In Memoriam

Francis Trevor Gamble

issue 02 | spring 2023
an illustration of Francis Trevor Gamble

Professor emeritus Francis Trevor Gamble, who flew daring nighttime missions off aircraft carriers as a U.S. Navy pilot and never lost his spirit of adventure in more than three decades at Denison, died Jan. 25, 2023, at age 94.

Known to friends and family as “Trig,” he made split-second decisions as a pilot for the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, as a dean of students at Denison (1970-79), and as a first-time Alpine skier at age 51.

“The older he got, the cooler things he got into,” his daughter Melinda Lovern said. “He took up sailing in his 40s, skiing in his 50s and running triathlons in his 60s. He used to tell me, ‘All I’ve got to do is finish the race and I’ll win my age group.’’’

Gamble spent 33 years at Denison, where he taught physics and skiing for beginners and served in the administration. Partnering with students to conduct research on cutting-edge technology of the time, he published close to 30 academic articles on topics such as magnetic resonance, laser technology, and optical information processing.

Transitioning from a distinguished military career to the world of academia was very much on brand for a man who, according to his daughter, was “always reinventing himself.”

Gamble, a Montpelier, Vermont, native, enlisted in the Navy in 1946, retiring with the rank of captain. He served as a Navy pilot from 1948-56, logging more than 3,100 flight hours, and flying 10 different aircraft.

Mary Ann Malcuit, his longtime administrative assistant at Denison, said Gamble was asked at parties to tell stories of landing planes at night on aircraft carriers.

Mild-mannered in civilian life, Gamble never was afraid to confront danger. In his role as dean of students, he once got wind of a rumble to take place in front of Slayter Hall between groups of rival students. “It was like something out of West Side Story — the Sharks against the Jets,” his daughter recalled.

As the combatants began to gather, a quick-thinking Gamble summoned fellow administrator Mark Smith. Gamble and Smith stood near the flagpole for 90 minutes “just having a conversation,” Melinda said. The rival groups grew frustrated and walked away without a single punch thrown.

Gamble also was known as a champion of social justice. He helped facilitate needs of the Black Student Union, Malcuit said, such as securing use of a car that allowed students to drive to Columbus, Ohio, on weekends.

As a faculty athletic representative, Gamble also was integral in the formation of the North Coast Athletic Conference, which became one of the nation’s first athletic conferences to guarantee equity between men’s and women’s sports in the 1980s. He was later honored by the NCAC with a “distinguished co-founder” award.

In his retirement, Gamble continued his research in optical vision systems and optical computing. The old aviator loved sailing with his family that included his late wife, Carolyn Barber Gamble, three children, Melinda, Becky Pyle, and Trevor Gamble Jr., and seven grandchildren.

His years of adventure behind him, Gamble’s grandkids – three of which are Denison graduates – recall a man of simple pleasures: crunchy peanut butter with a banana, French bread pizza with a 7-Up, and a gin martini — hold the vermouth.

Published June 2023
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