2022 Randolph W. “Bill” and Cecile T. Bromery Award

Presented to Frederic Henley Wilson

Frederic Henley Wilson

Frederic Henley Wilson
United States Geological Survey


Citation by Rufus Catchings

Dr. Frederic (Ric) H. Wilson is highly deserving of the 2022 GSA Bromery Award, as he has long been a prominent research scientist and a dedicated proponent of increasing diversity within the geosciences. During his career of more than 40 years, Ric has worked as a geochronologist, led large resource assessments, and conducted extensive geologic mapping. Ric produced some of the most comprehensive geologic maps of Alaska, parts of the Caribbean, and other parts of the world. His scientific contributions are important to the Nation, and more generally, to the Earth sciences. For example, because of Alaska’s large size, Ric’s Alaska geologic map and database represent 37% of the United States’ land area, and his map details important geological resources. Both the Alaska and Caribbean map databases add important map analysis capabilities and are being used in digital resource assessments. Internationally, Ric has made significant contributions to the Circum-Polar bedrock geologic and metallogenic maps, which highlight important resources for our Nation and the world.

For decades, Ric has also expended appreciable efforts in introducing Alaska Native youth and other diverse students to geology and in mentoring them. Examples of his Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) efforts include production of a series of geologic, wildlife, and cultural resource maps for the multi-agency Alaska Intertribal Youth Practicum, regular participation in high-school STEM days with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program and with the Anchorage School District, travel to “Bush” schools to teach geology to Indigenous elementary, middle, and high-school students, and serving as a member of USGS’ Alaska Region DEIA Steering Committee, which helps to set goals and policies for USGS DEIA efforts. Ric has previously been recognized as a GSA Fellow for his impressive scientific research, but few know of his persistent diversity outreach efforts. With this 2022 GSA Bromery Award, I am very pleased to see Dr. Frederic H. Wilson recognized for his scientific and diversity efforts.


Response by Frederic Henley Wilson

I am incredibly honored to be a recipient of the 2022 Bromery Award. I’d especially like to thank Rufus Catchings for nominating me and to all of the individuals who supported this nomination. I never imagined being considered for this award, much less receiving it. I appreciate Randolph and Cecile Bromery and GSA for the award establishment. It is my hope to pay it forward, bringing more minorities into our field.

Growing up in Chicago, geology was not on my radar, yet exposure to geology at Michigan Tech opened doors. It seemed so much more interesting than engineering. Changing majors, Dr. Stephen Nordeng at Tech became my advisor, professor for several courses, and was very encouraging of my interests. A brief stint with an oil company following Tech convinced me I needed to go to graduate school and that realization began my adventures. The first adventure was just getting to graduate school in Alaska at the University of Alaska. The nearly 1,000-mile drive on a two-lane dirt road had me questioning, what have I gotten myself into! The University proved to be a place of wonderful opportunities – so many things to learn about both geologically and culturally. After completing a master’s degree, I joined the USGS Alaska Branch, thanks to Louis Pakiser -- a USGS geophysicist. He arranged an internship for me in Menlo Park CA, as well as a field assistant appointment in Fairbanks AK until the internship began. With the start of the internship, I moved from Fairbanks, Alaska to Menlo Park, California, to begin work as a geochronologist. While in Menlo Park, I worked with the USGS minority program, helping to encourage students to become earth scientists.

My supervisor in Fairbanks was Florence Weber, and she was an inspiring mentor. We found that we both had short stints with the same oil company, working on the same oil fields, 30 years apart. She introduced me to much about the geology and geography of Alaska. We maintained close contact the remainder of her life. Her interest in everything geology set me on my path.

Upon arrival in Menlo Park, I am truly thankful to the geologists and staff of the Alaska Branch of the USGS who welcomed me as a young geologist and became lifelong friends and mentors. Warren Coonrad, Joseph Hoare, Miles Silberman, and Helen Foster were particularly encouraging, suggesting research directions, and opening their homes to me, making sure I had some place to go for holidays. They taught me much and gave me room to develop. Robert Detterman, my first project chief in Menlo Park, was particularly supportive of my work on the Alaska Peninsula, mentoring me and ultimately passing on leadership of the project to me.

I returned to Alaska in 1980, to build a laboratory and I re-engaged with the Alaska Native community, serving several years as the USGS lead on the multi-agency Intertribal Youth Practicum. This effort was to encourage Native youth, the future village leaders, in understanding the management of natural resources. For me, in part, it was also to encourage interest in the earth sciences. I have served for several decades on the Board of a trust that financially supports Alaska Native students interested in geology. Several of whom have gone on to PhDs.

Looking back over a career full of adventures I could have never imagined has been a wonderful journey. Realizing that my childhood friends from inner-city Chicago did not get these opportunities, I’m terribly grateful to my parents and for their encouragement and support. It is my hope that many students of under-represent groups will have their own opportunities in the earth sciences. For me, looking ahead there are more adventures to come. Importantly, I hope to help others set out on journeys of their own.