History of the Department

1991
The Alumni Advisory Board (now the Board of Visitors) was created for the department. The purpose of establishing such a board was to provide closer liaison with alumni in order to benefit from the diverse expertise and perspective of alumni and to enlist their help in supporting the department’s programs. This was the first such board created within the College of Letters and Science.

1992
New microbeam laboratory director–John Fournelle not only supervises the first class microbeam laboratory, but also does research in volcanology. His interests include the development of tephrochronologies, the investigation of anhydrite inclusions within phenocrysts from sulfur-rich eruptions, and unusually diverse eruptions of Shishaldan Volcano in the Aleutian arc.

1994
The Albert and Alice Weeks Fund–A generous gift of $3.96 million was received from the estate of Albert and Alice Weeks. A special endowment has been created to support a Distinguished Professorship program (see 1997) as well as Research Assistantship and Post- Doctoral Fellowship programs.

Alumni tailgate party
Alumni tailgate party

1994
First department Alumni Weekend Reunion was held in September for 135 enthusiastic participants. A symposium was held on advances in the geosciences and a banquet honored (roasted) emeritus professors. The lighter side of the weekend featured a decisive Wisconsin gridiron defeat of Indiana, which was preceded by a tailgate party in the Weeks Hall courtyard. A field trip to Baraboo for non-footballers and a Sunday brunch on Picnic Point capped the gala affair.

1995
The Paull Family Undergraduate Scholarship Fund was established for outstanding upper-class majors who are natives of Wisconsin.

1995-98
Mary Anderson served on the University Committee, the most important faculty policy-making body, which acts as the executive committee for the Faculty Senate. She was the first member of our faculty to serve on that important committee since E.N. Cameron in the late 1960s.

1996
National Rankings–U.S. News and World Report ranked both the department’s hydrogeology and sedimentary geology programs second in the nation, and this ranking was repeated in 1998. A national education standards report ranked the department 12th in graduate education. It is fourth in North America in the number of Ph.D. graduates who hold academic faculty posts.

1996
Clastic sedimentology–Alan Carroll came to the department from the petroleum industry (Exxon), bringing the latest approaches for sedimentary basin analysis and petroleum generation. Besides conventional sedimentological and stratigraphic methods, he also uses geohistory analysis and organic geochemistry in his investigations of ancient lacustrine deposits and their relationships to paleoclimate and tectonics.

Rock physics lab
Rock physics lab

1997
The first Albert and Alice Weeks Professor, Nikolas Christensen, joined the faculty. He received the 1996 G.P. Woollard Award from the Geological Society of America (GSA) for his research on the linking of petrology with seismic properties to understand the composition and evolution of the deep crust and mantle. A recent topic of investigation is the seismic anisotropy of the upper mantle. Christensen’s large high pressure laboratory allows the measurement of physical properties under in situ conditions of mantle pressure.

1997
Martian meteorites–The 1996 announcement of possible bacterial fossils in Martian meteorite ALH84001 created a sensation, which was met with skepticism from many scientists. John Valley was invited by NASA to investigate the carbon and oxygen isotopes of the carbonate concretions thought to have been of microbial origin. The results indicate a relatively low-temperature origin (<100-300C) possibly hospitable for life. One applicant wrote saying he would “volunteer to be Valley’s field assistant on Mars.”

Martian meteorite
Martian meteorite

1997
Exxon Corporation’s unrestricted annual gift to the department was increased to $10,000 based upon a company formula that tabulates the number and rank of Geo-Badgers at Exxon. UW ranks above any other university outside of Texas in the number of alumni working at Exxon.

1998
Herb Wang was appointed Associate Dean for Natural Sciences in the College of Letters and Science. He will be the principal liaison in the Dean’s Office for all natural science departments in the college. David Clark held the same position in 1986-91.

1998
Structural geology and tectonics–Basil Tikoff’s appointment continues the department’s traditional strength in structural geology and tectonics. Tikoff’s research on three-dimensional strain in oblique convergence settings has been applied in studies of relatively young orogens in the Sierras and Rockies as well as to the Precambrian of the Lake Superior region.

1998
C.K. Leith Fund was created by a generous anonymous gift to support teaching and research in structural geology. The fund honors Leith’s pioneering work early in the century.

1999
Geochemistry and igneous petrology–Brad Singer will build a laboratory dedicated for geochronology using the new laser-heating methods for the 40Ar/ 39Ar technique. Singer’s research focuses upon relatively young volcanic rocks with such diverse applications as chronology of the Matuyama-Brunhes geomagnetic reversal event, timing of Quaternary glaciations in the Southern Hemisphere, and the origin of epithermal gold deposits.

1999
The Dean Morgridge Distinguished Fellowship in Geology was created through the generosity of the Dean and John Morgridge families. This fellowship will be awarded to an outstanding graduate student every year beginning in 1999; it will provide both a stipend and some research funds. Dean Morgridge received both a B.S. (1952) and M.S. (1954) from the department, and subsequently worked for Exxon in Oregon, California, Alaska, and Texas.

1999
The Distinguished Alumni Awards were established for outstanding lifetime achievement and/or service to the University of Wisconsin. The first recipients are:
Katharine S. Fowler-Billings,
Kenneth W. Ciriacks, and
M. Ray Thomasson.

1999
Second Alumni Weekend—May 7-8, 1999.