January 18, 2013
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|Gries, Dr. John C., Professor of Geology at Wichita State University for over 40 years passed away last Friday following a short illness. A teacher known to thousands of general studies students and many of WSU’s finest athletes through his popular Introductory Geol. 300 class on Energy, Resources, and the Environment; he will be particularly remembered by the many Geology majors he mentored and encouraged in their careers. John was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota where his father, Paul Gries, was a long-time, highly- regarded professor of geology at the South Dakota School of Mines. He was introduced to well site geology at the age of five and accompanied many of his dad’s field classes. Dr. Gries’s education included a BS in Engineering and a Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Wyoming and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. His dissertation centered on mapping portions of the northern Mexico region near Ojinaga —work which still ranks as the definitive map of that area, perhaps in part due to the fact that drug cartels and smugglers have prevented access to any other geologists. Summers at UT provided a diversity of experience working for US Geological Survey (including a bit of mule skinning in Idaho) and surface mapping for Humble Oil. He joined the faculty at Wichita State in August 1971. At WSU he taught in a variety of fields, with specialties in Structural Geology, Ground Water Management and Geo-tectonics; but virtually all WSU Geol. grads will best remember their five weeks at Field Camp based in Colorado which he led for most all of that 40 years. Known for his expertise with a Dutch oven and his seemingly unlimited delicious menus produced over the campfire - come snow, rain, or dark of night, he also got to know field camp students on a personal level not usually found in the University environment. He receives regular up-dates from former students throughout the world- - and downtown Wichita. He served multiple terms as Department Chairman. His teaching and research have been recognized by numerous awards including George Lewis Teaching award, selection for the two-year Berg fellowship to support his fracture studies in the Silverton caldera, and the recent 2013 Teacher of the Year award from the Kansas Geological Society. He also took second place in the highly coveted Geology Society of American National Meeting Campfire Cook-off competition. Besides his teaching career, John has been very involved in a number of other activities: He is founder and president of the Great Plains Transportation Museum, located on East Douglas near the old Union Station (look for the steam Locomotive on the over-pass); participated in a number of steam technology shows, and is an active member of the Great Plains Blacksmith Association and sometimes Mountain man reenactor. He has been Technical Advisor to the City Manager of Wichita on Groundwater Pollution and worked on pollution issues at McConnell Air Force Base. His work and interests have taken him at one time or another to all of the Rocky Mountain states, many of the other states, and the occasional jaunt to Morocco, Ethiopia and the East African Rift, often in the company of his long-term companion and wife of 13 years Toni Willis-Jackman, a former diplomat and now lecturer in Environmental Geology at WSU. He had no immediate plans for retirement and was actively planning the next year’s field season. John was predeceased by his parents, Paul and Virginia Gries, and his younger brother, Don. He is survived by his wife, Toni, his daughter, Lynn Gries, who practices and teaches trauma surgery at the University of Arizona School of Medicine in Tucson; his first wife and friend, Robbie Gries; his sister-in-law, Neella Gries, and two nephews, Nathan and Mark. A public visitation will take place, 4:00 – 6:00 P.M., Thursday, January 24, 2013, Downing & Lahey Mortuary East, Wichita, KS. Celebration of Life will be Saturday, January 26 at the WSU Geology Department, Room 101 at 2:00 PM. Memorials have been established at: the Great Plains Transportation Museum, 700 E. Douglas Ave., Wichita, KS 67202; and the Wichita State University Foundation, 1845 Fairmount St., Wichita, KS 67260.