2022 GSA President's Medal

Presented to Priscilla Croswell Grew

Priscilla Croswell Grew

Priscilla Croswell Grew
College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska


Citation by Barbara Dutrow

It is my great pleasure to present the 2022 Geological Society of America’s Presidential Medal to Dr. Priscilla C. Grew, Professor Emerita and NAGPRA (Native American Graves and Repatriation Act) Advisor at the University of Nebraska‒Lincoln. Her highly distinguished career can be summed up as “a woman of many firsts” who paved the way for future generations of female geologists and Earth scientists.

Dr. Grew received her B.A. degree (magna cum laude) from Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. from the University of California–Berkeley, one of only 6 women in the U.S. in the fields of Earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences to receive a PhD in 1967. Here began the many firsts of her rock-solid career, a few of which I’ll describe. She spent her early years in the academic world and was the first woman to hold a tenure-track appointment in the geology department at Boston College, which, at the time, did not admit women as undergraduates. She moved west to UCLA and helped direct the Lake Powell Research Project, studying the impacts of coal and water development in the Colorado River Basin including the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, which she spoke about earlier today. During that time, she distinguished herself, and in 1977 the Governor of California appointed her as the first female Director of the California Department of Conservation which included the Divisions of Oil and Gas, and Mines and Geology (California’s geological survey)—another first. In 1981, she became the second woman to serve as a Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission.

In 1986, she was appointed the first woman director of the Minnesota Geological Survey at the University of Minnesota. In 1993, she became the first woman Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Nebraska‒Lincoln and in 2003 she was appointed the first woman Director of the University of Nebraska State Museum. There, she served as the campus officer for NAGPRA compliance from 1993 to June 2022 and presided at the repatriations of the nearly 2,000 remains of individuals from the University archaeological collections to Tribes.

It doesn’t stop there! In 1999, Dr. Grew was the first woman to receive the Ian Campbell Medal from the American Geosciences Institute, and in 2011, she was designated a Lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council in recognition of her 30 years to service on committees of the National Academies. She also had notable scientific firsts: in 1969 she was one of the first women and 1 of only 3 participants from the U.S. to join a geological excursion to Lake Baikal in Siberia and notably, the first person to publish an electron beam scanning photograph of oscillatory zoning in an eclogite garnet. She is also one of only about 100 women to have a mineral named after them, priscillagrewite-Y, a garnet rich in zirconium and yttrium.

Her illustrious career has intertwined higher education, the intersection of public policy with Earth and geosciences and service to government and professional societies. I recall Priscilla as one of the few women in geology before my generation. Her unique career trajectory, boldness of leadership, and support of other women and the geosciences for the greater good, continues to be inspirational across the globe. She broke barriers and with role models such as herself, gender diversity in the geosciences increased and now GSA counts nearly 30% of its members as women, and has for the past 15 years. As a fellow of GSA for nearly 50 years, for your academic accomplishments and inspiring leadership for the Earth Sciences, and as inspiration to countless others, it is with the utmost pleasure and honor to award to you, Dr. Priscilla C. Grew the 2022 Presidential Medal of the Geological Society of America.


Response by Priscilla Croswell Grew

Thank you, Past President Dutrow, for this marvelous and most unexpected honor! I joined GSA 57 years ago, encouraged by Berkeley professors William Fyfe and Francis Turner. At the San Francisco GSA in 1966, Rev. Prof. James Skehan interviewed and hired me to teach at Boston College. In the spring of 1967, he invited me to go on a field trip to the historic Worcester Coal Mine to meet Harvard Professor Marland Billings and his PhD student Edward Grew, and the rest is history! Ed and I always called Father Jim our “cupid.” He attended our wedding in June 1975 in the Groveland, Massachusetts church with a Paul Revere bell where my father had been minister 1942-1944. Ed’s unselfish and steadfast support, constant encouragement, sympathy, and sage advice have enabled me to pursue my unconventional career. Ed truly shares this career recognition with me because he made it possible for me to accept jobs in Sacramento, Minneapolis and Lincoln while he worked at UCLA and the University of Maine. I am deeply grateful to Ed and to my truly exceptional mentors: Orson Anderson and Charles Drake, who recruited me to the Lake Powell Research Project and taught me international science diplomacy; former California Governor Jerry Brown; Chancellor Graham Spanier and Vice Chancellor Prem Paul at Nebraska who supported my work since 1993 on repatriation of Native American remains.

