Peter Northrop Shive

Peter Northrop Shive, 81, passed away on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, with Gail, his wife of 36 years, at his side. He was born July 2, 1941, to John N. and Helen (Connor) Shive in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Peter grew up there, along with his younger siblings, Elaine and Jonathan. As a young man, he attended Wesleyan College (for men) in Connecticut. He met and married Louise Wayne and later drove cross-country to California, where he attended Stanford University, receiving a Ph.D. in Geophysics. Upon graduation, he accepted a position in the Geology Department at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he bought a house just three blocks from campus so he could walk to work every day. Their daughter, Amy, was born that first year, and Peter and Louise were together for 12 years.

Peter was UW’s first geophysicist. He built an entire magnetics lab at UW where he also taught for 48 years. This was during the birth of the great Plate Tectonics revolution in which it was realized that major land masses had moved, the Atlantic Ocean had opened up, and India had drifted across the Indian Ocean and crashed into the southern part of Asia. Peter was very interested in how old rocks could remember the magnetization they had when they were formed. As it turns out, this has to do with the state of internal stress of magnetic minerals. Studying this became his main research interest.

He married Linda Massey, and around that time began playing semi-pro soccer with Norwegian students for a team called the Budweiser Eagles. Peter and Linda, with daughter, Amy, and son, George, were together for 2 years.

A few years later he met and married Gail Wilhelms, a farm girl from Nebraska, an artist with a Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology. Happily together for 36 years, they bicycled through Great Britain, and traveled to Kenya and Tanzania, Mexico, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the Galapagos Islands. Peter doted on and adored his “Gaily,” never hesitating to share his pride in her and his love for her. He often said “You validate me.” While still at U.W., Peter became involved with modern dance & ballet, with Gail encouraging him by getting him a few pair of bright leotards. In Peter’s words… Modern dance changed his life. It made him a better speaker and more comfortable in his own body.

Peter then moved to the Honors College where he taught “Chaos, Fractals, & Complexity” as well as “The Consciousness of Nature” for several years.

In his later years, Peter took up disc golf, becoming a sponsored professional, with the final victory of his disc golf career being inducted into the World Disc Golf Hall of Fame (2022) for winning 13 world championships.

Six years ago, Peter suffered a significant right brain stroke and later a few heart attacks. After all that, he still said he felt blessed and lucky, that he believed he’d had a great life.

Peter is preceded in death by his parents, John and Helen Shive.

He is survived by his wife, Gail Shive (Laramie, WY); daughter, Amy Shive Levy (Gary), and grandson, Harris (Maryland); Jeff Koehler (Oregon) and Angie Allen (Alabama); sister, Elaine Lent (New Jersey), and brother, Jonathon Shive (Philippines).

Honoring his train hobby, a memorial gathering will be held for Peter on Friday, June 2, 1:00 – 3:00p.m., at the The Laramie Train Depot, 600 S. 1st St., Laramie, Wy. In the “potlicker” tradition that he enjoyed, feel free to bring a potluck finger food to share, and your own beverage.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Hospice of Laramie, 1754 Centennial Drive, Laramie, Wy, 82070. 

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Condolences (12)

  • Bob Butler

    Dear Gail, Amy, and Family: When I arrived at Stanford University Department of Geophysics for graduate school in 1968, Peter was a post-doctoral researcher who had recently received his PhD. Peter was particularly good to me during my first year at Stanford when I felt like I was out of my league and over my head. Peter calmed me down and gave me confidence that I could succeed among other graduate students from more prestigious universities. His basic message was: “Just work hard and it will all come together for you.” I found myself drawn to Peter’s welcoming spirit and touched bases with him frequently. I shared a germ of an idea with him about internal stress in ferromagnetic minerals. We kicked that idea around then shaped it into a serious theoretical scientific contribution to rock magnetism. A few months later, Peter and I co-authored my first scientific publication on that theory. That was an act of uncommon kindness and generosity and was a huge boost to my confidence that I could do serious research in rock magnetism. Clearly Peter knew exactly what he was doing when he took me under his wing. From then on, we kept in touch throughout our careers. We had a wonderful opportunity to backpack in the Wind River Range in 1973 and travel in Scotland in 1980. May you rest in peace my Friend Peter. Bob Butler

