Jack McDonald Blakely

April 8, 1936 ~ October 29, 2021 (age 85)


Jack McDonald Blakely

John (Jack) McDonald Blakely was born on April 8, 1936 in Dalry, Ayrshire, Scotland to Elizabeth McDonald and James Blakely and died peacefully at Cayuga Medical Center on October 29, 2021.  Jack was ever grateful for the strong mentorship of fine teachers at Dalry High School who guided him to Glasgow University where he earned a B.Sc. with 1st Class Hons in Mathematics and Physics in 1958 and a PhD in Surface Physics in three years. Following his Glasgow education, Jack and his bride, Nanette, sailed to Boston with the intent of spending two years at Harvard University on a post-doctoral fellowship. This began their pursuit of the American dream which led to Jack’s acceptance of, in 1963, a Cornell faculty position in the department of Materials Science. He had an enduring love for, and engagement in teaching and research which enriched his life through discovery, collaboration and the rewarding relationships with many graduate students who became lifelong friends. He gained a long-standing reputation in the field of Materials Science and Physics with emphasis on surface and interphase science, pioneering the use of techniques in the study of surface mass transport due to atomic diffusion. He spent sabbatical leaves at Cambridge University, Argonne National Labs, Berkeley, Sandia National Lab and York University and traveled extensively internationally throughout his career.

The gifted scientist that was Jack was only part of the man; throughout his life he had other interests he pursued with passion. As an athletic child he discovered soccer which almost won over science later on. In high school in 1953 he took pride in representing “the rest of Scotland vs Glasgow” at the famous Ibrox stadium. He continued soccer in the U.S., playing with regional clubs and serving as Assistant Coach to the Cornell men’s team in the 1970s when they reached the NCAA finals. He spent countless hours coaching his daughters’ youth teams and later mentoring his granddaughter in developing a similar love of the game. In his 40s Jack became an exceptional distance runner and placed at the top of marathon runners of his class. Cycling also challenged him, and he would often embark upon multiple hour rides. He and Nanette enjoyed cross country skiing in Ithaca and Stowe, Vermont, where for 30 years they annually retreated to the Trapp Family Lodge. Golf was another sport they loved together with much humor and salty language.Jack was an unusually patient, creative and unconditionally supportive father to his two daughters. As a grandfather he was an inspirational Papa to his six grandchildren, delighting in their individuality. A major joy in Jack’s life was his love of music of all kinds. He played violin, having been reintroduced to the instrument with his daughter Karen. From violin he branched out to piano, mandolin, and the harmonica which he played as solace to his dear cat, Sami. Jack was predeceased by his parents and his brother James. He is survived by daughters Robin and Karen, sons in law Mike and Jon, grandchildren Seneca, Blakely, Bobby, Hayley, Fiona and Jack, and by his beloved wife of 61 years, Nanette, who will cherish his memory for the rest of her life, and who will miss her dancing partner.  The family is very grateful to the many caregivers at Cayuga Medical Center, with a special thank you to hospitalist Kevin Jones, nurses Courtney, Geoff, Miwa and Gabby. Family and friends are invited to gather to remember Jack at 11 a.m. on November 11th at the Forest Home Chapel, located at 224 Forest Home Drive, followed by refreshments at the family home. In lieu of flowers, donations could be made to the Tompkins County SPCA.

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SERVICES Family Gathering

Thursday, November 11, 2021 11:00 AM

Forest Home Chapel 222 Forest Home Dr. Ithaca, NY 14850

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