University of Texas
Olan Ernest Kruse
September 6, 1921– March 24, 2004
Acknowledgement: On November 30, 2019, Mel Oakes made a "cold call" to a Lucy Kruse. A woman answered the phone with a strong and confident voice. I inquired if she were the Lucy Kruse, wife of Olan Kruse. She quickly assured me that indeed she was. Needless to say, I was overjoyed, as by my calculation Lucy was 97 years old. She showed no signs of that advanced age. She was most cordial, interested and willing to help with my writeup on Olan and her. We had a very pleasant and informative conversation and she agreed to provide pictures. She gave me her email address, I offered that ,"few in you age group would have an email address" she didn't seem surprised at the comment and pointed out that she lived alone with her son not too far away. Fortunately I have found photos that she donated to the archives at Texas A&M University at Kingsville. I greatly appreciated her permission to use these photos. For further information on Lucy's family, see her book "Deep in Brush Country" which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.
Olan Ernest Kruse was born September 6, 1921 in Coupland, Texas, a small German community east of Austin. In his earliest years he spoke only German, however when a young boy moved next door who only spoke English, he gave up speaking German, though he was still able to understand it. At age six, he and his older sister, Marcelle (Mabry), moved with their family to Bishop, Texas where he attended public school. His father, Max Edward (1890–1971), and his mother, Irma Pauline Miller (1893–1979), Kruse made a living as farmers. The Kruse farm was one of the first completely "horseless" farms in the U. S. Olan was confirmed into the Lutheran Church at age thirteen.
In high school, Olan raised heifers for Future Farmers of America (FFA), was on the tennis team, and in the footlights club. He worked long hours at the soda fountain of Foster's Drugstore (maybe Connally Drug Store). He graduated salutatorian from Bishop High School in 1938 at age 16 and entered Texas College of Arts and Industries, now Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He earned a degree in physics at Texas A&I in Kingsville in 1942.
In his junior year at Texas A&I, he met Lucille Thomas who was a freshman. After that he and "Lucy" were together most of their spare time.
Following graduation, Olan next worked for Signal Corps Radar Labs in Belmar, New Jersey. While in Belmar he married Lucille Thomas of Falfurrias, Texas on September 4, 1942.
Lucille, born April 18, 1922, in Falfurrias, Texas, was the daughter of John Clyde and Annie Mae Jones Thomas. John Clyde, a banker, had been born in Lynden, Washington and Annie Mae in San Antonio, Texas. The youngest of three, her siblings included John C. Thomas and Catherine Mae Thomas. Military obligations prevented Olan from returning to Texas for the wedding so Lucille and his parents traveled to New Jersey.
After working at the Signal Corps for seven months, Olan applied for commissions in several branches of the service. He decided that the Navy Radar School at Harvard was the best program. He accepted their offer and was commissioned as an Ensign on February, 1943. He was given two months of indoctrination at Ft. Schuyer, New York. He next completed a radar course at Cambridge, MA. Following completion of the course he was asked to remain there and teach. After teaching eight months at Harvard, he finished advanced radar training at MIT. He taught pre-radar at Harvard University until its closure. He expected to ship out; however, he was sent to Brunswick, Maine to teach at Bowdoin College in the last remaining radar school. It was in Maine that Olan and Lucy had their first car, a second-hand Willis with a 15 hp engine. He very much wished to be assigned to a ship; however, he was considered of more value in his role training Navy personnel. In 1945, he was sent to Hawaii eventually returning home on the USS Jarvis (DD-799), a Fletcher class destroyer. While Olan was away, their first child, John Edward Kruse, was born.
After leaving the Navy, Olan returned to South Texas and taught mathematics for a year at Texas A&I in Kingsville. In 1946, he entered the University of Texas where he taught in the Applied Mathematics Department and studied physics. He earned a masters in physics in 1949 with a thesis entitled "An Audio Frequency Phasemeter." Two years later, in 1951, he receive his PhD in physics with a dissertation entitled, "Variable Slope Pulse Modulation." It was in Austin that Olan and Lucy had their second child, James Lawrence "Larry" Kruse.
