Forrest “Pat” Clay, Physics Professor Emeritus, Dies at 93
April 19, 2021
Physicist Forrest P. "Pat" Clay Jr. was an expert on electrical circuits. But he made connections far beyond Old Dominion University.
His activities and interests covered a wide span. Clay held leadership positions in organizations as diverse as the Norfolk Republican City Committee, the Ghent Neighborhood League and the Tidewater Ballet Association, and he played a major role in establishing Hampton Roads' first full-time classical musical station.
Clay, a professor emeritus who taught at Old Dominion from 1961 to 1993, died on April 15. He was 93.
"His career spanned the major developments in the history of the department," said James L. Cox Jr., a professor emeritus and former chair. "I think Pat might have been the last surviving faculty member who participated in the creation of the physics major and the Ph.D. program."
Cox said Clay also had "a very wry sense of humor. He was always a gentleman. I used to enjoy my conversations with him very much."
Clay was born in Dinwiddie County in Virginia. His studies at Randolph-Macon College were interrupted by his service in the Navy in World War II, according to his obituary. He returned to receive his bachelor's degree in physics in 1948 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Clay received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Virginia in 1952.
He previously taught as an assistant professor of physics at Georgetown University, an associate professor at Rutgers and a visiting professor at Randolph-Macon. In 1961, ODU Professor Clifford Adams hired Clay to help establish the physics major.
Clay wrote or co-wrote several articles, including one titled "Demonstration of Phase Relationships in a Series RLC Circuit Using a Four Channel Multiplexer and a Single Channel Oscilloscope." He also wrote technical reports dealing with electrical circuits as well as teaching materials, including a laboratory manual for his electronic instrumentation course. Clay received grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation and presented papers at meetings of the Virginia Academy of Science and other professional organizations.
Clay also was an active member of ODU's Faculty Senate, serving as chair of the Student Affairs, Scholarly Activity and Faculty Status committees.
Outside academia, he was a member of the Norfolk Republican City Committee for decades and served as chair from 1989 to 1992. Clay also was a founding director of the Virginia Opera, director of the Tidewater Ballet Association and board member of the Norfolk Chamber Consort.
As a homeowner in the Ghent section of Norfolk, Clay was active in the Ghent Neighborhood League for 40 years. He was elected president of the association five times and held all the other offices.
Perhaps Clay's most significant endeavor outside the classroom was bringing classical music to Hampton Roads radio. He bought an interest in WRVC, the area's first full-time classical station, and became vice president of its owner, Virginia Good Music Corp. Clay also was the station's chief engineer and a part-time announcer. He was proud that these early efforts paved the way for WHRO-FM.
Clay was preceded in death by his brother, Franklin Edward (Patricia) Clay; sisters, Nancy (Rupert) Barefoot and Virginia Clay Savage, and niece, Lenore Savage.
He is survived by his partner of 45 years, Vernon A. McCart, a fine and performing arts reference librarian emeritus at Old Dominion.
Other survivors include several nieces and nephews, Larry (Mity) Clay, Gary (Kim) Clay, Linda (David) Franks, George Savage, Jake (Laura Leigh) Savage, David and Travis Barefoot, and Kathy (Robert) Fountaine; great-nieces and great-nephews, Andrew, Kelsey, Kristin, Katherine, Katie, Chris, Elizabeth, Michael, Alexis (Mike), Anna (Charlie), Reese, and Kane (Amanda); and two great-great nieces, Kenedi and Arlie.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apartments, 1501 Colonial Ave, Norfolk. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to WHRO or Old Dominion's Clifford L. and Lillian R. Adams Scholarship Fund for physics students.
Gifts to Old Dominion may be made payable to the ODU Educational Foundation and mailed to:ODU Educational Foundation, 4417 Monarch Way, 4th Floor, Norfolk, Virginia 23529.
In the memo section of the check, please add: "IMO Forrest Clay/Adams Sch." Gifts may also be made online at: https://www.odu.edu/about/support-odu/gift