Dimitri Margaziotis, a 48–year resident of Pacific Palisades, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on December 1, after a seven-year battle with cancer. He was 83 years old.
Born on October 14, 1938, in Athens, Greece, Dimitri spent his early school years in Athens and spent summers in Limni, a small coastal village on the island of Evia, where his father’s side of the family had long resided.
Dimitri moved to Los Angeles in 1956 to attend UCLA, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and his Ph.D., in physics. While working on his doctorate, he met his future wife, Valerie Dishington, through the UCLA horseback riding club.
They married at St. Matthew’s Church in Pacific Palisades in 1967 and then settled in the Palisades, Valerie’s hometown, where they raised their two sons, Ian and Philip.
Dimitri started his career as a full-time professor at Cal State L.A. in 1973 and had a particular interest in teaching undergraduate physics to aspiring scientists and engineers. Throughout his long 44-year career at Cal State L.A. he also maintained an inspiring research record in the area of experimental nuclear physics, distinguishing himself as a member of national and international collaborations at the Bates Linear Accelerator at MIT in Boston, the MAMI Microtron Facility in Mainz, Germany, and the TRIUMF Meson Facility in Vancouver, Canada.
His most recent and prolonged research was conducted at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia. Since its inception, Dimitri was involved in the design and development of some of the most highly specialized apparatus at this laboratory, which houses one of the newest and most powerful electron accelerators in the world.
For more than 20 years, Dimitri was part of the Jefferson Lab’s Hall A, a collaboration of more than 100 physicists from more than 10 countries, and participated in all of the inaugural experiments done in the Hall A experimental area. He was also a co-principal investigator on numerous research grants from the National Science Foundation for 32 years.
Throughout his career, Dimitri also enjoyed returning to his alma mater, UCLA, numerous times as a visiting professor.
He served as chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Cal State L.A. for 12 years and served as Associate Dean (interim) of Graduate Studies and Research Administration in 2002-2003. He remained at the university for the duration of his career, retiring in 2008.
Dimitri was always passionate about enhancing the learning environment for his students and inspiring their curiosity. As a result of the leading role he played in bringing innovation and an active learning environment to the classroom over the years, in 2001 he received CSULA’s top teaching award, the President’s Distinguished Professor Award. This award recognizes superlative teaching and exceptional commitment to students as well as professional accomplishments and services.
His natural curiosity and passion for science led to global collaborations, publications in top scientific journals and allowed him and his family to travel the world while attending international conferences – which often facilitated a visit to Greece, where his family from both continents could build relationships and explore cultures.
Whether it was investigating the lowest level inner workings of the atom, or walking The Great Wall of China, Dimitri never stopped exploring. His travels would take him and his family to many places including Yosemite National Park, trips to Greece which included the Summer Olympics in Athens, and a total solar eclipse.
Dimitri and Valerie took many U.S. Lighthouse Society Tours to travel and photograph more than 400 lighthouses around the United States.
In retirement, Dimitri continued to enjoy life-long friendships made at Cal State L.A. He was the web master and board member of the Emeriti Association to continue his support of the University.
But his main focus was on family, and his many interests including traveling, music, photography and cooking Greek food. He was adventurous in trying new foods and made outstanding baklava from an old Greek family recipe. He loved carrying on traditions and letting everyone know that many English words, along with pretty much everything else apparently, derived from something Greek.
He also invested several years chronicling his life in an autobiography for his grandchildren to read one day.
He adored his two grandchildren, and as a result of the pandemic that blanketed the final years of his life, he found unexpected joy in seeing them almost daily while they played in his backyard due to the Covid shutdowns.
Dimitri was scientific, pragmatic and meticulous by nature which carried over to all aspects of life, even beyond his profession. His readiness to explore the ins and outs of any issue ranging from world history to “What’s for dinner?” often took on the same inquisitive and rigorous scientific debate. He was a generally soft spoken and kind man who was genuinely curious when engaging with others.
As one family member put it, “He was a gentle and courageous soul wrapped around a brilliant mind.”
Dimitri is survived by his wife, Valerie, of 54 years; his sons, Ian and Philip; his daughters-in-law, Heather and Carmen respectively; and his grandchildren, Chloe and Joaquin. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Donations can be made to The CSULA Foundation that funds scholarships for deserving Cal State L.A. students in need of financial assistance, a cause that was extremely important to Dimitri. Please write “in memory of Demetrius Margaziotis” in the memo line. Mail checks to: Marshall Cates, 1036 Armada Drive, Pasadena, California 91103.