The UMBC community lost a critical figure from its history earlier this month. Homer W. Schamp Jr., UMBC’s founding dean of faculty and provost, passed away at the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson on Tuesday, Jan. 12 due to complications from a stroke. He was 92 years old.
“A renowned physicist, [Schamp] and other key leaders laid the foundation for the high quality education and research that UMBC is known for today,” UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski wrote in a statement released after Schamp’s death. Hrabowski continued, “Homer believed in UMBC as a university model for the 21st century — which he started building in the late 20th century … he understood the various relationships among academic disciplines and the university’s connection to the community.”
As a scholar and educator, Schamp was a cornerstone of UMBC’s early development. As the university’s founding dean of faculty in 1965, Schamp was in charge of hiring its first faculty staff. That same year, Schamp was also appointed as UMBC’s first provost, placing him in charge of formulating the school’s academic programs as well. He oversaw UMBC as it welcomed its first students in the fall of 1966.
Well after UMBC’s founding, Schamp maintained a strong presence in both UMBC’s academic development and its community outreach. He served as UMBC’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and later served as dean of education. In the 1970s, Schamp oversaw a program in UMBC’s education department working with city public schools to improve childhood education.
In addition to serving as the university’s first Dean of Faculty and founding provost, Schamp also left a large mark on physics education at various levels in Maryland. Prior to his involvement at UMBC, Schamp worked as a professor in the University of Maryland’s Institute for Molecular Physics and was named director of the institute in 1964. He specialized in studying the effects of pressure and temperature upon diffusion and electrical conductivity in solids.
Even after he retired from higher education, Schamp continued to impact science learning in Maryland. A sculptor of kinetic physics models, he developed various pieces to teach children fundamental physics principles. Some of these pieces have been displayed at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and the SEE Science Center in New Hampshire.
Schamp came to Maryland and its higher education community from Ohio, where he was born and raised. He earned a Bachelor’s in physics from Miami University in Ohio in 1944, then worked designing torpedo steering mechanisms at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. He then earned his Master’s and PhD. degrees in physics from the University of Michigan before returning to Maryland to work at College Park.
A memorial service for Schamp is expected to take place at UMBC at a later date, although the exact plans for the service are unknown. The family has announced the founding of a memorial scholarship in his name, intended to support students interested in science education at the K-12 level.