Geology Alumni Newsletter 1998
Read about fellow Geology graduates with the Alumni News Notes.
In 1965-66, the department had 10 geology majors and one graduating senior. That number peaked in the early 1980's with 173 majors and graduating classes of 30 (and still only 3 full-time staff members). With the great oil crash beginning in 1981, the department dwindled rapidly and by 1987 we were down to 29 majors, the lowest since 1966 (see page 6). Required sophomore classes such as Mineralogy, which had 50-60 during the boom, dropped down to 3 students by 1987. Can you imagine? Fred Menzer, eat your heart out, Allen Stork thinks its great!
In 1987, at the request of students and also for the sake of survival, we began a joint major with Anthropology which has worked very well for all concerned. Currently Geology-Anthropology students make up about one third of our majors. Most of these graduates readily find employment. One of the first Geo-Anthro graduates, Julie Clarke-Fike ('90), is our regional BLM geologist. The program involves most of the geology major and a strong minor in Anthropology. The Anthropology portion of the major was strengthened in 1989 when Dr. Mark Stiger came here from UNM. He has built a strong local field research program. In 1996 Dr. Anna Backer, also from UNM, was added to the staff. She is a specialist in late French Neanderthals and took a group of 9 students to France to work on a Neanderthal site this past summer. What a deal! The growth has resulted in a proposal for a separate Anthro major this year.
Our enrollment has been growing steadily for the past 10 years with the mining industry taking many of our graduates in the great Nevada gold rush of the 1980's (now moved to Latin America). Most students are now entering the environmental industry. We now have about 55 majors and graduated 15 seniors last year, the most since 1987. By the way, this represents 0.5% of the 3000 geology degrees granted nation-wide last year.
The curriculum has seen some major changes over the years, starting with the advent of a 4 week local field camp and now putting strong emphasis on computer literacy, statistics and writing skills. Students write major papers starting in Historical Geology and continuing through their career, with an original research project required for Depositional Systems (Sedimentology to you old timers). Courses such as Subsurface Fluids
(ground water and some petroleum geology), Geochemistry, and Senior Seminar (a review of recent professional literature) have all been added in recent years and such old war horses as Physical Geology and Geomorphology have taken on a very strong environmental emphasis. The program still maintains its strength in the fundamentals and is even more field oriented than in the past with 2 major field trips every year. In 1989 we initiated a Western Slope Geology Field Trip where students and faculty from Ft. Lewis, Mesa State, Adams State and Dine College from Shiprock, NM meet for a weekend every fall to study local geology on a rotating basis. In the spring, we have traveled to many great sites outside of our normal range such as trips to Death Valley, the Las Vegas area, western Wyoming with emphasis on the thrust belt (thank you Dave Lageson, '73), the Mojave and Hawaii.
We feel the program is greatly improved and continues to evolve. Our only regret is that so many of you were here when we simply didn't have the time, the money and the wherewithal to give you the education and the attention you deserved. Timing is everything in life!
Where are you?
Thanks to your great response to our request for addresses and all the assistance you have given us in finding our lost alumni, we have a good idea where most of you are. We have addresses for 400 out of 442 of you. You are scattered across the globe (Europe, Australia, Indonesia, ...) but most are in the Western US. Alumni location by state is shown to the right. I guess this truly is Western State College of Colorado.
Western State College has gone through some chaotic times in the past 10-15 years, although what has happened here has not been unique across the nation. The college actually peaked in enrollment in the mid-1970's at about 3300-3400 students and then slowly declined through the 1980's till, in 1987, spring enrollment went below 1800 and there was gossip about shutting down the college if things got worse (as in most colleges, the talk was of turning the place into a prison). The reasons for this are complex, starting with the loss of our graduate program and our not developing a modern marketing program till the cows were all out of the barn. In recent years, enrollment has stabilized at about 2500, and we expect slow growth in the future.
In this stressful situation, we have fired and retired presidents (4 or 5 anyway) and other administrative personnel faster than most of you used to change underwear when you were here. Five years ago, we hired a woman president from the University of Colorado who instituted a new program called Western Scholars Year which called for a peculiar schedule of 3 semesters; 12 weeks in fall, 8 weeks in winter and 12 weeks in spring. We had no classes on Wednesday. Classes could be held in blocks up to 2 hours long to allow for in class lab work.
Geology and Biology faculty and students liked the short winter term since we could break courses into intense, all day, four-week blocks. We offered four week intensive classes in Optical Mineralogy, Plate Tectonics, and GIS paired with a four week course in regional geology. The regional geology course started with classes and readings at WSC and then two weeks on the road to places like the Mojave, Death Valley, etc.
The Scholar's Year was in effect for four years and was not wildly popular with most of the school; so, when that president was replaced, out went the new program and we are back to regular 16 week semesters. Interestingly enough, the percentage of students graduating in 4 years went up considerably under Western Scholars Year, bucking a long-term, national trend.
