Geology Alumni Newsletter 2002

Read about fellow Geology graduates in the Alumni News Notes.


It seems like it's a good idea to put out another Newsletter mostly because there is so much news (you might notice that we don't have a rigid schedule like up-tight institutions do). Here is a brief preview of recent major events at our department: A new faculty member has replaced Tom Prather; the department is now housed in a spectacular, state of the art addition onto the south side of Hurst Hall; we just recently had a well-attended, very warm and fuzzy, geology alumni Homecoming bash honoring the class of 1976 (25th anniversary - next year is the class of 1977's turn!); we are quite pleased with the student research being generated by the Bartleson-Prather Scholarships and most of all we have the announcement of Paul Rady's ('78) one million dollar gift(!!) to fund a chair in Petroleum Geology for the department. Wow! One at a time: 

New Geology Faculty Dr. John Stamm

John joined the staff in the fall of 1999 to fill the Geomorphology position vacated by Tom Prather's retirement. John has an impressive background in industry and academia- He comes most recently from California State University at Monterey Bay where he taught for four years.

His education consists of a B.A. from S.U.N.Y at Oneonta in New York, an M.S. from Penn. State and a PhD from Kent State. John has worked in uranium geology in Texas and New Mexico for Nufuels Corp. and worked two years for Mobil Oil doing offshore exploration in California. He mapped in Death Valley under Death Valley guru Dr. Lauren Wright, and also worked for the U.S.G.S in the earthquake database management program.

John spent two years as a Post Doctoral researcher at Princeton working on computer climate modeling (he has done quite a bit on paleoclimate modeling of the western U.S). He then got tired of sitting in a computer lab and shifted to field hydrology. He accepted a Post-Doc with Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) to work on sediment transport in headwater streams in central Idaho. He has subsequently consulted for the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho and for various state and federal agencies concerning fluvial processes.

One of John's other interests is in developing on-line Physical Geology labs. If you like, check one out at:
Since coming to Western, John has worked with the anthropologists doing soil stratigraphy at an 8000 year-old site on Chance Gulch and he has students working with the BLM on the geomorphologic history of Antelope Creek to help safeguard a native Cutthroat trout population. Basically, he is a fluvial geomorphologist, but, as you can see, his interests and expertise range rather widely.

He recently purchased a solar home adjacent to Cranor Hill ski area, originally built in 1979 by old time Western geologist Bruce Bartleson. Continuity and tradition are important!


Hurst Hall

The new Hurst Hall is completed and we have moved into our final home. The first floor of the new wing houses geology and anthropology. Luckily, geology got the south side with all the windows and a great view of W-Mountain. We have spent the last year getting used to the new lecture hall, two new teaching labs, a new student research lab, new space for instrumentation, more storage, and the student learning center (a coffee/study room). The biggest change is network and internet connects at all of the seats in the labs. We're not used to that yet! Everyone who has visited wishes Hurst had been like this when they were here.

Stop by any time for the tour. It's worth it! We're sure it gives us the best undergraduate facility in the state.

 Rady Chair in Petroleum Geology

Last winter, after Paul Rady ('78) sold his stock in Pennaco (a company that specialized in coal bed methane in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming), he had a little disposable income. As CEO, Paul had developed the company so that its stock value went from a few dollars to over $30/share in a few years.

Four or five years ago when Paul was still with Barrett Resources, Paul, Allen Stork and Bruce Bartleson had been discussing ways in which alums might best be able to help our department. Allen and I immediately homed in on the idea of an independently funded faculty "chair" or position. This sort of funding from the estate of ex-governor Dan Thornton transformed our biology department and has had quite a dynamic effect on them over the past 10-15 years. Paul said -- "yes, that's nice, but that'll be the day - that'll take a million dollars - let's get serious." Out of that discussion, the Bartleson-Prather summer scholarship program was born, which has been a smashing success (see discussion below). Many of you have donated to this program in that and we thank you.

Well, at any rate "that'll be the day" finally came for Paul and with a lot of help from Tom Burggraf of the Western State Foundation and John Sowell (assistant to the V.P. for Academic Affairs and former Biology Prof.) it is happening now! This is how it will work. Paul has donated enough money to generate interest income to pay for a new faculty position in Petroleum Geology- The Rady Chair in Petroleum Geology. Paul was especially anxious to revitalize an economic or business oriented "flavor" in our department and this is the way he thought (and we agree) it could best be accomplished.

