Professor Emeritus William Scott Penhallow

September 17, 1933 ~ January 15, 2020 (age 86)


Professor Emeritus William S. Penhallow, an accomplished physicist and astronomer who spent his life studying the universe, has returned to the heavens.

On January 15, 2020, at the age of 86, William S. Penhallow of Charlestown passed away after a prolonged illness. His parents, Raymond and Caroline Penhallow and his sister Louisa Penhallow predeceased him. Bill is survived by his loving wife Nancy and four sons and their families; Robert (wife Becky), John (wife Michelle), William II and Thomas (wife Phyllis). He also leaves four grandchildren and one great granddaughter, as well as his brother John and nieces and nephews.

As professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rhode Island for 35 years Bill inspired thousands of students. He was educated at Brown University, the University of Maine and Indiana University. Early in his career he conducted research at the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory. He also taught and conducted research at Brown, Wesleyan University and Indiana University.

He served as director of the URI – Quonochontaug observatory and was one of the founders and first Director of the Frosty Drew Observatory in Ninigret Park, Charlestown. In addition to his operational and education roles at the Frosty Drew Observatory, he designed the observatory and participated in the construction. Bill had a passion for amateur astronomy and was a lifelong member of Skyscrapers, Inc., the Amateur Astronomical society of Rhode Island, including a term as president. He was a long-standing member of the American Astronomical Society and the American Association of Variable Star Observers. As a member of the New England Antiquities Research Association, he made groundbreaking discoveries concerning the solar, lunar and stellar alignments in the Newport Tower in Tower Park, Newport, RI.

Bill was a member of the Quonochontaug Yacht Club and the Quonochontaug East Beach Association. He was a dedicated public servant, serving as the Chairman of the Chariho and Charlestown school committees, and as the Charlestown Town Moderator.

Bill was a Masonic Brother with affiliations to Franklin Lodge #20 in Westerly, Unity #13 Chapter, Narraganset #4 Council and Narraganset #27 Commandry. He was Past Master at the Franklin Lodge and Past High Priest at Unity Chapter.

He was a parishioner of the Dunn’s Corners Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Dunn’s Corners Presbyterian Church.

The family is grateful for the care he received from Beacon Hospice and the loving support he received from his church family.

A memorial service was previously stated in the original obituary. The celebration of his life will now be held privately by the family at a later date.

Buckler-Johnston Funeral Home, 121 Main St. Westerly, RI is assisting the family with arrangements.
For online condolences, please visit

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Professor Emeritus William Scott Penhallow, please visit our floral store.


You can still show your support by sending flowers directly to the family, or by planting a memorial tree in the memory of Professor Emeritus William Scott Penhallow
© 2020 Buckler-Johnston Funeral Home. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service