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Alumni Newsletter: July '08 to July '09

by Tomas Feiniger, PhD '64

Formerly I thought that regional geologists retired chiefly because they desired to move on to other endeavours; perhaps to travel, to write, to pursue a hobby, or to appreciate better their growing families as generational layers are added. It was unthinkable that mere physical restraints could be a cause. Well, I was wrong. My knees hurt, my eyesight now requires spectacles and my stamina is far from what it once was. I did some regional mapping (my specialty – see below) and gravity surveying this past summer (2008), but far less than in all those earlier years that began in 1956. Days that once were from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. are now 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at best!

Taking leave of my Département de Géologie here at Université Laval, scheduled for September, 2008, has been pushed into the future. I have been asked to stay on to teach two courses (Minéralogie in the fall session, and Minéralogie Optique – my favourite – in the winter session), filling in for a professor on sabbatical. I accepted on the condition that I could keep my spacious office with three large openable windows. Thus, at 73, I carry on.

Regional geologic mapping has provided me with an extraordinary career that begot maps in southern New England, the Andes, the Québec Appalachians, and the Canadian Shield. It has been a challenging calling: snakes, scorpions, ticks, cantankerous mules, bears, blackflies, setting up camps in rain, lighting fires with wet wood, downpours and flash floods, blizzards and bone-chilling cold, parched deserts with an unforgiving sun... Nevertheless, the colossal variety of it all proved to be a template for an eclectic and physically active life spent chiefly out-of-doors. Nothing to regret there. Indeed, it is too bad that regional mapping has fallen from favour, a victim of the contemporary intellectual and financial climate. Mapping is held today to be “low-tech” and bereft of immediate monetary rewards. The confection of a regional geologic map (quadrangle, county, or province) is a time-consuming process. Even with the occasional spin-off petrological or structural paper, mapping leads only to widely spaced publications, a situation of little value to those in academia persuing tenure.

Yes, it is an opportune time for me to hang up the hammer, hand lens, and Brunton, and to shelve the boots. Know thyself is inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi. Effectively, I know myself well enough to realize that I’d have been unable to endure a lifetime facing a computer screen.

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