Harlan Schone continues to actively improve the lives of Williamsburg area elderly and low-income families through his housing repair volunteer work.
The modest 68 year-old Schone, who recently retired from his position as a physics professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg after 35 years, has actively volunteered with the Housing Partnerships, Inc., since its founding 15 years ago. Nayda Pophal, the executive director of Housing Partnerships, Inc., describes Schone as “the perfect volunteer” and a “tremendous leader,” who in 15 years, "never turned down a project.” “It's a rare person to be so dedicated for so long. We are lucky to have him,” Pophal said. She estimates that Schone has assisted in the repair and improvement of hundreds of houses over the years. Schone was awarded the College of William and Mary's prestigious President's Award for Volunteerism in September in recognition of his service.
Born on Valentine's Day 1932 on a small farm in central Illinois, Harlan was one of four children. He and his siblings helped their father tend the corn and soybeans and raise hogs and cattle, while attending a one-room school through the eighth grade. Schone was the first person in his family to go to college, let alone post-graduate school. He earned his Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1960. Five years later, he joined the faculty at William and Mary. Schone both taught and carried out research for the next 35 years. His research was in condensed matter physics, which was formerly known as solid-state physics. Condensed matter physics concerns itself with properties of materials, such as superconductivity and magnetism. Superconductivity is the process by which certain materials - such as wires or pieces of metal- acquire the ability to conduct electricity with no resistance and occurs at extremely low temperatures. Schone also carried out research into metal hydrides. These are compounds that easily absorb hydrogen gas into their molecular structure. The stored hydrogen can be then be released and utilized as fuel. This technology may someday power automobiles.
Though retired from such research that may eventually improve everyday life, Schone continues to actively improve the lives of Williamsburg area elderly and low-income families through his housing repair volunteer work.