George A. Samara, a world-class physicist honored for his research as well as his management abilities at Sandia National Laboratories, died Dec. 30.
Samara, 70, had been at Sandia for nearly 45 years and, in that time, was internationally renowned for developing measuring techniques that used pressure to alter and understand the properties and physics of solid materials.
He was also honored for his work as a manager in physics and chemistry research, positions that, according to a Sandia newsletter article, "involved oversight of research in condensed matter physics, electronic materials and phenomena, advanced materials and nanoscience."
"He was a world-class-stature scientist," said Bruno Morosin, a former colleague.
"I really think Sandia is going to miss his hard work, his integrity and his judgment and ethical standards. ... I'd rank him as the best of the bunch that I worked with out there for 46 years."
Samara was awarded the Ipatieff Prize of the American Chemical Society, elected to the National Academy of Engineering and was appointed as a fellow to the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served on numerous professional boards and wrote hundreds of published papers.
He won the American Chemical Society's Earl B. Barnes award for outstanding leadership in chemical research management.
For all that, said his son Michael Samara, his father was modest about the accolades and awards, saying, "No, no, just doing the work is reward enough." And the work, which he loved, was not more important than his family, Michael Samara said.
"He was a wonderful father and husband," he said. "He was very engaged in his work but never put us second."
That ability, he said, "is really an art in itself, something few can do. He really struck a good balance."
Samara was born in southern Lebanon. His father was a U.S. citizen, and Samara came to this country in his teens, his son said. He visited Lebanon through the years, where he met and married Helen, with whom he celebrated 33 years of marriage on Dec. 27.
George Samara was also a man who enjoyed the arts, particularly music, and gardening.
"The backyard was green from the house to the back wall, and everything was growing and producing fruit," Michael Samara said. "It's not an easy feat, to grow a lot in Albuquerque."
Michael Samara said his father was "a self-made man." He graduated from the University of Oklahoma and earned a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Illinois-Urbana. He joined Sandia in 1962 and was an officer at the U.S. Army Electronics Laboratory in New Jersey for two years.
"Citizenship was very important to him," Michael Samara said. "That was what drove him to stay at Sandia through the years. He really was a very great believer in the rights and responsibilities that we have in this country. That was a very important thing to him."
Survivors also include a daughter, Vicki; a brother, Emile; and a sister, Leila.
"In many ways," the Sandia announcement of Samara's death said, "George served as the champion, standard bearer and guiding spirit behind Sandia's basic science enterprise. His high professional, ethical and scientific standards inspired and set examples for both staff and management.
He will be sorely missed."
Memorial services will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 9315 Candelaria NE. The family asks that instead of flowers, donations be made to Joy Junction, a shelter for homeless individuals and families.