The Department of Geology is saddened that Professor Dick Faas passed away September 19, 2014 in Towson, Maryland. Dick was a prominent figure in the Geology program at Lafayette, and he will be missed. The following is the Memorial resolution written after his passing.
At its November meeting, the faculty adopted the following memorial resolution for Richard Faas, professor emeritus of geology, who died Sept. 19, 2014.
Richard Faas was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on Nov. 8, 1931, the son of William and May (Ballard) Faas. He earned his undergraduate degree in geology from Lawrence College in 1953, then served in the United States Coast Guard from 1953 to 1957, followed by a stint as a cartographic aide for the Topographic Division of the United States Geological Survey in Rolla, Missouri, in 1958 and 59. Dick returned to school to earn his masters and Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 1962 and 1964, respectively. It was in 1964 that Dick and his wife Dolores (Mikolich) moved with their three children, William (Will), Keith, and infant Elizabeth (Beth), to Easton, Pennsylvania, where Dick joined the Lafayette College faculty as an assistant professor.
For his doctoral research Dick focused on estuarine sediments deposited along the coast near Barrow, Alaska. This was the start of a life-long interest in sedimentary deposition, and especially in the properties and behavior of the fine-grained sediments that are found in estuaries, a subject on which he would publish numerous scholarly articles, mostly involving the mass properties, rheological properties, and acoustic properties of sedimentary silts and mud.
It would not be long after his hiring, just three years, until Dick would be promoted to associate professor. In 1969-70 he served as acting department head, and then in January 1970 was appointed head of the Department of Geology, a role in which he ably served for more than 19 years. It was during that period, in 1975, that Dick was promoted to full professor.
During his years at Lafayette, Dick taught a variety of courses: Historical Geology, Physical Geology, Stratigraphy/Sedimentology, Oceanography, Paleontology, Senior Seminar, and Senior Thesis. What Dick loved most was to teach labs; he especially enjoyed working closely with students in a one-on-one relationship. The so-called “Appalachian Project” that Dick assigned students during his Historical Geology course was renowned. It was in the lab setting where Dick felt he could be most effective as a teacher, particularly with upper-level students, and it also was in this setting that he developed life-long friendships with numerous students. Dick involved students in research and served as an inspiration to a number of individuals who went onto graduate school and had outstanding careers of their own. Indeed, one alumnus wrote “Dr. Faas was the key individual who convinced me to change my major from physics to geology. He was my advisor and mentor throughout my time at Lafayette, and one of the finest teachers I’ve ever known” …while another noted “His passion for teaching us was inspirational.”
Dick loved research and always managed to obtain support for his research activities. Such support came from the Office of Naval Research, Sea Grant, the National Geographic Society, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Army Research Office, the American Geologic Institute, and Lafayette. During his professional lifetime Dick won summer fellowships from NASA and the Navy’s ASEE Program (Stennis Space Center), performed NATO-supported research in Belgium, received National Science Foundation funding to support student research, participated in both NOAA- and NSF-supported cruises, and was awarded an Indo-American Fellowship for research in India.
In the early ’70s, sailing on Woods Hole oceanographic vessel RV Gosnold, Dick and Lafayette students David Toth ’72 and Charles Nittrouer ’72 investigated sediments resting on the continental slope in the Gulf of Maine. It was around this time that Dick also obtained National Science Foundation funding for student-involved research on rocks of the Newark-Gettysburg basin. In 1974 Dick would participate for the first time as Physical Properties Specialist in the prestigious Deep Sea Drilling Project (funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and SCRIPPS Oceanographic Institute) when Leg 38 of DSDP investigated sediments of the Norwegian-Greenland Sea. In 1980, Dick participated a second time as Physical Properties Specialist on DSDP Leg 67, investigation of the Middle American Trench (Guatemala Transect).
Despite participation in the deep-sea projects, much of Dick’s research focused on the shallow marine environment, the interface between saltwater and fresh-water environments, and the sedimentological consequences of such interaction. Dick’s work took him to geographically wide-ranging projects that included (1) investigation of the bottom sediments of the York River Estuary, Yorktown, VA, (2) preparation of a radiographic atlas of primary sedimentary features for the Schelde Estuary, Belgium, (3) analysis of Schelde and North Seas sediments, (4) investigation of the Susquehanna flats in the upper Chesapeake Bay (which it was expected would be a sensitive indicator to sea-level rise due to global warming), (5) study of the Jupiter (Florida) inlet (6) sedimentology of the Cornwallis Estuary/Starrs Point mudflat, Nova Scotia, and (7) research on the ephemeral mud banks of the Kerala coast of India.
Right up to his retirement from Lafayette, Dick authored articles based on his research. Works were published in peer-reviewed journals such as Arctic, Maritime Sediment, Geological Society of America Memoir, Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, Estuarine Processes, Geologie en Mijnbouw, Geo-Marine Letters, Marine Geology, and Journal of Coastal Research, as well as in technical reports for the cruises in which he was involved. Dick was a true believer in the value of research and communication of research results to the scientific community.