Our new president, Harry Peterson from Minnesota, seems very congenial and willing to work with everyone and I suspect he will break our recent trend towards short-termers and stick around for quite a while.
The town has gone through boom and bust cycles driven by the college with major inputs from AMAX and Homestake. We're on an up cycle now and a lot of the sub-standard, tar paper shacks (like hobo junction near the old train station) many of you used to live in have been torn down. Housing is considerably more expensive than when you were here, like $3-400/mo. each with crowding several people into a house with one kitchen. while better accommodations are more like $5-600. It is with great sadness that we must report they are tearing down and leveling the La Veta hotel as we speak.
A note for you old-timers who fondly remember those numbingly cold winter mornings, day after day, with temperatures commonly down to 30 and 40 below zero. Guess what? We haven't experienced a sub 30 below morning (maybe once or twice) for several years (5 or 6) and most January and February lows in the past 5 years or so are more like 0 to 10 below. The last really cold winter was in 1988-89. It's not like it used to be! Global Warming??
The annual Graduation Banquet is still going strong. This year we outgrew the local restaurants and had the banquet in Tom Prather's backyard. For those of you who worry, it was catered by the House of China but we provided our own Aku Aku's and home brew! There were approximately 100 students and parents on hand to celebrate the graduation of 15 seniors.
The Val Mitchell Memorial Scholarship and the RMAG Hammer were given out as usual. We haven't had a newsletter for a long time so we thought we should take space to mention recent recipients of each award. The most recent recipients of the Val Mitchell Memorial Scholarship, given to our outstanding junior are: Katye McConaghey ('97), Lynn Padgett ('96), Alan Wartes ('95), Eric Jordan ('94) and Peter Stelling ('93). The most recent recipients of the RMAG Award, given to our outstanding senior, are: Lynn Padgett ('97), Alan Wartes ('96), Pete Stelling ('95), Kevin Geraghty ('94), and Paul Jacobson ('93).
The annual Graduation Banquet is held each spring the night before graduation. All geology alumni are invited to attend but because reservations are usually required, please let us know in advance if you plan to join us.
We are happy to report that last fall we received a $10,000 donation from Barrett Resources (thanks to Paul Rady ('78) and Peter Dea ('76) who are contributing matching funds) to start a student summer research scholarship program. The Barrett Resources Fund for Excellence in Geology will provide a scholarship and research stipend for three students, who are between their junior and senior year, enabling them to do some meaningful geology in the summer without taking a financial beating. The vast majority of our students work full-time in the summer and part-time all year to be able to go to college, so this will allow them to make some money in the summer but also learn and grow, and thus get a head start on their career. If you or your company might be interested in contributing to the fund let us know.
The scholarships are competitive and in order to receive one the student must submit a research proposal to the faculty in December. When approved, the students have the spring semester to prepare for the summer field season and the following fall to compile needed maps and reports. As these are completed we will publish them at our web site. Keep a look out for the results.
The first three scholarships have been awarded to Rebecca Bailey, who will study the depositional history of the Telluride Conglomerate in order to help reconstruct the Larimide paleogeography of the San Juan Mountains; Brian Coven, who will study the basal portions of the West Elk Volcano with a special emphasis on dating the initiation of volcanism; and Ralph Falsetto, who will study the depositional history of the Harding Sandstone in the northern Sangre De Cristo range to see if the Harding was deposited in a fluvial or marine environment.
With the help of a $100,000 grant through the State of Colorado, Western now has a geographic information systems (GIS) laboratory directed by Allen Stork. Geology students now have the opportunity to receive training in the principles of GIS as well as practical experience using geographic data and remote sensing in geologic research. A new course, Introductory GIS, was offered for the first time in the winter of 1996 and twice more since.
The lab uses both Idrisi, a raster based GIS developed for PCs by Clarke University, and the vector based ArcView-Arc Info from ESRI. Geology students are just beginning to use the technology for mapping projects. If you computer types can give any advice or help, let Allen know.
We are still working on the Apatosaurous found along Cabin Creek in 1970 by Dr. Ken Snyder ('71) and his brother. Ken worked on the bones a little and eventually donated them to the department. We have had volunteers working on them ever since. Fritz Mertz ('80) gave a major contribution to help the reconstruction effort. We replenished the dinosaur account several times with fund-raising wine-tasting parties.
In 1995 we hired a dinosaur preparator, Jo Wixom, on a Goals 2000 grant to help us reconstruct the dinosaur and to develop plans for enhancing science teaching in the Gunnison Schools via dinosaur studies. Dinosaurs are magic with kids and the project has worked amazingly well. Jo has just accepted a job with the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction as their science educator.
In an exciting development, we recently found 2 distinct bite marks on a caudal vertebrae fragment. The reconstruction is winding down and should be complete within the next few years.
