Department History | Trinity University

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Department History

PaleoRoy, a museum quality replica skeleton of a saber-tooth cat, was a gift from Evelyn Oefinger ’82 in honor and memory of Ed Roy, longtime geosciences faculty member and Trinity administrator.


Trinity’s Department of Geology was founded in 1960, when Donald McGannon, Jr., a sedimentary petrologist, came to Trinity from the University of Minnesota. In 1963, Edward Schleh (University of Washington; stratigrapher) joined the faculty.  That year, the major in Geology was formally established, and in 1965, the department awarded its first Bachelor of Arts degrees in geology.

Edward Roy, Jr. (Ohio State University; paleontologist) came to Trinity in 1966, and Robert Freed (University of Michigan; mineralogist) became the fourth faculty member of the department in 1968. Following Schleh's death in the spring of 1974, Walter Coppinger (Miami University, Ohio; structural geologist) joined the faculty in the fall semester.

In 1980, the Imogene and Harold D. Herndon Distinguished Professor of Geology position was endowed by the Herndons, and Perry Roehl (University of Wisconsin; sedimentologist) became the first Herndon Distinguished Professor and the department's fifth faculty member in 1981. McGannon died in the summer of 1983 and Diane Smith (Rice University; igneous petrologist) joined the department in 1984.

In 1986 Ed Roy became Dean of the Division of Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering, and Glenn Kroeger (Stanford University; geophysicist) joined the department as the sixth member. In 1987, Roy was appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs.

After Perry Roehl's retirement in 1995, Thomas Gardner (University of Cincinnati; Quaternary geology) joined the faculty as the second Herndon Distinguished Professor. That same year, the department's facilities in Marrs McLean Science Center were renovated and the department name was changed from Geology to Geosciences to reflect the growing diversity of our discipline and curriculum.  In 1999, Bob Freed retired and Ed Roy returned to the department as the first Gertrude and Walter Pyron Professor of Geology.

Kathleen Surpless (Stanford University; sedimentologist) joined the department in 2004, the same year that Smith became Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. Roy retired from the department in 2005, and Coppinger retired in 2008. Benjamin Surpless (Stanford University; structural geologist) joined the department in 2008. Dan Lehrmann (University of Kansas; paleontologist) joined the department as the second Pyron Professor of Geology in the summer of 2010, and in the fall of 2017, Kurt Knesel joined the department as a Visiting Assistant Professor.

Today, the department is thriving with more than 30 majors. In 50 years, the Trinity Department of Geosciences has awarded more than 375 degrees, with more than 60 students who minored in the discipline. To date, more than 25 of our graduates have completed Ph.D.s and many more are currently in Ph.D. programs.