9 November 2011

William & Mary geology: 50th anniversary

Posted by Callan Bentley

The geology program at the College of William & Mary turned 50 years old this year, and last weekend they held a party to celebrate. Of the 800 or so geology majors the department has produced in 50 years, about 100 came to this event – that’s a pretty great ratio, I think: 1 out of every 8 alumni made the trek back to Williamsburg to pay tribute to this fine institution. Of course, I am one of those alumni, and my wife Lily and I enjoyed the whole weekend of events.

After a pleasant reception in the department on Friday night, we went on a field trip Saturday, to the Falls of the James River in Richmond, Virginia. Here’s a shot of the group listening to Greg Hancock explain about potholes:

Click to make it a hole lot bigger!

Later, the posse clustered around Chuck Bailey as he talked about time/depth paths for these rocks:

Here’s a smiling happy group shot by Linda Morse (I’m not in it though – too busy looking at rocks with my Class of 1996 compatriot Forrest Pritchard):

You can click to make it bigger, too.

Here’s a little actual geology for you: a dike that exhibits small-scale right-lateral faulting, but the surrounding Petersburg Granite isn’t as susceptible to that fracturing. The cracks fade off into the surrounding “host” rock:

Different materials (and the same materials at different pressures, temperatures, or fluid surroundings) will respond differently to the same stresses: Cool.

That evening, there was a fancy dinner, and we were able to get together Jess, Chuck, and me for a “William & Mary” alumni geoblogger portrait:

Now that Montana State-derived geobloggers have largely gone dormant (with the exception of Bobby), I think only Oregon State can claim a larger absolute number of geobloggers from its ranks. The Tribe is representing!

I was asked to give a few comments at the affair, and like several others, I jotted down a few notes on a napkin:

Basically the gist of it was this: I was enrolled at William & Mary during a transitional time for the department – a time when we moved from Small Hall to Tercentenary Hall (later renamed to the equally unwieldy McGlothlin-Street Hall) and when the second and third founding professors (Bruce Goodwin & Steve Clement) retired. I recall seeing Chuck Bailey interview for Dr. Goodwin’s job, presenting a seminar to the students. The semester after I graduated, he began his job there. I commented on how I serendipitously came to enroll in a geology class in the first place, and the good examples set by my professors including Jerre Johnson’s laudatory public service ethic, and how I liked the department’s emphasis on field work, and how ‘cozy’ and familial I found the departmental community. I also mentioned the high value I placed on my current-day collaborations with Heather MacDonald and with Chuck.

The following morning, I took my wife Lily to meet my ‘mentor’ professor, the biologist Larry Wiseman, and we went for a brief drive on the Colonial Parkway, stopping to take in the scene at College Creek. It was a lovely weekend, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help celebrate a sterling undergraduate geology program with hundreds of other people who value that place as much as I do.