Lawrence C. Biedenharn, Jr. Endowment for Excellence

Aug 31, 2014 | EPS/EPF

The Lawrence C. Biedenharn, Jr. Endowment for Excellence was endowed by Mrs. Sarah W. Biedenharn of Austin, Texas in memory of her husband Lawrence C. Biedenharn, Jr., Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. Sarah, a lawyer, and Larry, a theoretical physicist and professor at UT, were married for 42 years before Larry succumbed to kidney cancer in 1996. Sarah is herself a cancer survivor and actively supports many philanthropic organizations in Austin.

Lawrence C. Biedenharn, Jr., Ph.D.
Larry and Sarah Biedenharn in 1976.

Lawrence and Sarah met in 1949. She was a junior at Wellesley College and he was completing his Ph.D. thesis at MIT. They married in the spring of 1950. Sarah graduated that year, attending the law school at the University of Tennessee before transferring to Yale law school when Lawrence began teaching there. After she received her LLD from Yale in 1954, they raised two children, John and Sally. Sarah was an invaluable asset to her husband, often accompanying him on his many professional travels, and as a generous host to graduate students and other visitors. Larry told the story of how  he made at that time a desperate – but it turns out successful – effort to lose his strong southern drawl while teaching at MIT.  Nobody in the institutions where he subsequently occupied a position could believe that he hailed from the Deep South.

Through this endowment, Larry’s contributions to UT continue, by providing support for graduate students in the department of Physics.

Update: April 2019: Sarah Biedenharn passed away in November 2011

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