Stanford University
Pam Matson at podium

Graduating in an ‘Era of Responsibility’

BY Miles Traer
ClockJune 17, 2015

Graduates of the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences are uniquely positioned to help meet the resource needs of a growing population while preserving the life support systems of our planet, according to Pamela Matson, Chester Naramore Dean and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Professor of Environmental Studies.

“We live in an era of responsibility,” she told nearly a thousand graduates, friends and family members at the school’s diploma ceremony on June 14. “What we do—what you do—will determine the world in which our children and grandchildren live.”

As our global population grows toward 10 billion and consumption increases, Matson noted that there are many needs–for energy, water, food, and other resources–that will need to be met. "Meeting those needs while sustaining our planet's life support systems is crucial," she said. “There is an awful lot to do if we are to find sustainable resources for the world’s population."

Graduate standing
Credit: Stacy Geiken

Fortunately, Matson told the graduates, their education has equipped them to take on some of humanity’s greatest challenges, including “managing the energy transition, finding climate solutions, pursuing food and water security, and helping mitigate disasters like earthquakes, volcanoes, salt-water intrusion or sea-level rise.”

Matson also reflected on the joy that can come from tackling difficult challenges. “The best part is that making meaningful contributions and working hard on behalf of others will bring you happiness. It’s a win-win!”

Graduates standing
Credit: Stacy Geiken

At the ceremony, Matson conferred the school's first Distinguished Alumni Award to William R. Dickinson, BS ’52, MS ’56, PhD ’58. Dickinson was a leader in the plate tectonics revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Dickinson also forged a new discipline, sedimentary basin analysis, which explains how the distribution of sediments on the Earth’s surface can be traced to plate tectonic processes.

Two men
William Dickinson, the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award winner. Credit: Stacy Geiken

“He was a thought leader in relating plate tectonics to the accumulation of sediment in Earth’s major sedimentary basins, and is widely recognized as the father of modern sedimentary basin analysis,” Matson said.

Dickinson was a Stanford professor for two decades and is a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona. The Distinguished Alumni Award was established to recognize highly significant, long-lasting contributions to the civil, government, business, or academic communities by members of the school’s alumni body.

Jonathan Payne, associate professor of geological sciences, was also awarded the Allan V. Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research during the ceremony. Matson noted that many of Payne’s students praised the way he treats undergraduates as fellow researchers and inspires them to pursue research in geology.

The Excellence in Teaching Award went to Dennis Bird, faculty advisor to Stanford’s Outdoor Education Program and professor of geological science, whom Matson praised for his masterful teaching and enthusiasm.

Graduate holding a boy
Credit: Stacy Geiken

This year's graduates earned 49 bachelor of science degrees, 44 master’s degrees and 39 doctor of philosophy degrees from the Departments of Geophysics, Geological Sciences, Energy Resources Engineering, and Earth System Science, and from two interdisciplinary programs–the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and the Resources (E-IPER) and Earth Systems Program. Some earned dual degrees with other disciplines, including business and law. This year’s graduating class hailed from all over the world, including Guanajuato, Mexico; Amman, Jordan; Lyon, France; Auckland, New Zealand; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Beijing, China.

Additional awards, presented by departments and programs, follow.

Earth Systems
William W. Whitley Citizen Scholar Prize: Hannah Black
Miller-Marsden Prize for Innovative Research in the Environment: Darien French-Owen
Earth Systems Award for Outstanding Research: Amanda Denney, Amanda Zerbe and Brittany Rymer
Award for Outstanding Service to the Earth Systems Program: Aunika Swenson and Kara Yeung

Earth System Science
Grad Student Award for Scholarly/Research Achievement: Daniel Swain

Geological Sciences
Outstanding Senior Award: Chris Kremer
Outstanding Graduate Student Award: Josie Nevitt
Harriet Benson Fellowship Award: Dana Thomas

Best Thesis: Arjun Kohli
Citizenship Award: Chven Mitchell

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