  • Pete Kenny

    Gail, I’m sorry to hear this news but pleased to have called Peter my friend for many years. I have great memories of playing disc golf with him and always learned something from him Pete Kenny

  • Anonymous

    Dear Gail. Norbert and I are heartbroken to hear of Peter’s death. He was both a friend and colleague and one of those quintessential Laramie residents we will never forgot. While we join you in grief, we also know that Pater would prefer we celebrate his life .. which we will do! There is much to celebrate! Much Love, Patricia Colberg and Norbert Swoboda-Colberg, Moscow, Idaho

  • Lynne Ipina

    Dear Gail, I shall never forget that you and Peter wrote from Mexico to share the joy you found discovering a field of blue butterflies. It was your honeymoon!! I shall never forget the impact of Peter's chaos classes on so many of my students. The Math Club loved your visits. I played team soccer once and your enthusiasm was the deal breaker. That summer I watched the World Cup between Brazil and France -- in France -- with "muscular" understanding. What a gift. I am very sorry that Peter is no longer with us. I am sorrier for you who must manage with only memories. Keep them all. Sort them later.

  • Mary Elizabeth Galvan

    Gail, I am really sorry to hear that Peter has died. Please accept my condolences and best wishes. Maribeth Galvan

  • Anonymous

    Gail, I often think of you two when I see my panpipes, that was such a fun group. I'm sorry to hear of Peter's passing, he was a good panpiper. Sandy Reher

  • Deepthi Amarasuriya

    I shall always remember Dr. Shive as my most engaging, enthusiastic, and supportive professor. He used to sort of combination sit/stand/lean on the instructor's desk, with his lean legs twisted around each other; students called him "pretzel legs". From this seemingly impossible stance, he delivered his lectures to a very engaged classroom. He made the content alive with various interesting side notes about his adventures around the world, often referring to Gail with great warmth and admiration. He made it a point to get to know each student as an individual - where they were coming from, their academic plans, and interests beyond the classroom. In fact, he was the sole person to ferret out my interest in art - which had long fallen by the wayside with my focus on the sciences - and encouraged me to contribute to a few local art exhibitions!! He had a truly remarkable ability to motivate students' enthusiasm, and to guide them to develop their strengths. He saw a fledgling, or even dormant ability and opened up a vista of possibility in which it could grow and flower. I had always been embarrassed about my lack of coding skills. He encouraged my unorthodox approach to writing computer programs, and even motivated me to take a Signal Processing course from the Electrical Engineering department!! As a faculty member myself, I have seen many, many professors who are deeply committed to their academic fields, and to teaching. But Dr. Shive was in a league of his own - he had that aura, presence, charisma ... that indefinable "something" that brought out the best in his students, far more than could be encapsulated by any set of bullet points on effective teaching. May his memory continue to elevate and inspire those who were lucky enough to know him.

  • Katherine Brunett McGuire

    I grew up across the street from Peter. He was always engaging and a thoughtful neighbor. Like my father who walked to UW to teach for decades, Peter appeared to have a preferred route to campus. My dad and I were impressed by Peter’s long stride, musing years ago that Peter was taking fewer steps and conserving more energy and my Dad should adopt Peter’s technique. He left a lasting mark in Laramie and not only in my childhood memories, but as a good and caring neighbor to the 300 block community on 11th Street. Rest in peace, Peter.

    • Janet Gerking

      When I was teaching geology classes at Laramie High School in the 80s and 90s, we visited Dr. Shive at UW where he gave my classes wonderful lessons on his research. It was always very special since he was so interested in the students and very responsive to their questions. I never forgot his enthusiasm for geology. He was such an engaging teacher.

  • Anonymous

    Gail, I remember Peter fondly from my time in the dance department. He was a vibrant fellow with a passion for learning. He introduced a bunch of dancers to the world of fractals, and I still think of him when I see a fractal image. My condolences. Rene Sollars


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