Dr. Katherine Nelson's Acceptance Speech
Excerpts from Katherine Greacen Nelson's acceptance speech upon receiving the Neil Minor Award from the National Association of Geology Teachers at Toronto, Ontario in 1978.
"Throughout my career as a geologist - starting as a freshman geology student - I have encountered not only fine geologists, but some of the nicest people in the world. My goal has been to emulate them - to encourage my students as they encouraged me; to help others see what a remarkable planet we live on, as they showed me the wonders of the earth; to instill in budding geologists the principles that were taught to me."
"Who first interested me in geology? My father suggested that I take it, and from my first class at Vassar, with Thomas M. Hills, I was fascinated. He and Scott Warthin opened my eyes to geology and love for our earth, and made me feel "if these are geologists, this is what I want to be." Graduating in the depression, what was there for me to do but get a job at Macy's for $13 a week, or continue to study? They encouraged me to go on to graduate school, and two more fine men, Albert O. Hayes and Helgi Johnson, welcomed me to the Geology Department at Rutgers, in my home town, and eventually encouraged me to work for a doctorate, which I received in 1938 - the first Ph.D. in Geology at Rutgers."
"That led to my first job, at Milwaukee-Downer College, where I was a one-woman department of Geology and Geography. There were only two other active geologists in Milwaukee then - Ira Edwards and Elmer Nelson, both at the Milwaukee Public Museum. But there was a livewire group of amateurs, calling themselves the Wisconsin Geological Society, which welcomed me into membership, and I welcomed their companionship and interest. We had a good relationship for many years. The greatest gem I found in that society was Frank H. Nelson, my husband and one of my best boosters. Professional contacts came when I went to the Tri-State Field Conference."
"Then one day in the spring of 1939 - nearly 40 years ago - something really important happened. I received an airmail, special delivery letter. It was from Ed Clark, at that time teaching geology at Drury College, later to be Missouri's State Geologist. He was secretary-treasurer of the Association of College Geology Teachers, and he urged me to join them at Cornell College at Mount Vernon, Iowa, for their annual meeting in May. I leaped at the opportunity, although I had no idea what an important influence that meeting was to have on me. As the youngest, newest teacher there, I drank in their words of wisdom eagerly. But it wasn't just the talks and discussions that were helpful."
"Each of those men was as ready to help me as if I had been one of his own students. I had planned to scout a field trip for my Historical Geology class in the Baraboo area on my way back to Wisconsin - never having been to Devil's Lake or the Dells. I had the topo sheets with me, and before I knew it, I was bent over them with Monta Wing of Beloit, Lincoln Thiesmeyer of Lawrence, and David Delo of Knox. They were making the maps and telling me what to look for. Each spring I looked forward to those helpful meetings."
"Another man who influenced me profoundly during my first five years of teaching was John R. Ball of Northwestern, who preached the importance of research, and who opened the door to my employment in the oil industry in 1943. That was a valuable experience, which made me a better teacher when I returned to Milwaukee three years later."
"I'd love to go on and on naming all the geologists who have helped and inspired me, but I must move on to two other points. As the first woman recipient of the Neil Miner award, I have a unique opportunity to make some remarks along this line. Well, one in 26 is close to 4%, and since for years woe percent of women continues to rise, undoubtedly there will be others receiving awards. I am deeply honored to have received it this year, but professionally, I think of myself and I hope others do too - as a geologist, not as a woman geologist, anymore than I think of another as a man geologist. We are all in this together, and that is what I have appreciated all along - the easy acceptance I have received."
"I have and have had some good women friends who are geologists, all along the way. Those who probably influenced me most were Margaret Morrey, a Vassar instructor; Anne Burgess who was curator of the geology museum at Rutgers and secretary of the geology department; and Maria Spencer, Mary Louise Rhodes and Louise Fillman to name a few petroleum geologists. There are more women professors now, and there is no reason we should not rate as highly with our students as have the male professors, if we have our students interests at heart."
"And there is the key word - the student! Where would any of us geology teachers be if we did not have eager and responsive young students? It's our students who carry the reputation of a department to other schools and industries. The biggest thing this award means to me is that perhaps I have helped my students to have confidence that they can go out and do a good professional job. They can, they do, and I am proud of them."
"where would any of us geology teachers be if we did not have eager and responsible young students. It's our students who carry the reputation of a department to other schools and industries."
".....perhaps I have helped my students to have confidence that they can go out and do a good professional job. They can, they do, and I am proud of them."
K.G. Nelson, 1978, Jour. Geol. Education, v. 26, p. 20