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KU mourns loss of geology alumnus George Devries Klein

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Photograph of George Devries KleinThe University of Kansas is mourning the death of respected geology researcher, educator, and KU Department of Geology alumnus (MS ’57) George Devries Klein. He died April 30, 2018 at the age of 85.  He was a longtime supporter of the KU Department of Geology and established an annual lectureship, the George Devries Klein Lecture in Clastic Sedimentology, in 2011. He was honored by the department for his career and service in 1980 with the Erasmus Haworth Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Klein’s legacy includes decades of research and teaching, with courses taught on every continent except Antarctica. He also proposed the term “Tidalite” in 1971, for tidal process facies formed by tidal currents. This term focused attention on the role of tidal sediments in the rock record, which at the time were considered of minimal importance.  That facies recognition became a mainstream depositional system recognized globally by sedimentologists and was refined subsequently by Klein and others. It led others to organize an international Tidalite research conference. Klein’s lasting contribution was to define a new process facies and define the research agenda for developing it.  In the process, sedimentologists became aware of the role of astronomic forcing factors on sediment deposition. Klein also researched cratonic sedimentology, deep-water sedimentology, back-arc basin evolution, cratonic basin evolution, sedimentary basin classification, basin analysis, and Pennsylvanian cyclothems. 

After KU, Klein earned his PhD in 1960 in geology from Yale University, then worked for Sinclair Research in Oklahoma as a research geologist until 1961 when he accepted a faculty appointment at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1963, he joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania where he ran a detailed research program supported by ONR (Office of Naval Research) and NSF (National Science Foundation) on the sediment dynamics of intertidal sand bodies in the Bay of Fundy.  He then joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was promoted to a Full Professorship in 1972. He taught for over 23 years at Illinois, undertaking a variety of research programs and supervising numerous PhD, MS and affiliated research students, in addition to serving as a continuing education instructor to the petroleum industry.  His sponsors included the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the Geological Society of America, IHRDC (Boston, MA), the South African Geological Society and the Venezuelan Geological Society. 

In 1993, Klein retired from Illinois as Professor Emeritus to become President of the New Jersey Marine Science Consortium and State Sea Grant Director of the New Jersey Sea Grant College Program. In 1996 he established a geological consulting firm, SED-STRAT Geoscience Consultants, Inc., and moved to the Houston, TX area where he worked on projects in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Coast, Illinois basin, Permian basin, San Joaquin basin, East Texas basin, and on numerous international projects.

Klein was a member of the Houston Geological Society, and the Geological Society of America (Fellow).  He received numerous awards including a Visiting Fellowship, Wolfson College, Oxford University (1969), The Outstanding Paper Award for the1970 Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, SEPM (1972), an Honorable Mention, Outstanding Paper, 197l annual meeting, SEPM (1972), twice received an Associateship, Center for Advanced Study of the University of Illinois (1974, 1983), The University of Kansas, Dept. of Geology, Erasmus Haworth Distinguished Alumnus Award (1980), an Illinois House of Representatives, Citation of Recognition (1980),  The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Senior Research Fellowship (1983), The University of Illinois, Geology Graduate Students Association, Outstanding Faculty Award (1983), a Senior Fulbright Research Fellowship, Netherlands (1989), the Laurence L. Sloss Award for Sedimentary Geology from the Geological Society of America, Division on Sedimentary Geology (2000) and the Houston Geological Society Rising Star Award (2002) and its Geological Legends Award (2013).  He was listed in American Men and Woman of Science, Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.

Klein actively served the geological profession in numerous ways. He was the founding chairperson of the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) Division on Sedimentary Geology, served on its Committee on Committees, and its Research Grants Committee. He also served on the editorial boards of the GSA Bulletin, Geology, Earth Science Review, Journal of Geodynamics, McGraw Hill’s Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, and Prentice-Hall’s Geological Sciences series.  He also chaired SEPM’s (Society of Sedimentary Geology) Research Committee, served on a special ad hoc task force on future direction of SEPM in the late 1970s as well as SEPM’s nominating committee and as chair of SEPM’s ad hoc Committee on Committees.  He served on the American Association of Petroleum Geologist’s (AAPG) Publication Committee, Membership Committee, the DPA Government Affairs Committee, Publication Pipeline Committee, and was an elected delegate to AAPG’s House of Delegates from the Houston Geological Society, serving as Delegate Foreman from 2003—2004.

He is survived by his wife, Suyon Cheong Klein, originally from Seoul, South Korea, two children from an earlier marriage, Richard L. Klein of Washington, DC, and Roger N. Klein of Champaign, IL, and a sister, Mrs. Marianne Mandel of Bethesda, MD.

Remembrance gifts can be made to the KU Endowment Geology Associates Fund/ George Devries Klein Colloquium Lectureship. Contact KU Endowment, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence KS, 66044-4201 or phone 785-864-2194.


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