Alvin was a founding member of the American Nuclear Society, which established the Alvin M. Weinberg Award in 1995 “in recognition of outstanding international technical and policy leadership in nuclear science and technology, and for consistently and effectively illuminating the human dimensions of the nuclear enterprise.” Alvin was the first recipient. He also received dozens of other awards from a host of organizations; among the most prestigious were the Atoms for Peace Award in 1960 and DOE’s Enrico Fermi Award in 1980. Alvin was also proud of having been named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men in America in 1950 by the U.S. Jaycees. He held honorary degrees from 28 universities and was elected to both the National Academy of Sciences (1961) and the National Academy of Engineering (1975).
Despite his many honors, Alvin was modest about his achievements. At ORNL and ORAU, his telephone was answered simply, “Mr. Weinberg’s office.” As he grew older, he was widely accorded a respect approaching reverence. Somewhat bemused by his status as an “icon,” he remarked after a tribute presented at a celebration of his ninetieth birthday, “I was just a guy trying to make a buck.” This, of course, was not what motivated him—rather, he was driven by a passionate concern for the survival of humanity—but Alvin never considered himself one of “the most important” people. He played tennis until he was well into his eighties and was an accomplished pianist whose repertoire included not only Bach, Mozart, and Chopin, but also popular songs and Christmas carols.
Alvin’s first wife, Margaret Despres, died in 1969. His son David died in 2003, and his second wife, Gene Kellerman DePersio, died in 2004. He is survived by a son, Richard; a sister, Fay Goleman; and three grandchildren.
Alvin occupied—in fact, he created—a unique niche at the intersection of science, technology, and society. He thought deeply about the complex issues that arise at this intersection, and he saw clearly the challenges that they present. His insight and foresight in this critical area, and his passionate belief in human ingenuity, will be a continuing source of guidance and inspiration as we continue to wrestle with these issues.