We have begun searching for a person in order to have them on board by for the fall term. The new person will be fully funded by the endowment and will teach a variety of courses (depending on their expertise) in the petroleum field (e.g. petroleum geology (duh!), basin analysis, log interpretation, exploration geophysics, etc.) as well as physical and structural geology. We feel that by teaching the physical course our new person will be able to capture the interest of some our majors early and thus shepherd them throughout their career at Western.

We expect that the person hired will have strong industrial ties, help bring in outside speakers on a regular basis, place our students in summer jobs while undergraduates and also find appropriate graduate programs with a direct pipeline into the petroleum industry. Obviously it will take a few years to get this going but we hope to have Western geology known as the premier undergraduate petroleum geology school in the State of Colorado.

Annual Geology Awards

The annual graduation banquet is going strong. We have held two geology banquets since the last newsletter. Our 2000 graduation class was the largest in recent years with 14 summer, fall and spring graduates. We had our banquet at the Elks club. In 2001 we had the opposite with only 3 graduates, so we only had a small party in the snow at Joel Ruehle's house, guess what we had just as much fun!

At both banquets we handed out our annual awards, The VAL MITCHELL MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP awarded to our outstanding junior, went to Andrew Lockman in 2000 and Jan Spurkland 2001. The recipients of the RMAG "Hammer", awarded to our outstanding senior went to Becky Thompson ('00) in 2000 and to Andrew Lockman in 2001.

The annual graduation banquet is held each spring the night before graduation. All geology alumni are invited but because reservations are usually required, please let us know in advance if you plan to join us.

Bartleson and Prather Scholarships

The Bartleson-Prather Fund for Excellence in Geology is going strong. As we described in past newsletters the fund provides a scholarship and research supplies for students, on a competitive basis, between their junior and senior year. The purpose is to enable them to do meaningful geologic research in the summer without severe financial hardship. The program is funded through donations from you. To date 25 different alumni have donated $51,327 to this fund. Alumni from the late '60's up to the late '90's have donated to the fund. If you or your company might be interested in contributing to the fund let us know. We are trying to build up an endowment so that the program always will be a part of the student experience.

Projects announced in the last newsletter have been completed. Becky Thompson ('00) completed her work on the Telluride Conglomerate and found that previous speculations were not entirely accurate. Several different source areas were identified and it looks like the rivers were draining somewhere to the south, possibly the remnants of the San Juan basin. Becky is now at Northern Arizona University working on a Master's thesis in Baja.

Ryan Murphy ('00) completed a petrologic, geochemical, K-Ar dating study of two of the Gunnison Laccoliths - Storm Ridge and East Beckwith. He documented the petrologic and geochemical connections between the laccoliths and West Elk Volcano and dated the East Beckwith at 29.34 ± .07 and Storm Ridge at 29.49 ± 0.12 ma. This showed that the laccoliths are slightly younger than West Elk Volcano, dated at 30.3 ± 0.8 by Brian Coven ('99) for his Bartleson-Prather project. Ryan is now at McKay School of Mines in Reno.

Since the last newsletter two more scholarships have been awarded. Drew Lockman ('02) did a structural study of the Elk Mountain Thrust on Double Top and Cement Mountains southeast of Crested Butte. This extends the work you are all familiar with from Gothic Ridge and Farris Creek (remember the Farris Creek Quiz) to the south. Jeff Jackson ('03) is working on ash stratigraphy in the Cochetopa Caldera moat. It is interesting how little work has been done on the Cochetopa Caldera. So Jeff is doing some very important basic work.

Homecoming Bash

At the suggestion of one of our "old" alums (take a bow Rick Milne '76) we decided to put together a party to honor the class of 1976 for their 25th reunion at Homecoming this year. The date was October 12 and to our great delight a large crowd (40-50) gathered at the Aspinall-Wilson center on campus. What was especially fun was that a good contingent (9) from the classes of 1975 and 1976 showed up and were rewarded with special Gunnison Laccolith commemorative T- shirts with their class year on them. Several highlights come to mind: Paul Rady ('78) made the announcement that he will fund a chair (faculty position) in Petroleum Geology by donating one million dollars - which impressed everyone there to say the least.

