Memorial planned for Sullivan Marsden, retired Stanford engineer

Sullivan S. Marsden taught in the petroleum engineering department from 1957 to 1992. He died in April following a brief illness.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, June 19, for Sullivan S. Marsden, a retired engineering professor who died April 26 in Stanford Hospital after a brief illness. He was 88.

Sullivan Marsden portrait

In addition to his work in research, teaching and consulting, Sullivan Marsden’s interests included travel, wine-making and philanthropy. (Image credit: Chuck Painter)

The service will take place at 1 p.m. at Stanford’s Memorial Church, followed by a reception at the Faculty Club from 2 to 4:30 p.m.

Marsden received his bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering from Stanford in 1944. A year later, he worked on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a uranium enrichment facility was located to help develop the first atomic bomb.

He received a doctorate in physical chemistry from Stanford in 1948 and joined the faculty nine years later as a member of the petroleum engineering department, which is now the Energy Resources Engineering Department. He taught until 1992.

An expert on oil resources, Marsden strongly advocated for the United States to wean itself from foreign oil and encouraged Congress to lift a ban on offshore drilling.

“We can no longer afford to place off limits potentially large oil resources – not when widespread use of new technologies is making it possible to recover oil deep beneath the earth and in ultra-deep waters with little or no impact to the environment,” he wrote in an op-ed published by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006.

In addition to his commitments to research, teaching and consulting, his interests included travel, wine-making and philanthropy.

His interest in travel started when he was a boy exploring the area near his home in St. Louis by bicycle. He escaped the hot St. Louis summers during his high school years by hitchhiking as far as Maine and California. He later took numerous Sierra Club hiking trips with his children. He backpacked along the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada between 1980 and 1994, logging almost 200 miles each summer.

Always respectful of academic accomplishments, his primary philanthropic interest was funding academic prizes for students at Stanford and many other universities in the United States.

He loved good wine, which he often made himself and shared with friends.

Marsden is survived by four children: Lee Marsden, of Nashville, Tenn.; Joe Marsden, of Sonora, Calif.; Mary Hilton, of Palo Alto; and Anne Robbins, of Raleigh, N.C. He is also survived by seven grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family would be grateful for donations to Stanford’s Department of Energy Resources Engineering.