My career was fundamentally shaped by events long ago as an only child. My father was born in a missionary hill station in India where my grandmother’s aunt founded the Kodaikanal International School. He grew up to be a Congregational minister who loved mountains. In 1949 he took me to T Lazy 7 Ranch near Aspen, Colorado where we heard Albert Schweitzer lecture at the Goethe Bicentennial Convocation. My mother was a musician who took me fossil collecting at Florissant in 1950. My father encouraged me to go to Bryn Mawr because he had graduated from Princeton. In the summer of 1959 after my freshman year as a physics major, he took me to T Lazy 7 again where I met students majoring in geology and learned that geology was not just for fun vacations but that you could “do it for work!” I checked the catalog to see if Bryn Mawr offered geology, not realizing that Bryn Mawr College has been a leading producer of women geologists ever since Florence Bascom founded the geology department in 1895.

In my junior year, Prof. Alfred G. Fischer from Princeton was a visiting professor at Bryn Mawr teaching paleontology. He urged me to go to graduate school and to take a summer school course in 1961 at the University of Colorado on “Recent Sedimentation” taught by visiting Scripps Professor Tjeerd H. Van Andel. Fischer and Van Andel wrote the letters for my National Science Foundation Fellowship to graduate school. The day after graduation in 1962, I married mathematician Richard Mansfield Dudley (1938-2020), Harvard summa cum laude 1959, Princeton PhD 1962. We moved to Berkeley where I had to spend my first year in graduate school taking all undergraduate courses due to my late start as a geology major. It is well known that many women drop out of geology in the “leaky pipeline” and there were certainly times during graduate school when I would have dropped out if Dick had not continually encouraged me not to give up. My fellow student Eric Essene and I both received our Ph.D.’s from Berkeley in 1967 with theses on the Franciscan under Prof. William S. Fyfe as our adviser, before he left for Manchester in 1966. Professor Fyfe remained a mentor of mine until his death in 2013, writing letters of recommendation for me and arranging for me to speak at a major international symposium in Tokyo in August 1994 on “Geological Factors in the Sustainable Development of Large Cities” at the meeting “The Road from Rio--An Agenda for Responsible Geologists on Global Change.”

In 1966, my husband Dick Dudley got an offer from MIT and so I interviewed for positions in November at GSA in San Francisco. Rev. Prof. James W. Skehan S.J. hired me to teach at Boston College even though I had never been a teaching assistant and had not finished my Ph.D. thesis. I had attended my first International Mineralogical Association (IMA) meeting in Cambridge and Cornwall in 1966. Fr. Skehan strongly encouraged me to participate in international scientific meetings. I attended the ill-fated International Geological Congress (IGC) in Prague 1968, and I participated in the IAVCEI “Volcanoes and Their Roots” meeting at Oxford in 1969 and the AZOPRO Excursions to Lake Baikal and Yugoslavia in 1969 and 1970. By the time I next returned to Aspen in 1971, I was Co-Convener with my Boston College colleague Robert E. Riecker of the GSA Penrose Conference on “Fracture Mechanics and Earthquake Source Mechanisms” held in Snowmass.

In 1972, Dick and I divorced, and I moved to UCLA, giving up my tenure-track teaching job to become Executive Secretary of the NSF-funded Lake Powell Research Project. Also in 1972, Father Jim as President of the National Association of Geology Teachers spoke in Denver at the first conference sponsored by the Dept. of the Interior Committee on Minority Participation in Mineral Science and Engineering. Since my father had chaired the Department of Religion and Philosophy at the HBCU Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas from 1957 to 1970, Father Skehan and his friend Randolph Bromery arranged for me to be appointed to the Committee. This was my first federal committee assignment, which lasted from 1972 to 1975 when Secretary Rogers Morton’s term ended. To my astonishment, during my first meeting with the previously all-male committee, one of the members proposed that I should be removed from the committee because “a White female is not a minority.” Luckily, I managed to persuade the committee that women did face certain issues of discrimination as a minority group participating in Mineral Science and Engineering in 1972.