John Willard Marvin, mathematician and composer, passed peacefully at Doctors Medical Center surrounded by family on January 29, 2018, at the age of 86. He was born in Fayette, Missouri, in 1931, and grew up in Missoula, Montana. He is preceded in death by his parents, Leona and Edwin Marvin, and is survived by his wife of 20 years, Deborah Kavasch, and by his daughters Lee-Ellen Marvin of Ithaca, New York, and Christy Kay Lopez of Oakland, California.
John received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Montana, Missoula, and his master’s degree in pure mathematics from Johns Hopkins University. He began studying music when he was four, played oboe and English horn in the Missoula Symphony during his high school and undergraduate college years, and completed his first composition for piano trio when he was a junior in college. He pursued professional work in both mathematical sciences and music, and for much of his life was active in both careers at the same time. Following his studies at Johns Hopkins, his daytime work was at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, programming computers, working with astronomers and astrophysicists, determining what computations they wanted to do on data from satellites and turning those data into numbers and pictures for their perusal. He worked on studies ranging from radio astronomy to big-bang theories. By night, he was back in Washington, D.C., in the pit at the Kennedy Center, playing oboe and English horn for the resident and visiting ballet and opera companies. John then taught mathematics and music at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and in retirement moved to Turlock and was invited to teach part-time in the music department at California State University, Stanislaus. His compositions have been commissioned, premiered and recorded by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony as well other professional soloists and ensembles. His works encompass a variety of genres, including instrumental and vocal solo and chamber music, pieces for modern dance, music for carillon, and larger works for solo instruments with orchestra and wind ensemble.
He was a kind, gentle and generous husband, father, co-worker and educator who will be deeply missed by family, friends, colleagues and students alike. He had a marvelous sense of humor and never passed up an opportunity to tell a silly joke (“good though!”).
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 24, 2018, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 640 N. Minaret, Turlock, CA, followed by a luncheon in the Social Hall. In lieu of flowers, John and his family would request memorial contributions be made to California State University, Stanislaus, Department of Music, or the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Chancel Choir.