By Dr. Margaret (Peg) M. Yacobucci, Professor, Department of Geology, Bowling Green University
Paleontologist Richard D. Hoare passed away on March 27, 2018 at the age of 90. Dick was an emeritus professor of Geology at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) and my valued colleague. He began teaching at BGSU in 1957 and served as department chair in Geology three times between 1967 to 1984, and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1984 to 1988. While he officially retired in 1990, Dick remained active in paleontological research until 2010.
I’ve been reflecting on Dick’s contributions to our department and university, to our students, and to the field of paleontology. Dick serves as a model for how to be a successful and highly productive scientist without abandoning students, colleagues, family, and friends. His career illustrates the many ways in which faculty members can positively impact those around them.
When I arrived at BGSU as a new faculty member in 1999, Dick was already nine years into retirement but still coming into his office every day to work. Dick taught me the effectiveness of steady, consistent effort. Over his career, he authored over 100 publications, primarily on Paleozoic marine invertebrates. (He had a special affection for Pennsylvanian-aged mollusks and was a world expert on fossil chitons.) Dick achieved this high level of productivity not by prioritizing his research over everything else in his life—his teaching, his students, or his family—but by simply working every day, consistently. He never lost his fascination for the fossil specimens he studied and enjoyed each day’s efforts.
Dick had a strong impact on me, as a new junior colleague, and on my students. I asked some of them for their memories of Dick. Here are what two students had to say:
“My fondest memory includes going to his lab to learn how to ‘smoke’ tiny ammonites. I remember the smell of pipe smoke, the twinkle of delight in his eyes, and the calm, gentle instruction in the art of dusting the fossils of which he was a master.”
“He was such a gentle man. I remember he made me feel as if I could ‘do this paleo stuff’. Gave me emotional strength. He was such a kind mentor. I of course was star struck.”
These comments make clear how valuable a few words of encouragement or a few hours of help can be for students. I think we faculty often feel we have to sink huge amounts of time into mentoring our students to have any impact, when in reality, the right words at the right time can make all the difference. I also don’t think it’s an accident that the two students quoted above were women. Dick had an intuitive understanding of “imposter syndrome” and knew how to boost students’ confidence by treating them as fellow paleontologists.
For my part, Dick was not intrusive as I took over as BGSU’s invertebrate paleontologist, but was always available for advice and support. He toured me around BGSU’s fossil collections, shared his books with me, and took me to a local field site (where he showed me my first rostroconch!). Many paleontologists sought me out at conferences to ask after him. Through his lifelong friendships, Dick managed to “introduce” me to these senior colleagues without even being there!
Dick’s strong commitments to collegiality, service, and giving back were another lesson for me. As department chair for 11 years and in his work in the Provost’s office, Dick demonstrated the importance of stepping up and working for the benefit of one’s colleagues, department, and university. And Dick’s service to the Paleontological Society, serving as Journal of Paleontology editor from 1985 to 1988 and a technical editor for much longer, made clear that we each have an obligation to support the larger paleontological community.
Dick graduated from high school in 1945 and was promptly drafted into the U.S. Army, serving in postwar Europe for several years. He was then able to use the G.I. Bill to go to college. Because of these experiences, Dick really understood the importance of financial support to open doors for people and provide opportunities they would not otherwise have. Dick saw a need in our department for financial support for graduate student research. Existing departmental grants came with strings, e.g., only for economic geology, only for field research. So Dick generously established the Richard D. Hoare Research Scholarship, which currently provides up to $1,500 per year for graduate student research, without any restrictions on its use. The Hoare fund has been essential to the success of many of our graduate students—yet another example of the ways in which Dick positively impacted our department.
My academic training at research-intensive universities presented me with one way to be a successful scientist: devote all your waking hours to your research, avoid all “distractions,” be confrontational in person and in print, treat others as competitors to be beaten, and forget about work-life balance. It wasn’t until I arrived at BGSU that I saw modeled for me another way of being a scientist. It is possible to be kind and encouraging, a thoughtful teacher and colleague, active in the community and devoted to one’s family, and still be research-productive. Dick’s lifetime of work shows us that there are many ways a scientist can positively impact others and the field.
Dr. Peg Yacobucci
Professor of Geology
Bowling Green State University