October 4, 1958 - April 1, 2015
Michael Pettersen, 56, of North Strabane Township, Washington County, died unexpectedly Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at the Washington Hospital. He was born October 4, 1958, to Mr. and Mrs. Aage Pettersen. Everyone knew Mike as a gentle and compassionate person who made many significant contributions at Washington and Jefferson College. His students knew him as an inspired teacher and mentor. Mike was the Joseph A. Walker Endowed Professor of Physics and has chaired the Department of Physics since he joined the College faculty in 2002. He held a Physics Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology and an A.B. from Harvard University. Mike's research was in the field of surface science. He studied surface properties such as wetting (interaction between a liquid and a surface) and capillarization, especially at low temperatures, and had a special interest in the quantum properties of liquid helium. He worked with a research group at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and authored an impressive number of publications. Mike also did quite a bit of work in course development in areas such as Physics of Sound and Environmental Science, and produced a widely admired and adopted course on the work and trial of Galileo. There were few areas of physics about which Mike didn't have some profound insight, which he always shared with enthusiasm and grace. He was an impressive scientist, and had a true passion for education. Beyond scholarship, Mike was a true Renaissance man. His love of theater blossomed at Cal Tech where he participated actively in the theater program. Once moving to southwest Pennsylvania, his love of music was reflected in participation in the Mendelssohn Choir, his strong support of the W&J music program, and his passionate pursuit of building his beloved harpsichord. In many ways he embodied W&J College's commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. Mike is survived by his partner Jim Tittle, his father, Aage Pettersen, and his sister Hilary Junge. A service of remembrance will be held at 5:00 P.M. on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at First Presbyterian Church 1793, 100 E. Wheeling, Washington, PA. In lieu of flowers, please send any donations to the Dr. Michael S. Pettersen Fund in care of Washington and Jefferson College, 60 S. Lincoln St. Washington, PA 15301. Arrangements are under the direction of the Warco-Falvo Funeral Home, Inc, Wilson at East Katherine Avenues, Washington, S. Timothy Warco, Supervisor/Director, Susan Falvo Warco, Director, S. Timothy Warco II, Director. Online condolences may be expressed at www.WarcoFalvoFuneralHome.com.