Steven Starkovich

Professor Emeritus of Physics

Steve Starkovich


  • Professional
  • Biography


  • Ph.D., Physics, University of Victoria, British Columbia, 1993
  • M.S., Educational Policy and Management, University of Oregon, 1985
  • B.A., Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, 1976

Areas of Emphasis or Expertise

  • Mathematical Physics
  • General Relativity


Steven P. Starkovich earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Victoria with research in general relativity, cosmology and classical field theory. His previous degrees were a master’s degree in educational policy and management with an emphasis in higher education administration from the University of Oregon, and a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric sciences with an emphasis in atmospheric chemistry from Oregon State University.

Now in retirement, he continues to pursue his academic interests in mathematical physics, and has recently authored a textbook on the subject (The Structures of Mathematical Physics – An Introduction, Springer, 2021).

Following 17 years of classroom teaching, he served as PLU’s Provost for seven years (2009-16) during which time he led major reforms in academic planning and budget processes, faculty compensation and development, and enrollment modeling. He was a prominent leader in the development of the PLU 2020 long-range plan. He also led the expansion of PLU’s graduate program opportunities and oversaw the implementation of the university’s first online courses. He was a strong advocate for, and defender of, PLU’s robust faculty governance system. After retiring as provost he continued teaching at PLU until 2019.

Starkovich first came to PLU in the fall of 1992 and was hired into a tenure-track position in 1997, by which time he had taught most of the undergraduate physics curriculum. He was a principal investigator on a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation that brought an astronomical observatory to the PLU campus in 1998. He oversaw the details of the construction of the observatory, worked closely with students in assembling the dome and installing the telescope, and oversaw several undergraduate research projects. The observatory has been a valuable addition to the university’s astronomy curriculum and to its public outreach efforts through PLU’s annual Jazz Under the Stars concerts and through occasional events held in collaboration with the Tacoma Astronomical Society.

Prior to becoming acting provost in 2009 and then provost in 2010, his university service included chair of the physics department (three-and-one-half years), a member of the Faculty Affairs Committee (five years), a member of the PLU Budget Advisory Committee (six years), parliamentarian to the chair of the Faculty Assembly (two years), elected faculty representative to the Board of Regents, and special assistant to the provost for budget modeling. He has also served as Treasurer of PLU’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

In 2016, in recognition of his years of service to the university on many levels, Starkovich was awarded PLU’s Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award that may be granted to a current PLU employee. The award cited, in part, his “…ongoing commitment to the advancement of knowledge, thoughtful inquiry and questioning, the discernment of vocation, and the preparation of citizens in service to the world.”

Before pursuing his graduate studies, Starkovich pursued an early interest in politics, and in 1982 he was elected to the Oregon State Senate where he eventually served as Senate Majority Leader. As a state senator, he worked mostly on issues related to the environment, labor and education, and he chaired several significant legislative committees. His current public service includes membership on the Washington Citizens Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials.

Starkovich was raised on his family’s farm in Oregon. He and his partner, Ruth Williams, have lived in Burien, Washington near Seattle since 1989.