Alumni and Giving

Supporting the Geology Department

A person wearing a utility belt with their hands behind their back

Gifts made to the Geology Department by our alumni and friends provide support for a range of important activities that are vital for sustaining and improving the quality and reach of our programs. These donations really enable us to improve the quality of teaching, research, and community service that the Geology Department at Western Washington University has been recognized for. This support is important, as our goal is to provide the best Geology BA, BS, and MS degrees offered in the State. To deliver this quality educational experience to our students, we continue to refine and offer innovative courses- some taught entirely in the field- that include significant components of hands-on activities that combine the best aspects of teaching and research that our faculty can provide.

Gifts to the department have been vital for allowing us to continue many of the innovative field or lab intensive courses our program is recognized for, and to enable the department to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Examples of this include significant gifts that have helped to provide additional support to improve our field-based courses, to acquire new instruments for field geophysics, new vans for use in our courses, and to lay the foundation for adding new aspects to our program in Engineering Geology, Stable Isotope Geochemistry, Energy Exploration, and Planetary Geology, while also helping bolster traditional strengths in our graduate program, petrology, and geophysics. Support for our programs by our alumni and friends of the department is well known; our administration has often pointed to the Geology Department as an example of the huge difference an involved and generous set of alumni and their friends can make to a department, and for that support I am very grateful and give you my continued thanks.

Keep in touch!

A call to all WWU geology alumni! Send us an update of what you have been up to and where you are now! 

With your permission, we will feature your update in the Annual Geology Newsletter. 

Gifts in Action

In Memory of Myrl Beck 

Myrl Beck Jr. outside in a dark grey polo shirt, with green foliage in the background

Myrl Beck, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Geology in the Geology Department of Western Washington University, passed away at age 89 on January 4, 2023 in Bellingham, WA. Over a 50+ year career, Myrl made a number of outstanding contributions to geological problems through application of geophysical techniques- mainly paleomagnetism, but also including measurement and analyses of gravity and magnetic field data and numerical techniques. Myrl completed an MS in Geology at Stanford University in 1961, was employed as a geologist by Standard Oil and the USGS from 1962 to 1966, and completed his PhD in Geological Sciences at the University of California- Riverside in 1969. From 1969 onward he has been a member of the Geology Department’s faculty at Western Washington University- earning promotions to Associate Professor in 1971 and Full Professor in 1974- retiring from teaching and appointed as Professor Emeritus in 1997. Based on his accomplishments as a geologist and geophysicist Myrl was made a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1984 and a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 1995. During his career as an active member of the WWU faculty, Myrl established a paleomagnetism laboratory, advised 30 MS theses (8 of his thesis students went on to PhD programs and were hired as tenure-track faculty at other universities), all while teaching 6-7 courses per year at a regional comprehensive university (which was a state college in 1969 when he was initially hired). Over his career he published 106 papers- these have been collectively cited >2500 times, with a sustained annual citation average of >50. Several of these works have been highly influential in developing our understanding of tectonic and deformation processes in convergent-margin settings, and are recognized as fundamental contributions to geological applications of geophysics.

Continue reading about Myrl Beck's life and accomplishments in the geosciences

The Geology Department is encouraging alumni to honor Myrl Beck by making a gift to The Myrl E. Beck, Jr. Research Endowment


David C. Engebretson Scholarly Activity Award

David C. Engebretson, looking skyward, wearing sunglasses and a plaid shirt

The Geology Department is proud to announce the establishment of the David C. Engebretson Scholarly Activity Award.

The merit-based award will be awarded to students with exceptional promise for future contributions to scholarly achievement within the Earth Sciences. As you might imagine, Dave is incredibly honored by this acknowledgement of his contributions to the Geology Department and Western Washington University. This fund will last in perpetuity in honor of Dave and the impact he made on the lives of hundreds of Western students.

For 31 years Dave Engebretson was both a Geology Professor and life mentor to many undergraduate and graduate students at Western Washington University. Dave achieved professional success despite his lifelong blindness. His disability was an inspiration to his students, and Western and the Geology Department were extremely supportive throughout his career. In the later years of his career at Western Dave developed creative curricula including courses titled "Hearing the Mind's Eye", "Climate Related Geologic Hazards", "Sounds on Earth", "Interpretation of Geologic Data", and "Outdoor Science Learning Resources".