A 13 million dollar addition and renovation of Hurst Hall has been approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and is awaiting funding in the state legislature.
The construction will completely renovate Hurst Hall and add a new three story wing on the south side. This will approximately double the space available and will allow us to house Math, Computer Science, and all the Sciences in one building. The Geology and Anthropology programs will occupy one floor of the new wing. This floor will have classroom and lab space for both programs. The major difference in the new wing will be greatly enhanced space for student research, instrumentation, computers, and a student learning center (this means a coffee/study room).
Currently, this year's projected state funding is a few million dollars short of funding the project. However, we hope the legislature will add enough money to the capital construction budget so that planning money will be available this fiscal year. If not we'll be back for funding next year.
Surprisingly, despite great swings in geology enrollment, for the most part we have had a staff of three permanent faculty over the years. Tom Prather and Bruce Bartleson have been here since 1965, but the hard-rock position has changed frequently. A brief historical run-down follows:
John Sumner and John Welch were the first to teach geology here in the 50's. Richard Moyle came in 1960 and started the major in 1961. Dick left in 1965 when Tom and Bruce started. Dick Moyle is emeritus at Weber State College in Utah and we run into him periodically. John Welch went into consulting for the mining industry and Bruce has seen him at conventions, but not for years.
Tom Prather ('65) has had a long and colorful career with memorable sabbatical and other trips to New Zealand, Hawaii, Iceland, Israel, Baja, Belize, a car tour of the entire Appalachian province, a long trip to Ireland and a 4-week voyage across the Atlantic on a 38' sail boat from the Canary Islands to Antigua. Tom and Bruce both went to Costa Rica with the biology department for a 10 day bicycle tour in February, 1997 as the token geologists and then Tom helped Allen lead a geology field trip to Hawaii for spring break (see our web-site for a colorful story of the trip). Tom and Bruce joined old buddy Duane Vandenbushe and went to New Zealand for 2 weeks after Christmas. Tom's famous book on "The Geology of the Gunnison Country" (written while on sabbatical in Belize) is now out of print and he is looking for an illustrator to help with a revised edition. Katy Prather (remember little Katy?) is now a freshman at WSC and taking Geology 101 from her Dad. Tom is on transitional retirement and plans to switch to full-time recreational pursuits in Dec., 1998.
Bruce Bartleson ('65) has also had interesting sabbatical and other tours including a study of the mineral potential of the West Elk Wilderness and a tour of the Alpine system in Switzerland, Austria and Romania. He took a sabbatical in fall, 1995, stayed in coastal northern California near Santa Rosa, took a class at Sonoma State Univ. and did numerous field trips to such places as Pt. Reyes, Death Valley, central Nevada and the Mt. Shasta area. Starting in the mid-70's, Bruce did a number of summer consulting jobs (trying to put 2 daughters through college) including: a placer gold project on alluvial fans in Nevada; uranium exploration in Arizona and Colorado, with several summers mapping on Fossil Ridge near Gunnison; subsurface exploration for oil in the Eagle (with Connie Dodge McKnight, '70) and Paradox Basins for several summers; several summers of sedimentological field work (mostly on the Dakota Ss) in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico for various oil companies; a summer of placer gold work on the Snake River system of Wyoming and Idaho for Kevin McAndrews ('75) of Kennecott and many smaller projects. In recent years, Bruce has become involved with the Standards Based
Education (SBE) movement to help upgrade K-12 and college science teaching , including the use of our dinosaur (found by Jim and Ken Snyder ('71)) in the classroom. Parents of school-aged children will learn more about SBE in the next few years as it becomes a reality, but the good news is that geology is now a required subject all through the school curriculum. Bruce will retire or decompose in May, 1998.
Vijay Satoskar was here for one year in 1967-68, we have had no communication since.
In 1969-70, Richard Holm was here for one year and left for Northern Arizona Univ. and has been there ever since.
In the fall of 1970 Fred Menzer came and stayed till 1982 when he left to work for the mining industry (FMC for several years and is now free-lance consulting). Fred comes through town periodically and we had a nice meeting at the GSA convention in Denver last fall when we both turned out to hear our alumni Bob Dickerson ('77) and Don Sweetkind ('81) talk about recent (and continuing forever) mapping at the infamous Yucca Mt. nuclear disposal site.
Mary Lou Bevier came in the fall of 1982 from Santa Barbara and stayed three years after which she left for Ottawa, Canada, marriage and working for the Geological Survey of Canada in Acadia. Mary Lou and her husband Jim Mortenson have been at the Univ. of British Columbia in Vancouver for about 5 years. In recent years, Mary Lou has been involved with geo-education and working with the "First Nations" people (Indians) of Canada. She has become enthusiastic about sea-kayaking (she's in a great place for it) and still spends time back-packing in the Sierras and skiing at Whistler in B.C.