Kruse next accepted a position at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas where he became Chair of the physics department. There he designed and implemented a degree program in physics. After five years at Stephen F. Austin, Dr. Kruse accepted the position of Professor and Physics Department Chairman at Texas College of Arts and Industries. This decision was influenced by the need for more attention by Olan and Lucy's parents.
With the help of architects, he planned and designed the new Lon C. Hill Physics Building. Dr. Kruse served as Professor of Physics and Chairman of the Department from 1956 to 1987. While at A&I he served as chairman of the ad hoc committee which wrote the A&I University Faculty Senate Constitution that created the University’s Faculty Senate in 1967. He was elected as a member of the Senate, in which he served for fifteen years and was its first chairman. He served as chairman of the steering committee for the Southern Association Self-Study in 1972-1973 and as chairman of the task force that drafted the General Education Curriculum for the University in 1978-1979. Dr. Kruse was a life member of the Texas Association of College Teachers, a member of the American Association of Physics Teachers and served a term as President of the Texas Section of the AAPT.
While at A&I, Dr. Kruse supervised twenty master’s degree theses and published fifteen professional journal articles. He directed and taught nine National Science Foundation Summer Institutes for Secondary School Physics Teachers. In 1983, Dr. Kruse received the Texas A&I University Annual Distinguished Teaching Award. In 1994, he was named professor emeritus. He was honored by Texas A&M University-Kingsville as they celebrated the first annual Olan E. Kruse Lecture Series in October of 2003.
Dr. Kruse also served in the community of Kingsville. He served eight years on the Zoning and Planning Commission of Kingsville. He was the chairman of the board of the Methodist Day School for one year and served on the Boys’ Club Board. For eight years, he was with the Kingsville Little League as a coach and a manager. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church. He was a member of the Friends of the Conner Museum Board and for two years served as chairman of the Board. He was also a Board member of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Foundation, a member of the Retired Officers Organization, and an active member of the American Cancer Society.
With his wife, Lucile, he endowed two scholarships for students attending Texas A&M University-Kingsville and one Science Faculty Award. She wrote, "This University has meant so much to my family. Both my husband and I were students here. He graduated with his bachelor's, and then came back when he finished his graduate work to teach here for 44 years and served as chairman of the Physics department for 31 of those years. My son studied language here for two years before graduating from the University of Texas and continuing his career in the field of foreign language. When he passed away, my husband and I started the Larry Kruse Memorial Scholarship in honor of our son. He had such a love for foreign languages; we couldn’t think of a better way to perpetuate his memory than that scholarship. It is usually awarded to someone that studies foreign language, typically French. And since my husband was such a dedicated faculty member, we also decided to help the University out by establishing the Olan Kruse Science Faculty Award. It is an award given to a faculty member each year based on criteria of teaching and research excellence. We’ve contributed in the areas we’re interested in because we want to continue to see them do well. Scholarships and awards like these encourage extra effort from young scholars and recognize students and faculty that do great work. They help provide recognition and appreciation for their pursuit of excellence. It has been such a blessing for us that hard working students might benefit from these opportunities". - Lucille Kruse
Dr. Kruse was married to Lucille Thomas Kruse for 61 years. They had two sons, John Edward Kruse and James Lawrence Kruse (1950–1995). Dr. Kruse died at 82 years on March 24, 2004. he is buried in Cook Walden Forest Oaks Memorial Park in Austin, Texas.
Lucille Thomas Kruse, a graduate of Texas A&I, is a journalist and author. A native of Falfurrias, she published in 2010, “Deep in the Brush Country”, a semi-autobiographical book about growing up in Falfurrias, Texas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and taught in the Episcopal School in Kingsville. She regularly wrote a column titled “Remembrances” for her hometown newspaper, “The Falfurrias Facts." She has also written essays and articles on her experiences for “The Journal of South Texas.”
