In Memoriam:  Dr. K. Vedam, 1926-2009

K. VedamDr. K. Vedam, an OSA Fellow Emeritus who had a long and distinguished career at Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA, passed away peacefully on September 4, 2009, at his daughter’s home in Vancouver, Canada.  He was 83.

Vedam was born in Vedaranyam, India, in January, 1926.  He received a classical education at National College and Nagpur University, and he completed his Ph.D. research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.  While still studying, he was a regular volunteer at cataract surgery camps for the needy and a state champion in tennis.  

He first came to Pennsylvania State University in 1956 as a postdoctoral fellow in crystallography, in the Physics Department.  He then spent two years at the Atomic Energy Commission in Mumbai, India.  In 1962, Vedam returned to Penn State with his young family to become one of the Physics professors at the interdisciplinary Materials Research Laboratory (MRL), the first of its kind in the United States.  Over the next 40 years, Vedam became a leader in his fields of high pressure optics and ellipsometry. His work, especially on liquid-solid interface, brought great attention to the MRL and Penn State from the scientific and industrial community.  Vedam was also involved in early work dealing with laser technology and holography.  Throughout his career, he provided continuing inspiration, mentorship and guidance to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Vedam joined OSA in 1965 and was elected as a Fellow in 1975.

Dr.  Vedam’s natural curiosity extended to an interest in all fields, cultures, and traditions.  He was a music lover, enjoyed both eastern and western classical music, and was patron to many young musicians and dancers.  As a young man he followed the Indian independence movement closely, and was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s message of peaceful interaction.  His interest in politics and world movements continued throughout his life.  He loved all types of games and sports, especially Penn State football, and was a fine photographer of human subjects. 

During his many years in State College, Vedam and his wife of 53 years, Nalini, opened their home to countless new State College families and served as substitute parents and grandparents to all those whose own families were far away.  Even as he achieved acclaim in his world of science, he became renowned for his gentle nature and generous spirit.  He took great interest in the paths, trials, and successes of others, young and old, and was always ready with an encouraging word.  He was unique in his ability to see only the best in all of his friends, family, and colleagues.  In all of his areas of influence he is remembered and revered for his extreme kindness and courtesy to all, and described by many as “the perfect gentleman.”

Dr. Vedam is remembered as a highly respected scientist and teacher, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and remarkable friend and mentor to multitudes.  He is survived by his wife, two children and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in the Memorial Hall of the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State campus (opposite the Pattee Library entrance), at 2.30pm on Sunday, September 20, 2009, with a reception following.

This obituary was contributed by the Vedam family.