White House to honor OSU professor emeritus


CORVALLIS - President Bush this week named G. Brent Dalrymple, professor emeritus and former dean of Oregon State University's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, as one of eight of the nation's leading scientists and engineers.

Dalrymple will receive the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony on March 14.

Dalrymple was recognized for work in physical sciences, generating advances in scientific theory and development and leading to new technologies. The presidential medal is the nation's highest honor for researchers who make major impacts in fields of science and engineering through career-long, ground-breaking achievements and on the individual disciplines for which the awards are given.

"It's a pleasant surprise," Dalrymple said during a telephone interview from his home in Corvallis.

After retiring from OSU in 2001, Dalrymple "spent a few years finishing up my projects and since then my wife and I have been having more fun than two people should be allowed to have."

His last professional project was a book published last year by Stanford University Press. "Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and Its Cosmic Surroundings" explores the evidence scientists have used to determine the age of the universe and describes the way the research was gathered.

Dalrymple, who had been at OSU for six and one-half years, started his career in 1959. His work has included studies on the reversals of the Earth's magnetic field and plate tectonics, the origin of the Hawaiian Islands, the evolution of volcanoes and lunar geology.

The U.S. Geological Survey credits Dalrymple and his colleagues Richard Doell and Allan Cox, with building the foundation for what became a revolution in the earth sciences - plate tectonics.

Dalrymple earned his doctorate in geology from the University of California at Berkeley and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is former president of the American Geophysical Union. He also holds an undergraduate degree in geology and an honorary doctorate from Occidental College in Los Angeles.

During his tenure at OSU, the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences made significant progress under his leadership, although he remains reluctant to claim credit. "Deans don't really accomplish anything," he said. "It's the work of the faculty, students and staff that drives the college."

Among the more significant changes were boosts in number of tenure-track faculty, upgrading the Environmental Computing Center, establishment of the W.M. Keck Collaboratory to gather information about the composition of the rocks of the sea floor and of sea water from the oceans of the world and delivery of a new OSU research vessel, the 54-foot Elakha.

While Dalrymple still keeps abreast of science and technology he has no desire to go back into research or consulting.

"I did that for 40 years and had a great time. Now it's time for the younger people. I've been skiing, playing golf, and I've taken up flying again."

Dalrymple also has been enjoying time with family and working in his small wood shop.

Congress established the National Medal of Science in 1959 - the year Dalrymple started his professional career.