On June 3, 2017, Pat Allison wrote an article entitled, Olan E. Kruse-The Physics of Education, Voices from the South Texas Archives, Texas A&M University–Kingsville. in the Kingsville Record and Bishop News. Details of the life of Olan and Lucille are included. It is included below.
"On April 17, 2017, the Physics Department of Texas A&M University Kingsville hosted The 13th Annual Olan Kruse Lecture.
"Each year since 2003 a distinguished scientist has been invited to give a speech on their special area in interest.
"This year's speaker was Dr. Ming X. Liu, the High Energy Nuclear Physics Team Leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In his lecture, Dr. Liu highlighted what we have learned from the high-energy heavy ion collisions at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory as well as briefly discussed some of the future projects currently under consideration at this front-line research facility.
"The Olan E. Kruse Collection at the South Texas Archives contains broad information about the Texas A&I Physics Department, the establishment of the Faculty Senate, plans for the construction of Lon C. Hill Hall, the development of the Herschel F. Rawls Amateur Radio Room, the Astronomy Observatory and telescope, and the first Physics Club meeting, and much more.
"Olan Kruse was born in Coupland, on Sept. 6, 1921. When he was about 5 years old his family moved to Bishop to farm in 1926. He graduated salutatorian from Bishop High School at the age of 16. With a love of physics, he attended Texas College of Arts and Industries, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physics. He also met Lucy, Lucille Thomas, in his junior year. Lucy was a freshman. Olan telephoned Lucy to ask her for a date. She said no as she wanted to find out more about him before she went out on that first date. A week later he asked her again and they joined two other couples for a trip over to Alice and an evening of dancing. They enjoyed each other's company so much that they planned to be married the following year.
"World War II changed the dynamics of their lives. After graduating from Texas A&I, Olan took a job with the Signal Corps Radar Labs in Belmar, N.J. He believed this would be a way to use the physics that he loved so much. He joined the Navy and attended six months of pre-radar training at Harvard. Then he studied another six months at MIT for the new technology of radar. After that Olan would be instructing others in the use of radar technology.
"After the war Olan completed his education using the GI Bill to get his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in Austin. He worked at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches for a number of years. He then returned to Texas A&I to take the position of chairman of the Physics Department. One of his first tasks was to design the new physics building.
"Physics classes were held in barracks that had been moved onto the campus. Dr. Kruse drew up the plans for the new building in pencil on graph paper. He defined the needs of the building and how he wanted the laboratories to be arranged. He interacted with the construction contractors and reviewed suggested changes and adaptation to the original design.
"Every demonstration table will require A.C., D.C., gas, compressed air, vacuum, and water and sink." At the end of the penciled plans was a notation, "This is the only copy of these plans – it would be appreciated if they could be returned." And they were returned.
"Changing times in 1966 opened the way for the creation of a Faculty Senate at Texas A&I. In December of 1966, Dr. Kruse would be elected chairman of the 18 member ad hoc committee to draft the constitution for the Faculty Senate. Dr. Kruse was then elected to be chairman of the Faculty Senate.
"For the first time the faculty of Texas A&I University would be taking an active part in considering and helping formulate educational policies affecting the welfare of faculty and students. Section 18 of the constitution states, "The Senate shall participate in the establishing of curricula, the fixing of standards of instruction, the determining of requirements for degrees, and generally the determining of the educational policies of the college." Dr. Kruse would participate in the Faculty Senate as often as the constitution of that organization allowed.
"It was important to encourage student projects and research studies at the university.
"The Astronomy Observatory on the west roof of Lon C. Hill Hall was one of those long term student and instructor created efforts. The Astronomy Dome houses a student designed and student built 16 inch telescope.
