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Celebration of life of Tim Magnuson set Nov. 2

October 17, 2019

Tim Magnuson outdoors

A celebration of the life of Idaho State University biological sciences Professor Dr. Timothy S. Magnuson, who passed away from natural causes on Oct. 4 while hiking in Yellowstone National Park, will be held Saturday, Nov. 2, at 11 a.m. at the ISU Stephens Performing Arts Center Rotunda.         

Magnuson worked at ISU since 2001 and is survived by extended family in his home state of Minnesota and by his wife, Dr. Rhesa Ledbetter, ISU biological sciences visiting assistant professor.

 “I can’t describe how incredibly fortunate I was to have Tim in my life for over 15 years,” Ledbetter said. When we first met, I was enamored by his iconic curly (okay, maybe crazy) hair and sweet smile, but most of all I was attracted to his humility. He never bragged that he was a Ph.D. or boasted about his accomplishments, of which there were an abundance. Tim pursued a doctorate, not because he wanted a title, but because he was passionate about learning, discovery, and sharing that excitement with students. Nothing about his career made him happier than seeing his students succeed and have ‘aha’ moments. He was exceptional because of this passion for learning and teaching.”

“The humility Tim exuded,” she continued, “contributed to him being a man of great character—a person who didn’t place himself above others, a person who listened, a person who encouraged others to reach their potential, a person who enjoyed the simple things life has to offer, and a person who cared deeply about his work as a scientist but more importantly, the people in his life.”

“In addition to being life partners, Tim and I had the pleasure of collaborating as scientists over the years,” she said. “I’ll never forget our first faculty retreat together. The Chair of our department, Dr. Mike Thomas, asked faculty to share what they were most proud of that year. Everyone in the room mentioned something they had personally accomplished, except for Tim. He said he was most proud of me and what I had achieved and how excited he was that we were now both faculty at ISU. That day still brings me to tears.”

“Tim was a beautiful, gentle soul, and I want people to know how proud I am of him, too,” Ledbetter said. “I am proud of the work he accomplished as a scientist. I am proud of his dedication and perseverance through the ups and down of life. I am proud of the way he cared for me with love, honesty, respect, and kindness. I am proud of the simple things we did together, like dancing in the kitchen to music on public radio, secretly blasting each other with the hose on hot summer days, planting delightful flower and vegetable gardens, walking hand-in-hand in the park, and partaking in countless outdoor adventures. But most of all, I am proud of the character he had—the man he was on the inside.”

Mike Thomas, ISU biological sciences chair, spoke fondly of Magnuson.

“Tim was one of a kind,” Thomas said. “He was a valued and productive member of our biosciences family and will be sorely missed as a friend, teacher, and mentor. But he also brought a unique perspective to departmental conversations and will be remembered as a grounded and creative individual who enriched the institution.”

Magnuson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 20, 1962 to William and Joyce (Holmbeck) Magnuson. His mother died when he was a child and he was lovingly raised by Loretta Magnuson, whom he has always referred to as “mom.” He grew up in the Westonka area and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in biochemistry. He later attended the University of Idaho, where he attained a Master’s and Ph.D. in bacteriology. Since 2001, he had been a professor of microbiology at ISU where he excelled as a researcher, teacher and mentor.

Tim was an accomplished and passionate microbiologist whose research interests included iron-reducing bacteria, microbial-based approaches to alternative energy, and hot spring ecosystems. He taught and mentored hundreds of students who benefited from his laid back, discovery-based approach to understanding science concepts. Tim genuinely cared about his students, many of whom felt he was a great friend. He created a welcoming environment in his classroom and laboratory, providing a space for creativity, discovery, and authentic learning.

In addition to being a gifted scientist, Tim was also a talented musician and had many friends with whom he shared his love of playing music. In his early years he played with his brothers, Greg and Jeff. At the University of Minnesota, he was in a band comprised of science and engineering majors who called themselves Avogadro and the Moles. In Pocatello, he enjoyed regular jam sessions at the Walrus and Carpenter bookstore. 

Tim’s appreciation of the outdoors was legendary, and he spent much of his free time hiking, backpacking, skiing, and traveling to experience nature close to home and throughout the world. He was an encyclopedia of hiking and camping in the Intermountain West and was always ready to offer recommendations and tips to friends. An avid stargazer and hot spring aficionado, he was known for seeking backcountry hideaways where he could enjoy a soak and contemplate the nighttime skies. He especially loved Yellowstone National Park and made a point of visiting regularly.

Tim’s warmth, easygoing nature, and sense of humor will be missed by all those who knew him. His intellect and unmistakable laughter made him one of a kind, and he was known as a beacon and an inspiration to many. In the words of a friend, “Tim was one of the good ones, a magical person in so many ways.”

Tim was preceded in death by his parents, William and Joyce (Holmbeck) Magnuson. He is survived by his life partner Rhesa Ledbetter, mom Lorretta Magnuson, siblings Jeffrey (Michelle), Gregory (Sarah), Douglas (Cathy), John (Cathy), and Gretta (Jon), and several nieces and nephews. 

Guests to his celebration of life on Nov. 2 are encouraged to bring their musical instruments and participate in a jam session in honor of Tim.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Tim Magnuson Scholarship Fund or the Idaho State University Outdoor Adventure Center. Donations, to either fund, can be sent to Idaho State University, Department of Biological Sciences, 921 South 8th Avenue, Mailstop 8007, Pocatello, Idaho 83209-8007.



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