Dick was a regular attendee of professional meetings throughout his career, and regularly gave presentations at the meetings he attended. These included national and regional meetings of the Geological Society of America, as well as specialty meetings, short courses, workshops, and summer institutes relative to his work on fine-grained sediments and estuarine processes. He was a member of Geological Society of America, in which he was a fellow since 1967, the International Association of Sedimentologists, the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, the Estuarine Research Federation, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Science.
Dick’s success in teaching and research was recognized by Lafayette via the 1969 Jones Faculty Award for excellence in teaching and research, then the 1978 Jones Superior Teaching Award. In his Jones Lecture, entitled “Geologic Aspects of Estuarine Research,” Dick discussed the response of estuaries to the last ice age, the resulting deposition of river-borne sediments, the character of those sediments, then wove those subjects into human influence on estuaries, specifically contamination and overuse by humans, and the consequent problems that resulted from the latter. Indeed, one can see application of Dick’s research to the understanding of current near-shore environmental problems.
During 1982-83, Dick was selected to be the American Geologic Institute Congressional Fellow and as such became an advisor to Congressman Roy Dyson of the 1st Congressional District of Maryland. In addition to the Armed Services Committee, Dyson served as member of both the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee and the Oceanography Subcommittee. As AGI Fellow and adviser to Dyson, Dick was able to make considerable use of his knowledge of estuarine processes. Indeed, harm to the estuarine environment, its effects on the blue crab population, and tidal shoreline control all were subjects of considerable interest to Dyson’s constituents. Besides advising Congressman Dyson on scientific issues, Dick also represented the Congressman at various panels pertinent to Dick’s expertise.
During all the years that he was department head, Dick promoted the professional development of the geology department staff and its students. The bulk of Dick’s time as head occurred during a time when Lafayette enforced the so-called tenure “guideline” system in which the award of tenure was limited to 50 percent of the members of each academic department. That policy resulted in frequent staff turnover, difficulty in holding together the program of a four-member staff, only two of which could be tenured, and a challenging educational experience for geology students who saw professor after professor come and go. Through those difficult times, Dick did all that he could to give cohesion to a department and program that underwent continual change. His extended service in the headship role during those difficult times must be recognized as heroic. It is a modern and successful Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences that emerged from the difficult challenges of those times.
During Dick’s tenure at Lafayette, he ably served on various faculty committees, including Academic Council, the Curriculum Committee, the Committee on Curricular Review, the Scholastic Standing Committee, the Schedule Committee, the Pre-Teaching Advisory Committee, the Committee on the Development of International Education, the Retirement Committee, and numerous search committees for both geology and other departments.
Besides his fascination with geology, Dick also had an interest in music. He was an avid member of a barbershop quartet. In 1967 he directed the Chorus of the Lehigh Valley at Symphony hall in Allentown during the 17th Annual Festival of Barbershop Harmony. Not long after this, however, teaching, research, and administrative duties would make it impossible for Dick to continue pursuit of this interest. Dick’s deep rich melodic voice, however, is long remembered by anyone who heard it.
Dick managed to keep his older house on College Hill in tip-top shape. When asked what he would be doing during the coming summer, rather than the expected answer of “research,” Dick’s response invariably was “painting my house.” It seemed that the scaffolding at his house was continually on the move, Dick seemingly never satisfied with the results. Many of us also were blessed with the hospitality of the Faas household. Dick and Dee not only hosted departmental events on a regular basis, but so frequently housed and fed job candidates. Certainly, this warm welcome helped convince many of these individuals to spend a couple of years at Lafayette before moving along to other positions as a result of the guideline tenure system.
During the fall of 1996, following his retirement from Lafayette, Dick and Dolores would move to Diamondhead, Mississippi, in order for Dick to join the University of Southern Mississippi’s Institute of Marine Sciences as a Senior Research Scientist; he would continue his research there with Dr. Dawn Lavoie and other Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) colleagues. He also would teach Marine Sedimentology at the Institute of Marine Sciences, Stennis Space Center, and serve as professor for more than a decade, focusing on courses involving the rheology and behavior of mud. During fall semester, 1996, Dick earned associate graduate faculty status, which enabled him to serve on doctoral committees. In 2001, Dick traveled to Ponce, Puerto Rico, for a Chapman Conference on the Formation of Sedimentary Strata on Continental Margins. In “retirement” Dick authored or coauthored six papers published in Marine Georesources and Geotechnology, Continental Shelf Research, Marine Geology, and the Journal of Coastal Research.
In the company of his loving family, Richard W. Faas passed away in Towson, Maryland, on Sept. 19, 2014, at the age of 82. He will be remembered fondly by those who knew him. His work on behalf of Lafayette College, without question, made the institution a better place.
Madame President, I move that this memorial be spread upon the minutes of this faculty meeting, and that copies of the same be sent to Prof. Faas’ wife of 59 years, Dolores, and to members of the Faas family.
Respectfully submitted by Members of the Faas Memorial Resolution Committee:
Guy Hovis, Chair
Lawrence Malinconico, Jr.
November 4, 2014