See more of the story

Barry Michael Casper, a Carleton College professor emeritus, political activist and adviser to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, died Jan. 27 in Northfield, Minn., from complications related to dementia. He was 68.

A native of Tennessee, Mike -- as he was known to his friends -- was raised in Arlington, Va.

He joined the Carleton staff as a physics professor in 1966 and developed a friendship with another Carleton professor, Wellstone.

In the 1970s, the two joined forces in the struggle of western Minnesota farmers opposed to a high-voltage power line. Casper ran for lieutenant governor in the 1978 DFL primary on a platform of the anti-powerline movement.

He was a Wellstone campaign strategist in 1990 and served as an adviser to the senator in Washington.

Casper, who earned his B.A. from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., was involved in the peace movement and helped organize the scientific community in opposition to anti-ballistic-missile systems. He served as executive director of the Minnesota Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and along with his wife, Nancy, ran the Nuclear War Graphics Project.

In 1984, Casper received the American Physical Society's Forum on Physics and Society award for promoting understanding of issues involving physics and public policy.

"He was good at finding ways to involve students in real world problems that involved science and politics," said Joel Weisberg, a Carleton professor of physics and astronomy. "He didn't mind spending time and energy with the average Joe, and he was willing to leave the ivory tower to work with citizen groups."

Casper, who retired from Carleton in 2003 after a 37-year career, coauthored a textbook in the late 1970s that is still in use today called "Revolution in Physics." And he helped create a program at Carleton called Science, Technology, and Public Policy, in which students study a problem and develop solutions.

In addition to his wife, Casper is survived by sons Daniel Casper and Benjamin Casper, both of Northfield, and Michael Casper of Salem, Ore.; stepsons Jay Syverson of Minneapolis and Aaron Syverson of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; stepdaughter Kaarin Madigan of Maple Grove, and five grandchildren.

Services will be held at Carleton's Skinner Memorial Chapel at 1 p.m. on Feb. 18.

Brad Stokman •