Friday, November 30, 2007


Beloved professor dies from lung disease

By Chris Hokanson
November 30, 2007

The creator of Texas A&M's Ship Reconstruction Laboratory, J. Richard Steffy, died of complications from a chronic lung disease early Thursday morning.

Steffy started the lab in 1976 and is considered by many to be a pioneer in the field of naval archeology. His book, Shipbuilding and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks, is required reading in every nautical archeology program in the world, many of his colleagues said.

"He quite literally wrote the books that have turned out to be the mainstay of the discipline," said C. Wayne Smith, an associate professor of anthropology at A&M.

"His book is still the Bible. We call it the 'Good Book,'?" said Filipe Vieira de Castro, an assistant professor of nautical archeology. "Everywhere in the world, from Australia to England, everyone learns the ropes from his book."

Smith said he came to A&M as a student, but that Steffy treated him with the the same respect he would give to a distinguished colleague.

"He was the most gentle, engaging person I think I've ever known," Smith said. "He took the time to listen to students, and he was exacting enough in his science that he took the time to make sure they had it right."

Those who worked with Steffy said that nautical archeology and ship reconstruction were his passions throughout his life.

"He continued to be active in the field right up until the day he died. He had people coming from around the world to work and talk with him. Right up until the very end he has continued to be active in all areas of maritime archeology," Smith said.

Vieira de Castro, who was working on projects with Steffy up until two weeks ago, said he will miss Steffy dearly.

"He was always, from the beginning, a lot of fun to be around. He was always witty, always gentle, and always modest and generous, especially considering he was one of the leaders in his field," Vieira de Castro said.

A memorial service in honor of Steffy is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 8, at the Callaway-Jones Funeral Home in Bryan.


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