DSA Awardee 2006

2006 Gerald M. and Susan T. Friedman Distinguished Service Award

Presented to Robert Nathan Ginsburg

Citation by Kennard B. Bork

When most geologists think of Robert N. GINSBURG, they think of a world renowned carbonate sedimentologist, and a friend and savior of coral reefs. When his students think of him they recall (1) infamous "death marches" across the Andros Island tidal flats, (2) a guy who will save a few research dollars by having them risk life and limb carrying a boat down a steep slope so as to avoid a launching fee, and (3) a smiling mentor who asks them to perform at the highest levels, while he shows the way through probing questions and his own hard work. But what do we, in the history of geology, think of Dr. Ginsburg as a contributor to our discipline?

The fact that we are celebrating our own "Rock Star" as the first winner of our Division's Gerald M. and Susan T. Friedman Distinguished Service Award speaks volumes. Bob Ginsburg is one of those "idea persons" who constantly generates important concepts for the good of the order. Probably the most visible of his productive brainstorms is the "ROCK STAR" series of biographies, produced by the Geological Society of America and appearing in GSA Today. The series has been a major success since its inception in 1995. It has demonstrated the power of historical vision to educate a readership, while illuminating major contributors to geology's past, in a non-hagiographic manner.

Another legacy from the fertile mind of Robert Ginsburg is the idea of our highly successful History of Geology student receptions. They bring younger people into our fold, through the enticement of genuine camaraderie. You will notice that Bob is a senior person with a young mind. He is constantly attuned to teaching and involving others in exciting endeavors.

With youthful thinking often comes a sense of humor. Why not have University of Miami students celebrate a dour 18th-century Scotsman by sporting brightly colored tee-shirts? And why not carry the light-hearted concept to staid GSA meetings, as Bob did in New Orleans a decade ago, when many of us wore campaign buttons celebrating James Hutton?

Along with joviality, Bob has a serious drive to inform. While Chair of our Division in 1995, he generated a fine symposium on James Dana and the founding of the American Journal of Science.

This being the History of Geology Division, I should offer just a few tidbits concerning our honoree's past. He is a Texan, transported to Illinois for undergraduate training at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and then graduate work at the University of Chicago (Ph. D., 1953). He has been associated with the University of Miami, Florida, specifically the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, since the mid-1950s.

Without seeking out the levers of power, Bob seems to find himself deeply involved with the inner workings of organizations. He has been a significant force within GSA. I should report that Bob has served as a member of GSA Council, as Annual Meeting Co-Chair, and on numerous committees, such as those on Penrose Conferences, Nominations, Young Scientists, Honorary Fellows, and our Division's Mary Rabbitt Committee. He has even served on a GSA Committee on Committees (a "meta-committee"). Outside of GSA, he was a long-time member of the U. S. National Committee on the History of Geology. One might say that he is "committed."

I know that these citations should be brief, but I tried to obtain some "tell-all tales" from students that would illuminate our honoree's true nature. Alas, my spies just say things like "He has inspired and amazed me every moment that I have known him" or "Everyone has a very high opinion of him." Boring stuff! One scary story is that his students "live in terror of his displeasure"! Just like authors of "Rock Star" sketches! I could, of course, tell you about his occasional requesting of input after the "in" has been "put," but in fact, one of my spies celebrated his amazing memory. Also applauded was a key attribute that we are acknowledging today -- he is "an incredibly wonderful mentor." And we mustn't forget his ability to soft-talk others into doing things. Like convincing a pilot of a major airline to fly low over Yucatan so his students could see the karst -- OR cajoling professional geologists into writing informative historical articles.

In sum, a student said it best: "He is truly one of a kind and it is an honor to work with him." Please applaud the distinguished service of Robert N. Ginsburg...

Response by Robert N. Ginsburg

Ginsburg at work

Photo-documentation of a true "Rock Star" at 'work.'

First I want to thank Ken Bork for his deft and perceptive citation, a model that combines both my contributions and my warts with his special wit. And like all thorough historians, Ken did the necessary research from primary sources and spies from the ranks of my students and associates along with his own inside experience as an author of a Rock Star Profile and member of the editorial committee.

Our Division is a like an open extended family that maintains strong connections even though we only meet annually. Becoming a member is as easy as participating in a barn raising, you just turn up and take a place where needed. When I became a member I noticed that the Division needed younger members; how to attract them was the problem. The Rock Star Series was my first answer thanks to the encouragement of L'o Laporte. By focusing on the formative years in the lives of distinguished earth scientists, I thought brief profiles would provide encouragement to young scientists and might also inspire an interest in history of geology. Now I am especially proud that nearly 30 profiles have appeared in GSA TODAY and are on line waiting patiently to be discovered by wandering web surfers. None of those brief biographies could have appeared without the special efforts of the authors to whom we are all grateful. These authors deserve special recognition for their thorough research, but also for accepting with patience the often numerous suggestions of the editorial committee. I am one of the leaders in providing excessive advice to authors, as Ken Bork so gently explained. During the first decade of Rock Star profiles, the Editorial Committee included L'o Laporte, Ken Bork, the late Ellis Yochelson, Robert H. Dott, Jr., Gerard Middleton, Michele Aldrich, Peter von Bitter, James Natland, and Jerry Winterer.

My interest in our Division's outreach to young scientists also led to the idea of hosting a reception for students, again a collaboration with L'o Laporte. Thanks to the leadership and involvement of our members, that event is thriving. It involves a winning combination of food, drink, conversation and door prizes. Another example of how our 'family' can join together in outreach.

I am especially pleased and proud of this recognition from our HoG family. You have not only permitted me to initiate outreach activities, but enthusiastically joined in making them successful. I am indeed honored to be the first awardee of the Friedman Distinguished Service Award named for my longtime friends and colleagues Gerry and Sue Friedman. I extend my appreciation for this Award to the Nominating Committee and the Management Board, and especially to one of our family's matriarchs Michele Aldrich.