Robert Thomas

Robert Thomas
Professor, University of
Montana, Geology '85

Robert Thomas
Dillon, MT

Rob Thomas' childhood summer trips to National Parks first ignited his interest in geology, something that still burns strongly today.

Robert, who calls his experience at HSU "transformative," was honored for his 10 years of work with the Geological Society of America's GeoVenture program, an initiative that provides geology field experiences to geologists and non-geologists alike. The seven-day journeys take participants to 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 Robert 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," Robert 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."

The 2008 HSU Distinguished Alum 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. HSU's professors, he says, inspired students 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," Robert 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."

Robert 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," Robert says wistfully, "and hardly a day goes by when I don't think of returning to the campus in some capacity."