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Citation by Anke Friedrich, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
The GSA recognizes — GSA Fellow and 2019 Sloss Awardee —Dr. Marjorie Chan for her innovative contributions to diversify and internationalize the society. In over 30 years of membership, Marjorie has organized topical and Pardee sessions, co-led field trips, promoted student involvement, served on numerous committees (Diversity, Geoheritage, Penrose & Thompson, Doris Curtis, International Awards, and others), served as the Sedimentary Geology Division chair, and was a 2016-20 elected Councilor.
Marjorie Chan's GSA legacy is multifold. As GSA's 2014 Distinguished International lecturer, she promoted the GSA with 53 lectures in four countries of Asia, plus Australia and New Zealand. She co-started a grass-roots GSA & AWG leadership meeting for women department chairs and other academic leaders (2005 - 2011) — a successful networking factory for GSA's female visionaries. As the 2013 instigating chair of GSA's On To the Future program, she ignited a lasting diversification of GSA's annual meetings.
Marjorie (Margie) Chan also is one of GSA’s most visible promoters of young scientists and students in particular. As the vice-chair of the Sedimentary Geology division, she wondered why students were not represented at the division level. GSA immediately reacted and students are now involved in GSA’s committees, including Council and the Divisions. Margie emphasizes the importance of involving the next generation early on in shaping and evolving the society; everyone shall have access to the best GSA has to offer.
Her approach to serve GSA is founded in her conviction that greater diversity and more women will improve science and promote change. She focuses on supporting and engaging student participation. To her, strong communities are a prerequisite for networking and hence scientific and academic success. She has a natural instinct to come up with ‘the right idea at the right time and at the right place’ to put it in the words of former GSA president George Davis.
GSA is a community-driven society in which individuals such as Margie Chan are making a huge difference through single-step actions that are picked up by other members. Obviously, the On To the Future program to diversify the society and the grass-roots initiative to generate a platform for women department chairs and leaders were such examples. Each time, Margie Chan spearheaded efforts to write proposals as the decisive step in getting an initiative started. Such proposals get submitted to the GSA Foundation and are discussed and ratified by Council, when they consider an idea relevant to the society. To fund these initiatives is a prerequisite to their success.
With the bestowment of the 2020 GSA Distinguished Service Award, GSA recognizes Margie Chan’s talent and demonstrated ability to transform ideas into action when opportunities present themselves. Her colleagues value and admire Margie for her exemplary commitment to service serve and turn to her when they seek to solve problems, particularly those reaching beyond pure science.
In this way, Margie Chan also profoundly shaped the educational and research landscape of her Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah, where she is a long-term faculty member. During her turn as department chair, as a new geosciences building had been designated by funds of Marta Weeks to honor her father Frederick A Sutton, Margie Chan had the brilliant idea and vision to turn the “Halls and Walls” of the Sutton building into a geological exhibit and story-telling place by functionally integrating specimen and building architecture. Her fund-raising efforts to attract impressive display specimens of museum quality helped to turn this building into what is now arguably the world’s most attractive geosciences building. Students, faculty, and visitors alike are drawn to the building. The specimens are being used in teaching, they inspire research, they help to build community. Foremost, their clever and innovative arrangement combines science, teaching, and art in a way that is characteristic of Margie Chan’s work in general.
We thank Margie Chan for her exemplary leadership in service to support science at GSA and beyond, and congratulate her for this award.
Response by Marjorie A. Chan
I am truly honored by the GSA Distinguished Service Award, and I thank all those who supported my nomination and citation for this wonderful recognition. A lifetime of geology continues to be stimulating, gratifying, and full of adventures. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
I am extremely fortunate to have had many positive experiences in geology including my undergraduate years at the College of Marin and at the University of California - Davis, followed by my years in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a terrific cohort of graduate students and faculty. I’ve enjoyed a career spanning nearly four decades in a collegial and supportive department at the University of Utah, and I have certainly benefited from, and enjoyed interacting with the hundreds of students over the years.
GSA is an enriching and important part of my professional development for exploring different perspectives and ideas. In 2014, it was a great privilege to represent the society as the GSA Distinguished International Lecturer. It was the most unforgettable travel year of my life and showed me how our pursuits in Earth science transcend the divides of countries and cultures. Through active participation in GSA, I‘ve met amazing people who generously give their time, intellect, and resources to help others. GSA has also given me the opportunity to make a difference with the On To the Future (OTF) program. It is personally rewarding to hear OTF students express their feelings of empowerment and confidence from the GSA meetings. I hope young people will continue to find GSA to be a supportive community as I have, a place to apply their talents, and a venue for fulfilling dreams. The future of geoscience is in their hands.
Thank you for this great honor.