Physics and Astronomy Department Chair Hector Mireles died Sept. 16, after a 14-month battle with cancer. He was 56 years old.
Mireles came to Cal Poly Pomona in 2002. In 2016, he stepped into the role of department chair. Like most of his endeavors, he excelled at it and enjoyed supporting his fellow faculty. He also served on the dean’s strategic leadership team and the CPP Academic Senate.
“A lot of the things he started are bearing fruit now,” interim co-chair Alex Small said. Mireles was involved in the recent hiring of four faculty. Under his leadership the department conducted lab renovations and started an industry advisory board. He also expanded the role of faculty from different ranks.
“I had to make a lot of tough decisions, but I always had his support,” Small added.
Physics faculty felt that support when in the spring of 2020, the department had to move labs online. Mireles pitched in, purchased equipment, and helped create videos for the online content.
His friendly support didn’t stop at the classroom. When Small told Mireles he was going to his first opera, he was given tapes of lectures about that opera so Small would be prepared. Mireles was a fan of German opera and was a talented pianist and tenor with the choir at Cathedral of Los Angeles.
Mireles, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from UC Irvine, his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and was a doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Dynamics in Gottingen, Germany, had a way of connecting with people over shared interests. In addition to being a physicist, a musician and singer, he was also a photographer, and a pilot.
When he met mathematics faculty Arlo Caine in 2011, they immediately bonded over flying. Because of family and work demands, both were short on flight hours. They made a pact to fly together which made them better pilots and close friends. Together, they circumnavigated the Sierra Nevadas and published an article about their experience in Air Facts Journal.
“He had the ability to connect with people and bring them together,” Caine said. “He was a statesman and had a flare for oratory. He was a performer and could connect with students, sometimes using Spanish slang, or jokes as he taught.”
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