- © 2000 by AASP Foundation
The American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists bestows upon AUREAL THEOPHILUS CROSS its Medal of Excellence in Education in recognition of his years of dedicated service as an internationally recognized teacher and educator, not only to his own students, but to palynologists and paleobotanists throughout the world
PRESENTATION BY LEONARD E. EAMES
Good afternoon, AASP members and guests, it’s an honor and privilege to be here at our 1999 annual meeting to present our first AASP Medal of Excellence in Education. I am sorry my friend, colleague, and co-nominator, Dr. Gordon D. Wood could not be here today for us to jointly recognize and make the presentation to Dr. Aureal T. Cross. In Gordon’s absence I will relate some of my personal experiences that I and many of Dr. Cross’ other students have experienced under his tutelage.
I remember in great detail my first meeting with Aureal after being accepted to his graduate program at Michigan State University. At this meeting, Dr. Cross outlined his expectations of what would be required of course work and other student efforts to meet his and the university’s requirements.
After an in-depth discussion of what was expected, my first reaction was: “What am I getting myself into with this program? How long will it take to complete? And, does this man ever slow down?” But in continuing our interview I had a feeling that if I, as a potential student of Dr. Cross’, could commit to the criteria for the program, Dr. Cross would make a similar commitment to me. I found this very much to be the case. Once I had entered the program, Dr. Cross’ support and encouragement were there for me through my tenure as his student. He made a similar commitment to his other students.
Aureal’s students quickly learned that the scope of his program included much more than formal class requirements. Some of the diverse learning experiences included conversations with him late at night while working in his laboratory. It was not unusual for Aureal to open a dusty box or pull out a drawer with it’s labeled specimens and call over any of his students to hear an impromptu lecture on who had been with him to collect the materials, the weather that day, the locality, and other facts about the megafossils and the colleague who helped him carry out the “tonnage.”
His reference files and collections were extensive. In fact, his retired father-in-law came to the lab frequently to catalog and curate those references and collections. Dr. Cross truly loved to share his past experiences with his students. In fact, there was a sign over his microscope at the lab, “At 2 a.m. in the morning, who’s watching the spores and pollen?”
The field trips were legendary in their own right. We students met at his house to prepare for the upcoming trip. These meetings always included all of his students and their spouses or friends. The evenings would start with a sit-down meal prepared by his tireless wife and companion, Aleen. After everyone was fed, we always viewed a slide show of various subjects related to our trip. The multiple slides were varied and included fossils, rocks, plants, scenery, and anything else we might encounter on the trip. The trip preparations included packing all of the equipment, meals, supplies, and references that we might need. The references included everything from A to Z (beginning with astronomy and continuing through zoology).
The trips were those of a Classic Naturalist and, except for the duration and hardships, could certainly be compared to the “Voyage of the Beagle.”
This gives you a glimpse of what one learned and experienced on Aureal’s field trips. He even awakened a group of us camped in Baja at 3 a.m. in the morning to see a comet blazing across the sky. Those of us who did field work with him also quickly realized that his stamina and energy level allowed him to stay ahead of even the most physically fit students.
There are many other experiences I could relate, but I shall leave them for another time. It is with great pleasure that I ask Dr. Aureal T. Cross, my friend, teacher, mentor, advisor, and scientific colleague, to come to the podium to receive the AASP Medal of Excellence in Education.
RESPONSE BY AUREAL T. CROSS upon receiving the AASP MEDAL OF EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION — with gratitude, some reflections, admonitions, and credits —
This is an amazing event for me — a happy, yet sobering happening that was never included in my plans or expectations for this or any future year. I am emotionally overwhelmed — almost speechless. As I reflect on my sixty years of teaching and research, I have some thoughts on the past and remonstrances for the future to share with all of you. My students would have expected it!
At the annual meeting of the American Association of Stratigraphic palynologists in New York, October, 1986, considerable concern and discussion centered around the viability and future of the science of palynology and its utilization. Because of the economic state of the petroleum industry and, perhaps more importantly, because of the introduction of new technologies, palynology was being decreasingly supported by the major oil companies, the largest users of the science and its practitioners. But this did not mean that the science was dying or was no longer needed. The science was still there!
The ideas that were generated by Muller, Tschudy, Wilson, and Hoffmeister for their respective oil companies, that led to the application of palynology as a useful tool for finding oil, beginning in the mid-forties, were derived from the earlier study of the palynology of peat in the ‘teens of the Twentieth Century, and the palynology of brown coals and coals of higher rank in the late ‘20s and ‘30s in Europe, Russia, and America. The extrapolation of this technique or tool, by those four pioneers, to resolution of biostratigraphic, paleoecologic, and similar biologic and geologic problems for abroad spectrum of sedimentary rock types, was based on the knowledge of a so-called “pure” science. Basic concepts and data had been slowly accumulating in Europe and America out of the persevering research of such early workers as Potonié, Luber, Waltz, Naumova, Raistrick, Simpson, Knox, Schopf, Wilson, Kosanke, Dijkstra, Muller, Tschudy, Traverse, and Evitt. It was a utilitarian science for selective application to exploration for petroleum. Its time had come!