To honor Dave’s achievements The David C. Engebretson Scholarly Activity Award has been established. Dave inspired many Geology students through his encouragement, mentorship, and friendship. The Geology Department is encouraging alumni to honor Dave by making a gift to The David C. Engebretson Scholarly Activity Award fund. The Geology Department looks forward to hearing from those of you who love Dave and thank you in advance for your generosity.

Robert and Bess Christman Scholarship Endowment

The Geology Department is proud to announce the Robert and Bess Christman Scholarship Endowment. This award was established by gifts from the friends, family and colleagues of Robert and Bess Christman.

Bob and Bess Christman were renowned for their kindness, generosity and service to others. Bob was a beloved colleague, teacher and mentor in the Geology department at Western Washington University. He served as the department chair and was known for his love of teaching, leading many field trips and workshops.

Bob and Bess were both heavily involved in their community, distinguished by the mayor of Bellingham as Citizens of the Year in 2000. This scholarship is an extension of their legacy, with the goal to support students who will make a positive impact on others.

Scholarships and Awards that could use your support

The David A. Rahm Scholarship

This award is given annually to a Geology major who has demonstrated interest, accomplishment, and understanding of the principles of geomorphology. 

The Department of Geology Kurt Schmierer Memorial Scholarship

The Department of Geology generally offers the Kurt Schmierer Memorial Scholarship.  Funds are available through donations from family and friends of the late Kurt Schmierer.  Kurt received his B.S. and M.S. from Western and was a dedicated geologist and outdoor enthusiast.  Kurt's family and friends felt he would be most pleased to be able to assist fellow geology students to pursue their educational goals.

The Department of Geology Undergraduate Tuition/Fee Waiver

A merit award to support undergraduates.

The James L. Talbot Scholarship

This award is given annually to a student who is declared major in any of the specialties of the geological sciences who can demonstrate both academic excellence and financial need.

The Antoni "Jontek" Wodzicki Scholarship

This award is given annually to a student who is majoring in any of the specialties of the geological sciences, with preference given to students studying in fields related to economic geology, mineralogy, and/or who are attending summer or spring field camp. Also, special consideration will be given to students from developing country.

The Myrl E. Beck, Jr. Scholarship

This award will provide partial support of research leading to a Senior Thesis. The award will only be available to students in their final year of study.  Research should involve paleomagnetism and/or tectonics, and ideally should require use of the equipment in the Pacific Northwest Paleomagnetism Laboratory housed in the Department of Geology.

Geology Department Advance for Research

The Department of Geology will generally draws on its donation fund held by the Western Foundation to grant small advances for research expenses to undergraduate and graduate students in the department.

Christopher Anne Suczek Memorial Scholarship

This award is given annually to a Geology graduate student, particularly for applicants in the following fields of study: paleontology, sedimentology, or stratigraphy.

Elias Austin Bond Graduate Fellowship

The Graduate Fellowship will support a graduate student whose research emphasis does not fall within the guidelines of other named fellowships.

Steven and Edith Grega Memorial Fellowship

In recognition of the outstanding education she received at Western Washington University, Dr. Kathleen Digges and her husband established this endowment in memory of her parents, Dr. Steve and Edith Grega. Dr. Steve Grega, born to modest means in rural Appalachia, overcame many barriers to earn his medical degree.

Dr. Kathleen Digges received her Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from Western Washington University. She later went on to study medicine, enjoying a career in General Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynecology for many years. She believed her positive experiences at Western Washington University helped build the foundation for her academic and career success.

Robert Digges earned his Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, at Virginia Polytechnic Institution and University of Virginia. He built successful careers in construction, real estate development, banking and the electronics manufacturing industry.

Both share a deep commitment to the value of education.

The Graduate Fellowship will support a graduate student who has a special interest in engineering geology.

Peter Misch Metamorphic Memorial Fellowship

In addition to the Steven and Edith Grega Memorial Fellowship, Dr. Kathleen Digges and her husband established the Peter Misch Metamorphic Memorial Fellowship in recognition of the outstanding education she received at Western Washington University, and the support and mentoring she received from Dr. Ross Ellis and Dr. Randall (Scott) Babcock.

Hans Peter Misch (“Pete” to his students) was a world renowned geologist, teacher, mountaineer and artist. He supervised thesis projects for more than 125 students and mapped much of the geology of the North Cascades under a series of GSA grants.

The graduate fellowship will be awarded to a graduate student who has a special interest in metamorphic petrology.