2022 Gilbert H. Cady Award

Presented to Sue M. Rimmer

Sue M. Rimmer

Sue M. Rimmer
College of Agriculture, Life and Physical Sciences—Geology, Southern Illinois University


Citation by Jim Hower

Speaking on behalf of the colleagues and students of Sue Rimmer, it is my pleasure to be the citationist for the presentation of the Gilbert H. Cady Award of the Geological Society of America’s Energy Geology Division to her. Sue’s outstanding contributions throughout her coal geology career have led her here today, the 42nd recipient of the award since 1973.

Sue first established her research on mineral matter and trace elements in coal. Graduate research on clay mineralogy of underclays at Illinois and on organic petrology at Penn State led her to expand her interests into dispersed organics and black shales, biogeochemical cycles in organic-rich sediments, stable C and N isotopic composition of organic matter, linkages between organic matter and past atmospheric compositions, and maceral separation and geochemistry. In addition, some of her coal contributions developed from independent studies in classes she has taught. The study of an igneous intrusion into an Illinois coal was initiated by two students in her Organic Petrology class at Kentucky. The latter grew into studies of coal maturation and the role of heating rate in contact metamorphism vs. burial maturation. Sue has served the profession through leadership and committee positions at Southern Illinois – Carbondale and Kentucky and in national and international professional societies, as an advisor to BS through PhD students, a mentor to post-doctoral researchers, and as an author on more than 80 publications.

Professional societies define themselves in who they choose to honor with their top awards. The Cady Award is not just for the individual, it is the legacy of the organization, recognizing that the honored scientist represents the best of our profession. Having known most of the Cady Award recipients, I can say that Sue Rimmer deserves consideration with them for her scientific and professional contributions to our discipline.


Response by Sue M. Rimmer

I would like to start by remembering and thanking my colleague Jack Crelling who originally nominated me for the Gilbert H. Cady Award. As many of you know, Jack passed away in 2018. I would also like to thank Jim Hower who revitalized my nomination, leading to today.

I was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in northern England (as in "coals to Newcastle") while my father was teaching flight school at the University of Durham. My grandfather, whom I never met, was lost in the 1934 coal mine disaster at Gresford, North Wales, when my mother was quite young. So, perhaps coal roots do run deep?

My father was an RAF pilot and later a commercial airline pilot, so I grew up both in the UK and the Middle East, including Bahrain, Aden, Cyprus, with trips to Kenya and Egypt. Looking out of airplane windows, I became fascinated by the landforms beneath me. This led to an interest in physical geography and acceptance to the University of Durham. But I migrated to the US and ultimately attended Southern Illinois University as an undergraduate. There I worked in Bill Hood’s lab doing trace metal analysis of acid mine drainage and overburden shales, took classes from Russ Dutcher, and even got to listen to a seminar or two from Art Cohen.

After graduation, I moved to Champaign to work at the ISGS in the lab of Hal Gluskoter. I worked on the mineralogy and geochemistry of coal, and became the research assistant to visiting scientist Colin Ward. At Illinois, my M.S. thesis examined the clay mineralogy of underclays of the Herrin Coal under the direction of Dennis Eberl (now USGS Denver). I then went to Penn State to work on a Ph.D. with Alan Davis. There, I took classes from him, Bill Spackman, Al Traverse, Peter Given, Gene Williams, and many others. Such a phenominal educational experience!

I spent the next 25 years teaching at the University of Kentucky. There I worked with amazing students and was surrounded by so many others working in coal, both within the department (John Ferm and his students), the Kentucky Geological Survey (Jim Cobb), and the Center for Applied Energy Research (Jim Hower). In 2009, I had the opportunity to complete the circle and return to SIUC. This was an opportunity to refocus on research, work with exceptional students, and also allowed me to build a new lab – and who doesn't like that?

At the end of 2019, I retired from teaching to focus on research. Ultimately, what I will miss the most are the students; I have probably learned as much from my students as they have from me. I was very fortunate to have supportive mentors including Bill Hood, Dennis Eberl, and Alan Davis, and I only hope I was able to be just as supportive to my students.

In closing, I must say I am extremely humbled to receive this award from the GSA Energy Geology Division, and I am indebted to the many collaborators and colleagues I have worked with over the years. When I look at the list of previous recipients, I am somewhat in awe. Many of them I have met, some I have even been fortunate enough to work with and learn from. I am sincerely honored to have been selected for the Cady Award.