effort to permit a larger role for faculty in the governance of Texas universities. The UT administration objected to these efforts and reduced the salary recommendation for the seven UT faculty that participated in these efforts.

David and Janie are active in the University Baptist Church, an open and affirming church, known and respected in the university community for its progressive social programs and action.

David and Janie were avid tennis players, continuing to play long after retiring.

Honors and Awards

His honors and awards include the 1988 Robert N. Little Award for "Outstanding Contributions to Physics Higher Education in Texas" from the Texas Section of AAPT; and the 1994 UT Natural Sciences Advisory Council Award for Teaching Excellence.

In 1996, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the preeminent society for the support and development of physics education, initiated a special program to identify and recognize people who have contributed significantly to physics education. The first cohort of AAPT fellows included John David Gavenda.

In 1997, David received a Distinguished Service Citation from the AAPT 1996 [Citation published in Am. J. Phys. 65, 596–597 (1997)].

In 2009, David received the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Section of the American Physical Society. At right, we see David receiving the award from Suresh Sharma at the Austin meeting, 19 March 2010.


David’s research has concentrated on the study of the interaction of conduction electrons with lattice vibrations in metals. These investigations have used the magnetic field dependence of the attenuation and velocity of high-frequency sound waves at liquid helium temperatures as a means of measuring the interaction. Recent work has been directed toward the use of surface acoustic waves to study the properties of electrons near the surfaces of metals. Also engaged in projects related to the measurement and suppression of electromagnetic emissions from computers. This includes the development of models for the propagation of electromagnetic waves inside semi-anechoic chambers and in other real-world environments of interest to test engineers. He published more than 50 papers on these topics, plus numerous reports and oral presentations.

He has been a leader in course and curriculum development in physics at the local, state, and national levels. He developed an experimental course in physical science for liberal arts students; developed one of the early computer-based introductory physics courses for science majors; and has directed academic-year institutes for high school science and mathematics teachers. He was among the founding members of the graduate program in science education.

Other Professional Activities

Consultant to the Electromagnetic Compatibility department of IBM/Austin on problems related to the measurement and reduction of electromagnetic noise emitted by computing devices (1983–92).

Consultant to Ray Proof Shielding Corporation on improved methods for measuring the properties of electromagnetic absorbing materials (1992–1995).

Consulted on various science curriculum projects for elementary and junior high students, including the 1967 summer writing conference for the Intermediate Science Curriculum Study project.

Formulated the content and methodology related to physical science for a series of elementary and junior high science textbooks published by Ginn and Company in the 1970s.

Chaired the National Steering Committee of the American Institute of Physics Tech Physics Project, which developed a new physics course for technology students.

Developed one of the first computer-based introductory physics courses for science majors.

Served on the National Advisory Board for the NSF-sponsored Solar Tech Project which developed a curriculum for solar energy technicians.

Served as a member of the Review Board and the Advisory Board for the National Science Teachers Association project to develop a new public school curriculum in the sciences: Scope, Sequence and Coordination of Secondary School Science.

Developed a computer-based system for introductory physics laboratories.

Other Administrative, Professional, and Public Service

Directed the UT Academic Year Institute for high school science and mathematics teachers, 1960-62.
Consultant to several major publishers of physics textbooks.
Chair or member of a number of standing ommittees of the general faculty.
Vice-Chair of the Faculty Senate of U. T. (1987–1988, 1989–1990).

Served as External Reviewer for the evaluation of the UT Arlington Physics Department 2007.


John David and Janie Gavenda Photo Album

David Gavenda's maternal grandparents, Thomas Joseph Machalek (born Czech Republic1880–1958) and Rosalie Slovak Machalek (1868–1956). They are buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Temple, Texas.

Brownsville Herald, June 15, 1948.

Brownsville Herald, June 15, 1948.

David Gavenda, State Number Sense Champion, 1947

David Gavenda and Janie Yeoman (later Gavenda) with State Journalism Award, story below .1950

1950 news story.

David Gavenda, third from right on second row. University of Texas yearbook, Cactus, 1953.

David Gavenda, second from right. University of Texas yearbook, Cactus, 1953.

Janie Louise Yeoman (Gavenda), left end of second row from bottom. University of Texas yearbook, Cactus, 1953.

David in the basement of Barus Hall at Brown University. He is standing with Tore Olsen, from the University of Oslo, by the electromagnet which was rotated around the tail of a helium dewar containing very high purity metal single crystal with ultrasonic transducers on it. Note that the electromagnet is mounted on the base of an old barber chair to make it rotatable. (This was David's invention; Ihe found the chair in a used barber equipment store in Providence.) Tore had come to Brown to do some experimental work that would contribute to his PhD program in Norway. Janie and David became good friends of him and his wife, Ragnhild Reistad. Tore, who becamee chair of the Oslo Physics Department, that arranged for the six-month grant for David and Janie to live in Oslo and visit other similar groups around Europe. Tore moved up the administrative positions in the Norwegian government.

Background of the book by David Gavenda and Volodya Gudkov. David writes, "Many years ago a Russian physicist, Vladimir (Volodya) Gudkov from the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg, Russia, contacted me about collaborating on a book dealing with ultrasonic studies of metals. I was reluctant to get involved because our areas of interest were different and his English was poor. He got funding to attend a meeting of the Acoustical Society in Austin in the fall of 1994 and came to my office to plead his case. I finally agreed and we got a NATO grant to permit him to come to Austin for a couple of weeks and me to go to Yekaterinburg for about a week (Janie went with me). He would email a draft to me and I would spend many hours (and emails) trying to understand what he was trying to say, since his English was pretty poor. He wrote about his own special area and I wrote about my own. Russia was still in turmoil from the latest regime change when we went there, so the buildings and streets were in very poor condition. Volodya warned us not to go out at night. He got us a small apartment across the street from the KGB headquarters. The door was a big plate of steel with no handle. You had to put a big key in the lock and pull it open with the key. I submitted the manuscript to Springer press and they agreed to publish it."

Left to right: Volodya Gudkov, Irina Gudkov, Janie and David Gavenda, Yekaterinburg, Russia, 1994.

Yekaterinburg is the fourth-largest city in Russia and the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast, located on the Iset River east of the Ural Mountains, in the middle of the Eurasian continent, on the border of Europe and Asia.

Although Volodya had a high position in the Soviet Ural Academy, he did not have a car. His father had been a prominent figure in the local Communist party so he had a car and drove us around to see the sights.

Left to Right: Volodya Gudkow, Janie Gavenda and David Gavenda, 1994

The marker in the background shows the location of the border. between Europe and Asia.

David Gavenda in laboratory of Volodya Gudkov, Yekaterinburg, Russia, 1994.

David Gavenda, right end. Univerisity Baptist Church, University of Texas yearbook, Cactus, 1984.

David Gavenda's magnet

David Gavenda's laboratory

John David Gavenda

David Gavenda, right end. Univerisity Baptist Church, University of Texas yearbook, Cactus, 1984.

David and Janie with unknown.

David Gavenda advising student.


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