"The seeds for the Astronomy Observatory were planted in the fall semester of 1971, with the first astronomy course offered at Texas A&I. In 1974, student Mike Jones approached the Physics Department and offered to assist in the design and construction of a 16-inch telescope. The spring semester of 1975 was the first time the second semester course in astronomy was offered at Texas A&I.
"In 1976, student Jerald W. Hendrick Jr. attended an Industrial Arts course in order to machine the polar axis shaft for the telescope. Then, in 1977 two students, Jerald W. Hendrick Jr. and James D. Moon, took a Special Topics Telescope Design Course in the Physics Department.
"In 1981, the Physics Department and Texas A&I University began seeking funding to make building adjustments and install a dome to house the telescope. Almost $30,000 was secured from the B. C. and Addie Brookshire Foundation to cover those expenses.
"The final telescope assembly was completed and the scope was placed on the lawn by Hill Hall to await the arrival of a crane to lift it into place in the dome the next morning. Dr. Kruse and Lucy spent the entire night out by the telescope in order to make sure no one vandalized this amazing student created device overnight.
"In April of 1983, the public was invited to attend a two-week long open house for the new telescope. This was a long term project that provided learning experiences for students and faculty alike. The Physics Department still has regular Astronomy open house events, where the public is invited to come to take a look at the heavens through the telescope.
"In his lifetime, Olan Kruse battled cancer three different times. At age 40 he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Surgery to remove that cancer was called "radical surgery". Dr. Kruse lost his voice for a period of time but continued to teach classes. His first goal was to live through Christmas.
"In the late 1980s, Dr. Kruse would again battle cancer in the form of skin cancer. It would take six hours of surgery and five layers of skin to remove all of that cancer. In 1999, Dr. Kruse was diagnosed with kidney cancer. That was 38 years after his first bout with cancer and the radical surgery treatment. One kidney would be removed but the cancer had spread to his lungs. Dr. Kruse's advice to anyone battling cancer was, 'just don't give up.'
"The university became part of the Texas A&M system and was renamed Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Dr. Kruse continued to teach part time until 2000.
"Dr. Kruse had a long list of published research papers. He developed lab manuals for the Physics Department, received many awards, and taught throughout his time as the department chairman. In a way his greatest awards were the people whose lives he touched. The current chairman of the Physics Department, Dr. Lionel D Hewett, became a student at Texas A&I the year that Dr. Kruse became the chairman of the Physics Department.
"Dr. Hewett was interested in getting a degree to teach physics. At that time, there were two schools suggested, University of Texas and Texas A&I. Hewett and his father visited UT finding huge classrooms and no one interested in answering their questions or showing them around. They then went to Kingsville to visit Texas A&I, a university they had never heard of. They met Dr. Kruse, who took time to show them around the campus. That personal touch sealed the deal. Dr. Kruse was Dr. Hewett's mentor, 'Dr. Kruse inspired me to seek higher goals. He raised the bar."
"Each semester students are asked to review their instructors. On the back of one of the review forms for Dr. Kruse one of his students wrote, "Dr. Kruse is one of the best if not the best instructor which I have encountered in 4 yrs of college.'
"Over the years, it was not uncommon to see Dr. Kruse riding his bicycle across the campus. Dr. Olan Kruse passed away March 24, 2004. His time at Texas A&I, now Texas A&M University-Kingsville, left an important legacy of development of the university. He positively touched many lives. Chance encounters in the South Texas Archives with former students who are happy to tell their stories about studies under Dr. Kruse happen easily.
"If you enjoyed reading about Dr. Olan Kruse and the Olan E. Kruse Collection, please drop an e-mail to Lori Atkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or make a call to the South Texas Archives at (361) 593-2776. The keepers of your history would like to hear from you. Check their web page at http://archives.tamuk.edu/.
"Pat Allison has been doing research at the South Texas Archives for several years. If you want to know more about South Texas Archives you can contact Lori Atkins at (361) 593-2776 or email@example.com."