Allen Stork came in the fall of 1985 and has broken the string of transient hard-rockers by sticking ever since. Allen has his Ph.D from Univ. of California, Santa Cruz and did his thesis on the magmatic evolution of Fiji. Allen has been involved in a number of student research projects (Marcellina Mt. laccolith ) and has become deeply involved in GIS technology (if you have to ask, don't get in the game). Allen spent his first sabbatical at Santa Cruz renewing the wellsprings of igneous petrology and stuff like that. Despite Bruce's sage advice, Allen became the Science Department Chair this summer and will be involved in that kind of nonsense for the next 3 years
Ray Ruehle is now teaching a year long course in exploration geophysics for the department and we had our first graduate in the new geophysics emphasis last year.
We would be remiss if we did not extend a grateful thank-you to the several alumni who have helped us out by teaching at various times of need; Peter Dea ('76) , Don Sweetkind ('81), Kurt Panter ('86), Robert Fillmore ('86), and Jon Kaminski ('87).
Increasingly important in maintaining a quality Geology Program has been the availability of funds through the generous giving of geology alumni and faculty. State funding now comprises just 41% of Western's income and as efforts are made to keep students' tuition and field trip costs reasonable, funds from giving have become increasingly important. Several funds, which are administered through the Western State College Foundation, directly benefit the Geology Program and are supported by continued giving.
The Geology Alumni Fund has supported the Geology Program for many years. This summer we purchased two up-to-date computers and a laser-jet printer for the students to use in the small back lab room (the bat cave or for you old timers - the dark room) for homework, assignments, etc. This money came from donations from alumni and it is greatly appreciated. The fund is controlled by the Geology Alumni Association.
The Geology Fund is a general fund that we use for a variety of needs that enhance the Program above and beyond College funding. This fund is controlled by the geology faculty and has been used most recently to help defray the cost of field trips.
The Val Mitchell Memorial Scholarship Fund is an endowed fund established by friends and family of Val Mitchell to provide scholarship assistance to the outstanding junior geology major.
These funds are special because they allow programming or scholarships above and beyond that available through the College's support. We purposely keep donated funds separate from the general operating budget and use the funds to directly support the Geology Program.
Thanks to all of the alumni that have given $1,625 to these funds over the last year. Contributions may be directed to these funds through the Annual Fund Campaign conducted by the Western State College Foundation. Your continued support of Western is greatly appreciated.
If you have questions about these funds, please contact us at 970 943-2015 or the Office of Development at 970 943-7113
We have had many of our graduates who have had outstanding careers, but we thought we would spotlight one person every year and no one is more deserving than David Gaskill.
David Gaskill -1948 - Dave came to Western State College in the fall of 1946 after having had his education interrupted by World War II (he was in the Battle of the Bulge) and graduated in 1948. Since Western State did not offer a geology major at that time, Dave received a minor in geology from Western. He then went on to the University of New Mexico and earned a Masters degree in geology with his thesis involving mapping around the White Rock stock near Gothic. As far as we know he is the first Western graduate to become a professional geologist (let us know if we're wrong).
Dave spent over 25 years with the U.S. Geological Survey before retiring, spending most of his time with the Coal Branch. He is well-known to us locally because of his numerous, outstanding USGS geologic quadrangle maps (GQ series) of the region including the Crested Butte, Gothic, Marble, Marcellina Mountain, Mount Axtel, and Oh-Be-Joyful Quadrangles and a large scale map of the region; The Geologic Map of the Paonia and Gunnison Areas. Dave also completed a mineral potential study and reconnaissance geologic map of the West Elk Wilderness back in the early 70's with an obscure young geologist named Bruce Bartleson.
Dave has been a great benefactor to the department by donating his enormous library of geological literature. This library now partially fills one of our small lecture rooms and saves students a few trips to the library. Dave is also more or less important to all of us since he introduced both Tom and Bruce to the fine art of river navigation back when we were really young. Dave was amoung the first 100 to run the Grand Canyon having gone first in the 1950's. Thanks for everything Dave!
The information you sent us allows us to get a snapshot of the careers of a group of people who are successful in a variety of fields. Of the 427 graduates we know what 64% of you are doing with some certainty. Of that group 72% are still in the field of geology in some form or other.
Out of that group, 38% are working in the broadly defined field of environmental geology as engineers, geologist, hydrogeologists, geochemists and others. About 20% are working in various aspects of petroleum geology in management, as geologist, geophysicists or in various support industries. About 21% are working in coal or metal mining in management and as geologists or engineers. About 10% are engaged in K-12 education, another 8% are working as research geologists in a government or university setting and 3% are working as contract archaeologists.
The rest of you have wonderfully varied careers to numerous to list - from accountant to surveyor. Many own their own businesses.