Cover photo for Robert Osborne Pepin's Obituary
Robert Osborne Pepin Profile Photo

Robert Osborne Pepin

April 12, 1933 — January 6, 2023

Brooklyn Center

Robert Osborne Pepin

Robert “Bob” Osborne Pepin

was born in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts on April 12,1933 to Wilfred and Bernice Pepin.  Bob’s father died when he was 19 months old. Bob moved to St. Martin’s New Brunswick Canada where he was raised along with his sister, Ann, by his aunt “Gunkle” until he was twelve years old.  He would spend his time building rafts to launch on the Bay of Fundy or running experiments in the house.  He moved to Oyster Bay Long Island to live with his mother Bernice and stepfather John Marcus in 1945.  He attended Oyster Bay High School where he graduated Valedictorian of his class in 1952.

Bob was offered a scholarship to Harvard University where he received an A.B. in physics in 1956. He worked at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California from 1957 to 1960.  Bob received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California Berkeley in 1964.

Bob was married to his love, Lillian Barford on July 14, 1960, in Nevada.  Lillian and “Peps” lived in California then moved to Minnesota. In Minnesota they built a unique house overlooking the Mississippi River, where they enjoyed living with their cats.

Bob joined the University of Minnesota as a Research Associate in 1965 and joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1966.  He was a Professor of Physics from 1975 until his retirement in 2008.  Bob was a leader in using the isotopes of rare gases to probe the geology of our solar system, including meteorites, lunar rocks returned during the Apollo missions (in which he played a leading role), and interplanetary dust returned from missions in the early 2000's. He received the NASA medal for exceptional scientific achievement in 1971.  He was the director of the Lunar Science Institute now known as the Lunar and Planetary Institute from 1974-1977.  Bob was recognized with a host of awards, most recently the prestigious Fred Whipple Award from the American Geophysical Union in 2020.

Bob loved his work and particularly the University of Minnesota and its students.  He was the director of the Institute of Technology (now the College of Science and Engineering) Honors Program from 1989 until 2007.  His rapport with students was extraordinary.  He was a gentle and kind human being and an eternal optimist.  In addition to his research accolades, Bob received several teaching awards, including the Morse-Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.

Bob died on January 6, 2023 at his home. He is preceded in death by his wife, Lillian and his brother-in-law, Clinton Smith. Bob is survived by his sister, Ann Pepin Smith, his nieces, Jennifer (Andy) Loughlin and Tamara (Mark) Todd, Great nieces, Sarah Loughlin, Heather Loughlin, Mary Loughlin, Kelly Loughlin and Laura Todd, and great nephews, Christopher (Megan) Todd and Kyle Todd.  Uncle Bob was a delightful, humble man.  Our family enjoyed sitting outside listening to him discuss his work while smoking his beloved pipe.  To quote one of his very dear friends and colleague, Pamela Drake, “He was such a genuinely good person, embodying all the virtues we strive to acquire in this life.  His character reflects his solid, grounded upbringing and personal choice to make the world a better place through his contributions, personally and professionally.  We all have an allotted time on this earth; Bob truly made the most of his days here”.

No services are being planned at this time.

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