Since there was such a mixture of alums ranging from 1975 to 2000 we decided to have everyone stand and give a thumbnail biographical sketch - the variety, interesting careers and success of the group in general was quite striking; Peter Dea ('76) introduced his lovely new wife; former faculty member Fred Menzer (1970-1981) attended as well as Fred Menzer III ('76) - so there were two Fred Menzers. The party went on from 4 till nearly 9 and we didn't run out of food, beer or wine, but almost!

At any rate, the event was such a success that everyone agreed we should do this every Homecoming and we will!! The class of 1977 will be the honored class next year for their 25th. Here's the list of attending alums (in proper stratigraphic order, of course): Kevin Tan ('00), Katye McConaghy ('98), Phil Van Zale ('97), Chuck Pollard ('96), Annie Clements Eckman ('89), Doug Holzman ('87), Lisa Cole Starkebaum ('86), Rob Fillmore ('86), Paul Rady ('78), Steve Reynolds ('78) - Steve gave a talk to our majors on the preceding Thursday, and then attended classes on Friday, Lauren Hart Wolfe ('77), Jeff Clarke ('76), Peter Dea ('76), Denis Hall ('76), Fred Menzer ('76), Rick Milne ('76), John Danahey ('75), Don Graham ('75), Kevin McAndrews ('75) and John Murphy ('75). Faculty included Bruce Bartleson, Rob Fillmore, Fred Menzer, John Stamm, Allen Stork and Ray Ruehle - Friends, significant others and children too numerous to mention rounded out the group. Tom Prather was on a previously scheduled bike trip or certainly would have been there.

We might mention that Gary Christopher ('67), Bob Richarson ('93), Sean Hlousek ('97) and Mark Stewart ('79) also attended part of the Homecoming festivities but missed the Saturday night festivities. Don't miss next year!!

Faculty News

Inactive (old, retired or escaped) Division:

Bruce Bartleson had a very busy time in his third year of retirement, and although he can't hold a candle to Tom Prather as far as traveling, he is becoming known as the man who won't go away (from campus). February, 2000 saw Bruce, Tom and retired buddy from Ft. Lewis College, Jack Campbell driving down the Baja Peninsula to Loreto (3 gringos with virtually zero Spanish skills - we survived numerous road blocks and inspections by the Mexican Army by playing dumb, it was easy for us!) and taking a one week guided sea kayak trip to some islands in the Sea of Cortez. A highlight on the way back was camping out among house-sized, rounded boulders of granite and a giant cactus forest under a clear, starry night (and a bottle of Scotch).

In the fall I guided an Elderhostel bike trip in the Bryce/Zion area of southern Utah, also with Jack Campbell. The big trip was to Switzerland in October to visit my daughter. We did the unforgettable train ride through the Eiger and up to the Jungfrau and a hike on the head of the Aletsch glacier. Next day I solo hiked a ridge at 10,000 feet for 12 miles with spectacular views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau all day under clear, sunny skies. There is nothing like the Alps!!!

In December we spent a day at world famous Wolf Creek Pass ski area with our host Anthony (Doc) Doctor, '89 (thanks again, Doc!). In February 2001 I spent a week in Reno with Tom and Anne Shrake recruiting for Western - visited 13 high schools in 5 days and had a Reno area, WSC alumni party at the Shrakes' mountain estate.

The big event of this year, though, was our spring break trip. You know how most Gunnison people go to Cancun, Costa Rica, or even Utah? But Deirdre has been hounding me for years to go see the Northern Lights. Mary Lou Bevier sent us a website and a contact with the Yukon Geological Survey, so we went to Whitehorse, Yukon for spring break!!! Yes, we finally saw the lights on the next to last night. (For an epic 10 page story of this odyssey, email me and I will send it to you!) We also stopped in Vancouver, BC, stayed with ML and also had dinner with Katye McConaghy (' 98) and Tessa Walker ('98), who drove up from Seattle to meet us at the plane. What fun!

