IN MEMORIAM: Emeriti Cheney, Baldis, Lyons

Quick Summary

  • James A. Cheney: College of Engineering
  • Hector Baldis: College of Engineering
  • James M. Lyons: Department of Vegetable Crops and ANR

Professor Emeritus James A. Cheney, who in 1962 became the first faculty member in the newly established College of Engineering, died Nov. 22 at his home in Davis. He was 92.

His appointment was in the Department of Civil Engineering, but, with his diverse technical background, he taught a wide range of disciplines, including civil, aerospace and mechanical engineering.

James A. Cheney mugshot

At the request of the United Nations and the Italian government, he joined a study of the problematic Leaning Tower of Pisa, and, after his initial analysis, attributed the tower’s tilt to “basic physics,” saying the tower was “too thin in proportion to its height — it is like balancing a pencil on a table.” Italy credited Cheney and some 50 other prominent scientists with solving the mystery and enabling the tower’s conservation.

He was the founding director of UC Davis’ Center for Geotechnical Modeling and served as the principal investigator for the development of the National Geotechnical Centrifuge — built at NASA’s Ames Research Center and later moved, under Cheney’s direction, to UC Davis.

A celebration of life, open to friends as well as family, is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Odd Fellows Hall, 415 Second St., Davis.

Read his complete obituary in The Davis Enterprise.

Hector Baldis mugshot

Hector Baldis

The College of Engineering’s weekly newsletter recently reported the death of Professor Emeritus Hector Baldis, describing him as a leader in plasma physics and laser science during his distinguished career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC Davis. He joined the Department of Applied Sciences in 1996, moved to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in 2011 and retired in 2014.

James M. Lyons

James M. Lyons, professor emeritus of vegetable crops and the founding director of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, died Nov. 9 at the age of 90.

James M. Lyons mugshot

During graduate school at UC Davis, he was part of a team that did the earliest research on the role of ethylene in fruit ripening. For his Ph.D., he carried out pioneering work describing the physiology of chilling injury in warm season crops, an important concern for food handlers and grocers.

In 1962 he joined the vegetable crops faculty at UC Riverside, where he continued his work on chilling injury and plant physiology, while also being responsible for weed management research.

He was recruited back to UC Davis in 1970 as chair of the Department of Vegetable Crops (which merged with other units into the Department of Plant Sciences in 1974).

He served as the director or interim director of the Statewide IPM Program (part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources) off and on for nine years, starting in 1979. He also served as director of ANR’s Center for Pest Management Research, assistant director of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Program and assistant director of the university’s Agricultural Experiment Station. He retired in 1991.

Read more in this obituary by Mary Lou Flint, former UC IPM associate director for urban and community IPM, and UC Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus, with supplementary material by Ann Filmer, director of communications, Department of Plant Sciences.

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