Dr. James P. Dilley

(February 19, 1934 - April 28, 2008)

U.S. Veteran Jim Dilley, 74, was born in Athens, made Athens his home, and died peacefully here on Monday, April 28th, 2008. Jim was preceded in death by his mother and father, Geneva and Frank Dilley. He is survived by his wife Berry, his sister Ann (Marvin) White, of Columbus, his brothers Josiah (Ingrid), of Madison, Wisconsin, and Frank (Jane), of Newark, Delaware, his stepson Steve (Francoise) Coy of Albuquerque, New Mexico, many nieces and nephews, a number of international students for whom Jim and Berry were family, and many good friends.

Jim graduated from Athens High School in 1951, and in 2006, on the occasion of his 55th class reunion, he summarized his life since high school as follows: “After graduating from Athens High, I enrolled at Ohio University where I obtained a BA in mathematics in 1955 and an MS in Physics in 1956. At OU I took with me my interest in debate and music. Highlights: debating with a team which won the State Championship and singing with a quartet on nationwide TV, Christmas Eve 1956, during the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. In 1959 I went back to graduate school at Syracuse University where I picked up new interests in hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and rock climbing. I spent summers at Grand Teton National Park indulging those interests, and school years completing a PhD in Theoretical Physics. In 1969 I returned to OU, joining a small but rapidly growing Department of Physics and Astronomy. Gradually my interests shifted from nuclear physics to planetary science, which enticed me to develop a class on the solar system and teach it to literally thousands of students. On the personal side of my life, I met Berry Coy, who taught in the School of Theater, in 1972, married her the following year, and thereby acquired a stepson, Steve. I introduced Berry and Steve to backcountry adventures, while Berry brought a different kind of adventure to me. During the past years, Berry and I have “adopted” a number of international “children” (OU students) who have greatly enriched our lives. On July 1, 1996, I “early retired”, but still teach my solar system course during the Winter Quarter. With the added time available, Berry and I have so far visited extended family in Indonesia, mainland China, and Taiwan, and will probably add Vietnam to the list soon. As for me, no more rock climbing and no more white water canoeing. But I am still very much in the market for good hikes, backpacks, and mountain scrambles. Anyone want to join me?”

Jim was also an officer in the US Air Force, from 1956 to 1963. While in active duty he was involved in a research program aimed at developing an atomic-powered aircraft. He was a long distance runner, and completed the Athens Marathon a number of times. He has climbed mountains in Nepal, New Zealand, and many in his beloved Rockies, both in the Western US and in Canada. Jim’s stepson, Steve, has followed in his footsteps, inheriting Jim’s love of physics, mathematics, running, and mountains.

A memorial service for Jim will be held at 7 PM Wednesday evening, May 7th, at The First Presbyterian Church, N. Court and Washington Streets, Athens. Arrangements are being handled by Jagers & Sons Funeral Home. The family would like to thank the staff of Appalachian Community Hospice for the wonderful care Jim received.

Last modified on 07/21/2009


Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, Clippinger Lab 251B, Athens, OH 45701
Tel: 740-593-1718 Fax: 740-593-0433 Email:physics@ohio.edu