June saw me visiting old buddies Nancy Molyneux ('77) and Mark Fernandes ('78) on the east coast along with Colleen (McShane) Cope ('77) and had a sensational time on Nantucket, Cape Cod and the Thimble Islands off shore from New Haven, CT.

I just got back from Reno for recruiting again where I ran into the biggest blizzard in the past 5 years and watched snow fall for 48 hours straight at the Shrakes' house. I still got to 11 high schools in four days and saw a bunch of kids. Oh yes, I did a long term study of Gunnison winter temperatures and, no surprise, found that it has been considerably warmer in the past 20 years than in the 60s and 70s, but that it was equally warm in the 30s, 40s and early 50s, which no one seems to remember. The study (available upon request) was written up in the Denver Post and of course, the Gunnison Country Times. Don Graham ('76) and I are consulting partners now and spent a lot of time driving the Forest Service roads around here.

Mary Lou Bevier reports that she was/is: 1) awarded tenure and promotion to Senior Instructor at the Univ. of British Columbia in July; 2) winner of the UBC Earth and Ocean Sciences Department Incredible Instructor Award in Solid Earth Sciences for 2001 (what are the liquid earth sciences, ML??) and 3) still active in outreach to First Nations students (Indian) and spent a week in summer 2000 as the "Scientist in Residence: at a summer geoscience day camp for Tahltan First Nations 10-12 year olds in Telegraph Creek, B.C. (way up north!) Other than that she also perfected the making of rock candy and learned how to make toothpaste from Tums and baking soda!! Finally she is now into sailing and had two great charters last summer to the San Juan Islands (Washington) and the Gulf Islands of British Columbia.

Tom Prather seems to be winning the competition for most widely traveled (the Peripatetic Award) faculty of all time. Here's a rundown of Tom's recent activities. Last winter he met his sister and family at Lake Tahoe, skied Heavenly Valley for a few days, and then moved on down to the Monterey Peninsula and played golf near (but not at ($300 green fees + you must stay overnight at their lodge for $$$) Pebble Beach. In February he was off to the Tucson Rock and Mineral show and for a warm-up of upcoming events ran a half marathon at the Tucson Desert Classic. Then, in March, off to Rome (Italy) for the Rome Marathon which he completed in less than 5 hours (no surprise to those of you who had trudge up mountains behind Tom). He and old buddies from C.U., Ed Larson and Eric Miller then visited Pompeii and Herculaneum.

In June, he went down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with his nephew and friends for three weeks. Deciding he needed to do some cross-training, Tom then went on a bike touring orgy: First he guided a group sponsored by Experience Plus for 10 days in the Moab area in the spring, went to Spain for 2 weeks on a bike tour in September, got off the plane and drove for 8 hours to Cedar City, Utah and led another bike tour for X-plus in the Bryce/Zion area, took two days off and then repeated the Moab area bike tour as a guide! Meanwhile, during the summer months Tom and I took turns doing a week long Elderhostel in Lake City (LakeView Lodge) which was a lot of fun, and saw his daughter Katy get married in August (depending on your age you remember Katy as either a baby, a little girl, teenager or college student). In the rather extended, warm autumn, (we were biking up to the day before Thanksgiving!) Tom and I spent a lot of time exploring all the mountain bike trails at Hartman Rocks.

He plans to go to New Zealand with Duane Vandenbusche in January for 2 weeks and then stick around and do a 2-week bike tour there with X-Plus again. And, oh yes, since it has started to snow here, he has been downhill skiing 4 times already in December and is off cross-country skiing today. Now here is a guy who knows how to retire!

John Welsh - We were happy to hear from John Welsh, former Geology Faculty from 1956 to 1960. He had the interesting experience of teaching geology in the Last Chance log house. The house was originally built as the Student Union in 1923 (near the current library) and briefly served as the Geology building until the new Union was built. It was then sold and moved to its present location on Rio Grande Ave. near the airport where it was a famous (or infamous) 3.2 beer joint and dance hall for many years until it became a Mexican restaurant (Cactus Jack's - currently defunct) in the late 80's. Interestingly enough, the person who moved it off campus is none other than Leo Klinker, father of Cindy (Klinker) Jenkins, 85', so it has had a long history of geology involvement (not to mention the many hours WSC geology majors - and some faculty spent there when it was the Chance).

