John Ahearne, a physicist and former chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, died March 12, 2019, at age 85.
Ahearne graduated from Cornell in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics, and later with a master’s degree. From 1959 to 1970, he was in the Air Force. In 1963 he earned a master’s degree and in 1966 a Ph.D., both in physics, from Princeton. From 1964 to 1969, he was an associate professor of physics at the Air Force Academy.
From 1969 to 1972, Ahearne served in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for System Analysis. Starting in 1972, he was, successively, a deputy assistant secretary of defense to the assistant secretary of defense for program analysis and evaluation, and principal assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs.
He joined the White House Staff in February 1977. In July 1978, he was appointed to a five-year term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ending in 1983. President Jimmy Carter named him chair in December 1979. Ahearne’s last professional position was as executive director of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Ahearne is survived by his wife, Barbara; and five children.
Graduate alumni memorials are prepared by the APGA.