HSU Alum Wins Prestigious Geological Honor

Arcata – Humboldt State University Alumnus Robert C. Thomas (’85), Professor of Geology, University of Montana -Western, has received a 2007 Distinguished Service Award from the Geological Society of America, a scientific society founded in 1888 that today boasts nearly 21,000 members in more than 90 countries.

Dr. Thomas, who calls his experience at HSU “transformative,” was honored for his 10 years of work with the society’s GeoVenture program, an initiative that provides geology field experiences to geologists and non-geologists alike. The seven-day journeys take participants to various locations in the northern Rocky Mountains, and a high percentage return for fresh scientific adventures.

One of the coordinators refers to the GeoVenture cadre as “groupies” and Thomas says, “It is like family, only we all get along with one another!”

The University of Montana professor has high praise for the Humboldt State faculty with whom he studied in the first half of the 1980s. “Professors like Bud Burke, Bob Stuart, William Miller, John Longshore and Gary Carver not only taught me geology, they were life mentors,” Thomas recalls. “I still model my own teaching after Bob Stuart and I owe my entrance into graduate school to the extraordinary efforts of Bud Burke.”

Thomas earned his master’s in geology at the University of Montana – Missoula in 1987, and transferred to the University of Washington – Seattle to get his Ph.D. He has been a professor of geology in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Montana – Western, Dillon, since 1993.

“Without question,” he asserts, “I am still in geology because of my Humboldt experience.” He recalls HSU’s Department of Geology as a family. Its professors, he says, gave of themselves beyond the classroom on a regular basis.

“My fondest memories are of trips to the Grand Canyon led by Bob Stuart in the old gray buses and my field camp experience in the Inyo Mountains with Bud Burke. Now that I am a professor,” Thomas adds, “I know first-hand how these ‘extras’ take a toll on a person. Even so, the HSU geology faculty made these experiences available to students because they knew they were crucial to a quality education.”

Thomas met his spouse of 19 years, Anneliese Ripley (‘85), in an HSU stratigraphy (geology of strata) class. They were married in Redwood Community Park here and many of their colleagues in the Geology Department attended the wedding.

“I have now been gone from Humboldt State for 22 years,” Thomas says wistfully, “and hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of returning to the campus in some capacity.”

HSU Public Affairs