But I digress - John is still keeping his hammer in motion by serving as Adjunct Professor at the University of Utah, assisting graduate students from both Utah and BYU and operating a gypsum mine in the Carmel Formation on the San Rafael Swell. But, I'll let him speak for himself. "Dear Friends, I appreciate the Newsletter about the geologists and the activities at Western State. I still check the daily temperatures at Gunnison in the newspaper and notice you have had a mild winter as we have had in Salt Lake. Gunnison was the only place I remember where children insisted on long winter underwear, but it wasn't considered cold till it was below zero."

"The spring field trips were always enjoyable whether we went south to the Rio Grande region or west to the Four Corners. Occasionally, we still woke up to snow on our tents." Sound familiar?

Active (currently employed) Division:
-note who has time to do interesting things.

Robert Fillmore ('86) - I finished my book Geology of the Parks, Monuments, and Wildlands of Southern Utah, which was published by the University of Utah Press. It is selling well but I will certainly not be retiring early on the royalties. I'm working on a second book that covers the geology of the San Juan River area, Canyonlands, Arches, and the Book Cliffs area. I'm enjoying work on the Eocene(?)-Oligocene(?) Telluride Conglomerate, working with several students who are trying to figure out the age and provenance, and reconstruct the paleogreography of the eastern margin of the Colorado Plateau.

Our new addition to the family, William Henry (a human) just turned one and is already torturing his big brother Everett. The future will only get more interesting. We recently moved into a house in town, which ate up my entire Christmas break. We anxiously await spring.

John Stamm - You had a chance to read about my work in the beginning of the Newsletter. Here's some more on what's happening ... I'm developing a research program in mapping glacial deposits in the Gunnison area. Students in "Research in Quaternary Geology" class mapped glacial deposits in Middle Quartz Creek, near the town of Pitkin and field camp students will continue this mapping project. I plan to present the results at the GSA meeting in Denver in fall 2002. I'm also busy working on a new online geology lab. This one is on climate change and will help students understand the magnitude of climate change over the last 20,000 years in the Mono Lake area of California. I've been invited to present this lab to the geologic community at the Denver GSA. I'm enjoying life in Gunnison. Last summer I biked across Colorado as part of "Ride the Rockies". Lately, I've been playing lots of ice hockey in the town's improved (a roof was added!) rink ... not that I'm any good.

Allen Stork - I completed three years in administrative purgatory - not quite hell - with the end of a three-year term as science department chair and the six years as building guru. I learned a lot about constructing science buildings - knowledge that is now useless. I'm getting back into teaching and research mode with projects on West Elk Volcano, re-examining the ash stratigraphy around Blue Mesa Reservoir, and continuing to study the laccoliths. I have been collaborating with Kurt Panter ('85) and his graduate students and it looks like I will also be on Brian Coven's ('99) thesis committee. I'll be on sabbatical in Spring 2002 spending time in Hawaii and in the western U.S looking at recent volcanism. Judy and Peter (MicroStork - who is not so micro anymore) are doing well. Peter is twelve, 5'6" and in seventh grade and Judy is back in school working in a BFA in art. We all keep busy. We're still in the same house so stop by when you're coming through town.

Check Our Web Site

We are always adding information to our World Wide Web pages. In addition to general program information, we archive all Geology Alumni Newsletters at the site. If you missed one you can look it up. The site features photos of recent field trips to Utah, Zion and Toroweap, as well as photos of older field trips. We try to keep updating the alumni page to help you get in touch with each other and let you know what is happening in the department We welcome your comments on how the page can be improved to better meet the needs of alumni. The URL has changed from past years and is now: Please update your links.

Homecoming Fall 2003

Next fall we plan to repeat our successful Homecoming Bash. The featured classes will be

'67 (35 years)

'77 (25 years) and

'87 (15 years).

We hope these classes will make a special effort to attend but, of course, everyone is welcome. Plan for it! Homecoming is the weekend of October 4-6, 2003. The weekend will be full of the regular homecoming events with the addition a few special events just for geology alumni. Our tentative plan includes a Saturday morning hike (for those of you who don't really want to see the homecoming parade). A late afternoon and evening party for geology alumni and their families will follow the Homecoming Game on Saturday. We will send out more information next fall.