In Remembrance of Department of Geology and Environmental Science Emeritus Faculty Dr. Bud Rollins

Bud received his Bachelors degree in geology from Colgate in 1960, and from there he went to the University of Wisconsin for his Masters and Columbia University for his Ph.D.  He joined the University of Pittsburgh after teaching at Antioch College for a year.  His interests and expertise were both broad and deep, and included invertebrate paleontology (especially gastropods and mollusks), stratigraphy, paleoecology, and geoarcheology.  A dive into his papers during his time at Pitt shows that his interests led him to explore and contribute to many fields. His work on mollusks and gastropods resulted in more general paleoecological studies of invertebrate communities and their relationship to sea level variations. This led to his developing some of the fundamental concepts of sequence stratigraphy that are now widely used in the sedimentological studies and in the petroleum industry (Rollins et al., 1979; Bush and Rollins, 1984).  Through his continued work on mollusks and gastropods (which he loved - his email address was, Bud was able to get involved in geoarcheological studies, often with his colleague Jack Donahue.  One notable study was his use of mollusks in archeological sites to help develop a chronology for the onset of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, a major driver of short time scale climate oscillations (Rollins et al., 1986; Sandweiss et al., 1997).  From the late 1980s onward, Bud carried out field studies at St. Catherines Island in Georgia, including investigations of intertidal communities and in vivo pyritization of clams.  Through all of his time at Pitt, he was always happy to collaborate with others to develop new methods and interdisciplinary approaches to geologic and environmental problems.

Bud was also much loved as a teacher, advisor and mentor.  He was known for his diligent preparation yet easy-going manner of lecture delivery that kept students interested and enthralled.  Professor Emeritus Thomas Anderson considered Bud to be “… an inspirational teacher who always heightened student perceptions of the relations among geology, ecology, paleontology and life in general.” Prof. Michael Bikerman remembers “Bud … encouraged participation by students in a warm and welcoming manner, making each feel important.”  His graduate students also remember an inspiring mentor; John Harper, Director of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey until his recent retirement, recalls “From the first moment I met him he was encouraging and helpful and I actually felt more certain that I had a future in paleontology as a result.  I learned more about fossils, evolution, paleoecology, biostratigraphy, and the art of the pun from him in our few years as professor and student than I had in all my previous years of schooling.”  Bud served as Undergraduate Advisor for many years, and cared deeply about improving the lives and careers of undergraduate Geology majors.  In the mid-1990s, Bud found that many undergraduates were developing their own majors focused on environmental issues.  This led him to work with us, Tom Anderson, and Jack Donahue to develop the Environmental Studies program, which is now a bulwark of the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. Bud also served with distinction as Department Chair after Prof. Anderson stepped down from that position, and helped guide the department through some very challenging times.

Throughout his career Bud was a stellar and welcoming colleague.  Eminent paleontologist Niles Eldridge of the American Museum of Natural History, who with Steven J. Gould proposed the then-revolutionary evolutionary concept of punctuated equilibrium, remembers “We first met when he entered graduate school at Columbia in 1963—when I was a still a junior in college. He became my older brother and taught me the basics of how to approach rocks and fossils, in the lab and in the field.”  This continued through his time as a colleague at Pitt, as Dr. Charlie Jones writes “He was a wonderfully enthusiastic, good-natured, and kind man who always brought a joyous energy into the room. And he was generous with his time.  I particularly appreciated the time he took to show me a tremendous set of fossil localities around his family home in upstate New York.” Tom Anderson recalls an experience that many of us had with Bud at his boyhood home in Hamilton, NY: “I, in addition to many of Bud's students, visited with him and Judy at his family home in New York.  We drank lots of booze and then wobbled outside to watch hundreds of bats emerge from his attic!  Very much fun.”  Dr. Edward McCord of the Pitt Honors College writes “I spent a great deal of time with Bud and Jude in Florida and New York in recent years and will always treasure them among the greatest friends of my life.” We also recall spending field time with Bud at St. Catherines Island, which included him indulging our 4-year-old daughter by allowing her to walk with lemurs and dig up clams in alligator-infested swamps.  Time with Bud and Jude was always a joy.  Bud Rollins touched hundreds of lives in a positive way and will always be remembered as a valued colleague and friend.

Prof. Brian Stewart

Prof. Rosemary Capo

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