October 31, 2002

Rhodes Honored With Institute Medal

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The American Geological Institute (AGI) awarded former president and professor emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes with its most prestigious award — the Ian Campbell Medal — last Sunday in Denver, Colorado.

The AGI was founded in 1948 as a nonprofit federation of 40 other geoscientific and professional associations.

It represents more than 120,000 geoscientists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. The award commemorates the memory of Campbell who was president of the AGI in 1961 and is given to those who best represent the late geologist’s work and accomplishments.

Rhodes was Cornell’s ninth president from 1977 to 1995. During his 18 year tenure, funding for research at the University tripled, while the number of women and minorities doubled among the faculty.

With his retirement, Rhodes returned to the field of geosciences as professor emeritus. “Deep down I’ve been a geologist on loan,” Rhodes said.

Warren Allmon, the director of the Paleontological Research Institution located here in Ithaca, said, “this award is a perfect description of him. [Rhodes’] career is a testament to the whole field [of geosciences]. He has had a brilliant career.”

Rhodes has had a long career in the sciences.

He was the chair of former President Ronald Reagan’s National Science Board and currently serves on George W. Bush’s President’s Educational Policy Advisory Committee. He also is a present member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Research Committee. He has served as chair for the American Council of Education and has been a member of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

In response to receiving the award, Rhodes said, “I’m really grateful because I was away from geology for so very long.”

Bryan Isacks, chair of department of earth and atmospheric sciences, said of Rhodes, “As well as being president of Cornell for many years and being one of the most beloved presidents, he has continued to have an impact on the field of geological studies.”

Rhodes has done much in the field of geology. He occasionally serves as a guest lecturer at other universities and has written over 70 scientific articles and five books. He is in the process of writing a sixth on the influences and evolution of Darwinism and is editing an older book for its second edition release. He has also been a consultant for various BBC television and radio programs such as “The Planet Earth” and “Science, Philosophy, and Religion.”

“He has brought paleontology, geology and evolution to a broader audience,” Allmon said. One of Rhodes’ fellow medalists — now a senior lecturer at the University of Michigan — credited Rhodes with inspiring him to enter the field of geosciences.

Rhodes was born in Warwickshire, England and received three degrees from the University of Birmingham. Additionally, Rhodes was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Illinois, the dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and then vice president of Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan.

Archived article by Michael Margolis