This science will be rejuvenated or not depending on the vigor of the practitioners and their development of new data, new ideas and new applications. Certainly, at least a few will carry on with uninterrupted fervor. Hunger often makes us lean and keen, sharpens our senses, and stimulates our mental prowess.
There are no bounds for the imagination and drive of youth. Our students and other younger scientists may “rediscover” many things without realizing the repetitive nature of their “discoveries.” But along with such duplication of effort, there is a net move forward in the science, with new clarity of understanding of old problems, and new directions, occasionally quantum jumps, in fundamental knowledge and technology. The support of the academic environment for education of our youth, adequate to maintain qualified, mentally stimulating, disciplined, and inspiring teachers, is requisite for sustaining the flow of new talent into palynology, coal sciences or any other related professional discipline.
It is in this setting that “budding” scientists, our students, if they are to grow and “bloom”, must be “planted” in the fields of fundamentals of science located in library, classroom, laboratory and field; “injected” with the growth hormones of curiosity, desire, self-discipline, personal integrity, and orderly work habits; “fertilized” with information resource bases in peripheral fields of science, economics, communication skills, and ancillary fundamentals of mathematics, chemistry, physics, statistics, and applied technology; “watered” with good health, social responsibility, support and understanding of family, friends, peers, and faculty; “lighted” with respect, encouragement, compassion and financial sustenance; and “pruned” or “shaped” to develop more perfect flowers of new ideas, scientific writings, and other professional and societal contributions.
In science, serendipitous discoveries are always waiting in the wings of our minds and we must learn to recognize and seize upon unusual ideas and recognize their significance. We must be wise enough to search related, even unrelated fields of science and technology, to attend meetings with scientists in other fields, to read their journals, to bring our concerns to their attention, to bring their insight and ideas to bear on the resolution of our own problems. Let the facts be our base of reference; let the theories fall into line.
This brings me to my final points. Who is to be credited for this gracious happening in my life? How many do I represent in receiving this high honor from my colleagues? On whose shoulders do I stand? What is the lineage or professional genealogical pedigree of each of us and of each of our predecessors in the science?
I owe my start in botany and geology to L.R. Wilson and he to N.C. Fassett, Fred Thwaites, Wm. H. Twenhofel, of Wisconsin, and others. My paleobotany training and the stimulation of research on fossil plants was from J. H. Hoskins, a professional F1 generation of Mottier (Earlham College), Merle Coulter and C.J. Chamberlain in botany and T.C. Chamberlin and Salisbury, geology, from U. of Chicago. Jim Schopf was the real motivator for my expanding from paleobotany and palynology into coal geology and coal petrology. His mentors included John Bucholz and Gilbert H. Cady of Illinois. Walter Bucher and Kenneth Caster (Cincinnati) provided the greatest stimulation for my paleontological interests and application. Harold Wanless (Illinois) generated my interest in stratigraphy and sedimentary processes, especially of coal-bearing rocks and for the importance of interpreting sedimentary features and lithologic characteristics of rocks to unravel their history, environments of deposition and energy conditions at the sites of accumulation. E. Lucy Braun (Cincinnati: ecology, systematics and taxonomy) in her inimitable way, demonstrated convincingly, that ecological interpretations of living plants and animals and their community relationships could be applied to ancient biocoenoses and in some cases to thanatocoenoses. The list could go on.
I have told the students in nearly all of my classes in geological sciences that there is a story in every rock —something of the time, the life , the space, and the energy of its being. Such information is not always determinable but we must employ our every talent and the knowledge we have gained from our forebears as we study each microfossil, each rock or outcrop, to unravel or determine the bits and pieces of information of the time, the life conditions, the nature of the space it occupied at the time it lived or was formed, and the space and energy conditions that characterized its site and environment. We must learn to think. It is a certainty that ideas are also gleaned from professional meetings and field trips, from casual and planned conversations with colleagues in other fields of science and technology, and above all, by design or chance, from our students. I have learned much from farmers and amateurs and rock hounds, from miners and dentists, from tombstone cutters and observant fishermen. They have supplied me —and you — and our predecessors — with specimens, localities, ideas, techniques, photographs, occasional lodging, physical field assistance, and money for research.
To whom do we give credit? How is it possible to acknowledge adequately the credit due to others? I have always told my students to be generous and honored to give credit for literature sources and to their colleagues, and to any who have contributed ideas, materials, or facts to their research. Such credit will not diminish us — but will enhance us.
With this I will close, with appreciation and credit to all those who have gone before, known and unknown, and who have brought me, and all whom I represent today, to this honor. To my teachers, colleagues, especially my students, to librarians and technicians, field and office assistants, and friends and, most of all, to my loving, understanding, patient, durable, persevering wife, Aleen, and my children who are or were at various times my field assistants, lab preparators and clean-up squad, draftsmen, “gophers” and “happy campers.”
I am immensely proud, but humbled, by this signal honor of receiving the first AASP MEDAL OF EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION and the privilege to be recognized by friends and colleagues, and especially by my more than three-score graduate students, many of whom were like sons or daughters to me. Carry on Leonard and Gordon and Denny, and all you others who bear my scars and my love. It is your turn!
Thank you all.