Professor Emeritus Dick Beerbower dies
October 5, 2010Tweet
James “Dick” Beerbower, 83, professor emeritus of geological sciences, died Monday, Sept. 27, after an illness, He received his AB degree from the University of Colorado and his PhD from the University of Chicago and joined the faculty at Binghamton in 1969. He retired in 1993.
Though he had a successful academic career and served as department chair for several years, Beerbower’s wife, Bobbie Friedman, former director of the Career Development Center, said his life was “about more than his professional endeavors.”
“Music was a constant in Dick’s life,” she said. “He didn’t know about music; he just loved it. He listened to everything from Bach to Beethoven, Carter, Adams, Dylan, the Beatles. It was a source of great comfort to him during his illness.” Beerbower was also an avid fan of contemporary English language satirist and novelist Terry Pratchett and “read his books endlessly,” Friedman said.
William Stein, associate professor of biological sciences, said Beerbower stepped across disciplinary boundaries, teaching a course on how ecosystems became established with Stein for more than 10 years, and with Stein’s predecessor before that.
“I viewed him as being a major influence when I arrived,” said Stein, who noted that Beerbower had a great, not narrow, interest in the importance of ecosystems. “He was a scholar of very high order, interested in big ideas in paleontology and with a tremendous wealth of knowledge.”
Beerbower was a very good friend, said Stein, and “a very good field person who liked seeing rocks and thinking about what they meant.” Stein also did field work with Beerbower, traveling to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec with him. “He spent a lot of time talking about these early ecosystems,” he said.
Stephen T. Hasiotis, associate professor of geology at the University of Kansas, met Beerbower in the 1990s. As a student, he had read many of Beerbower’s seminal papers on continental ecosystems, vertebrate paleontology and the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems.
“He introduced himself to me and he talked to me about my research and how it is one of the missing links in the work he had been doing for years in continental ecosystems,” Hasiotis said. “As we were talking about our mutual interests in research I remember saying to myself, ‘holy crap, that’s the Beerbower I have read about!’”
Hasiotis kept in close touch with Beerbower from then on, conducting field research with him and visiting Binghamton to give talks. “Dick was a great friend, mentor and colleague, who I will sorely miss,” he said.
Crediting Beerbower with making him a better scientist and person, Hasiotis said Beerbower “was a gentle intellectual giant with a heart equal to, if not greater than his intellect. He was the sort of man who was gracious enough to approach young, upstart paleontologists like me to relate how he found my work fascinating and refreshing, and encouraging me to continue on in a direction not recognized by others.”
Beerbower is survived by his wife, three daughters and a son, four grandchildren, and a sister and brother-in-law. Two of his sons-in-law earned master’s degrees in geology from Binghamton University.
A gathering in his memory will be held Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Doubletree Hotel, 1515 Rhode Island Ave., NW, Washington, DC. Memorial gifts may be made to the Binghamton University Foundation Memorial Account #10351. Note “in memory of Dick Beerbower” in the memo section of your check and mail to: Binghamton University Foundation, P.O. Box 6005, Binghamton, NY 13902-6005. Those wishing to send condolences may do so to: Bobbie Friedman, 550 N St. SW, Apt S-102, Washington, DC 20024.