In Memoriam: Brother Jerome Rademacher

by Brian J. Vetter

This is one guy you would have wanted to meet. If you had the chance to meet him, you would have wanted to spend more time getting to know him, to take another one of his classes, or to work beside him just a bit longer. If you happened to be one of his physics majors or a colleague on campus or in the Health Physics Society, you would have wanted your time together to linger. The fact is, you just couldn’t get enough of Brother Jerome Rademacher. To be sure, he had the credentials and the requisite degrees from various institutions, he had the awards and accolades from his employer and the Society (Fellow 2006), some family and friends preceded him in death, and he is survived by the rest of us. His true legacy is the product of his commitment as a Christian Brother in the Lasallian tradition—his students.

As a professor and then chair of a small physics department at a small school in the upper Midwest, Brother Jerome was instrumental in a science program that gave liberal arts students a rather unique undergraduate option: enroll in courses covering radiation physics and radiation biology. It would be oncologists, radiation therapists, nuclear medicine physicians and technologists, nuclear engineers, and medical and health physicists who took advantage of this opportunity at St. Mary’s University who credit him with establishing in them a strong foundation in this physical science.

Beyond the classroom, Brother Jerome provided another unique opportunity for students: every spring, for over 30 years, he would lead a handful or two of students to a national laboratory or a NASA facility. These were not your typical spring break trips. There was no flying involved; there were no hotels, motels, or resorts. Hitting the open road in Minnesota by pickup truck or passenger van in March could be its own adventure, especially when towing a camper—not to mention crossing the Rockies or the Smoky Mountains, there and back again. He relied on the graciousness of former students and a vast network of good friends to get the current students behind-the-scenes access and priceless experiences.

And then there are the trails. Even if you were not a physics major, you had the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy the product of another one of this man’s passions. There were even a select few work-study students who actually had the chance to work with Brother Jerome as he created, maintained, and constantly groomed miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails within the bluffs of the Mississippi River valley on the campus were he both lived and worked. How many people do you know who belong to a religious order and have a permit for the use of dynamite? We just lost one of the few.

Brother Jerome was tireless in serving the underprivileged. He could not have given more to his profession or calling as a Christian Brother. His legacy, his students, are all around us. This is one guy you would have wanted to meet.