2019 Distinguished Geologic Career Award (MGPV Division)

Presented to Suzanne Mahlburg Kay

Suzanne Mahlburg Kay

Suzanne Mahlburg Kay
Cornell University


Citation by Shanaka de Silva, Oregon State University

Over four decades, Suzanne Mahlburg Kay has produced a remarkably productive record of influential works in all the disciplines of MGPV that exemplifies the MPGV Career award criterion field-based multidisciplinary geologic accomplishments of a ground-breaking nature.” Concurrently she has been one of the most dynamic organizers in the geologic community.

Sue’s research demonstrates the tremendous breadth and scope of her contributions across the fields of Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Petrology, and Volcanology, and including Tectonophysics and regional geophysical studies. With a focus on the Aleutian arc and South American magmatism her key accomplishments include innovative and comprehensive contributions in the areas of: 1) arc-magmatic processes that lead to divergence of tholeiitic and calc-alkaline suites; 2) lower-crustal processes; 3) secular evolution of arc-magmatic processes, particularly slab-dip changes and lithospheric delamination; 4) geochemical and tectonic influences on the development of Andean ore deposits; 5) varied source contributions to back-arc and intraplate mafic magmas; 6) granitoids in oceanic island arcs; and 7) crustal growth. Her high standards of scholarship, comprehensive knowledge, and interdisciplinary science are exemplary and have influenced many colleagues and students throughout her career.

A hallmark of Sue’s career has been her close collaboration with South American colleagues. These efforts have been recognized for stimulating growth, sophistication, and global participation of geologic communities in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, and they serve as an excellent example of how effective and fruitful international collaboration should be conducted.

Finally, one cannot overstate her citizenship of the geologic community. She was President of the GSA and served in many other functions. She has organized individual scientific sessions at meetings but also large international scientific conferences that included attractive and logistically challenging field trips guided by excellent field guides.

Suzanne Mahlburg Kay is a superbly deserving recipient of the 2019 MGPV Distinguished Career Award.


Response by Suzanne Mahlburg Kay

To begin, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Mineralogy Geochemistry Petrology Volcanology division of the Geological Society of American for this distinguished award. I am honored and humbled to receive this honor. In accepting this award, I would like to particularly acknowledge my nominator Gerhard Woerner and seconders Wes Hildreth, Constantino Mpodozis and Shanaka de Silva, and all of the colleagues and students with whom I have worked over the years and without whom I would not be here. I would also like to express my appreciation to Shan de Silva for his incredibly generous citation, and to Brian Jicha, Matt Gorring and Brenan Keller for organizing this session.

There are many people who have contributed to my career and I would like to particularly mention a few. My father Milton Mahlburg, who introduced me to the natural sciences and took me on my first field trips before I could walk. Professors David Anderson and Don Henderson, my undergraduate and MS advisors at the University of Illinois who introduced me to the rigors of mineralogy, kinetics and thermodynamics and the possibilities in petrology. My thesis committee at Brown University, which included my advisor Richard Yund along with Malcolm Rutherford, Bruno Giletti, Jan Tullis and William Chapple, with whom I worked on feldspars and became enchanted with igneous petrology and the integration with tectonics. My post-doc advisor Gary Ernst at UCLA who give me the freedom to work on the petrologic evolution of the Aleutian arc and an opportunity to teach a class in petrology. My husband, Robert Kay, whom I knew from his reading papers before we met and went to the Aleutians for our honeymoon where we also began our scientific collaborations. We also became partners in raising our children, Jennifer and Alexander, who often said they had revolving parents who took them to interesting places as we went together and separately to meetings and into the field. Colleagues at Cornell University particularly Jack Oliver who encouraged my interest in petrology and geochemistry of the lower crust and continental evolution as a postdoc in the COCORP seismic project, Donald Turcotte who became a long term mentor and encouraged broad perspectives in the study of the earth, and Bryan Isacks who inspired me along with Terry Jordan and Rick Allmendinger to work on large scale interdisciplinary problems in the Andes. Also particularly important are my South American colleagues and co-authors who have made my Andean studies and those of our students possible. Three are particularly special; Victor Ramos in Argentina with whom we worked in Patagonia, the Chilean-Pampean flatslab region and Andean terranes; Constantino Mpodozis in Chile with whom we studied the Andean arc region from El Teniente to Maricunga (34° to 24°S), ore deposits and the silicic-rhyolite Choiyoi magmatic province, and Beatriz Coira with whom we worked on the magmatism, ignimbrites, evolving subduction history and delamination of the Puna-Altiplano plateau.

Finally, I would not be here without the inquisitive and creative graduate and undergraduate students both at Cornell and in Argentina who added unimaginable dimensions to studies of the Aleutians, the Andes and other regions. Among the many, I would particularly like to mention graduate students Gene Yogodzinski, Matt Gorring, Adam Goss, Neil McGlashan and undergraduates Susan De Bari, Jeff Abbruzzi and Brenan Keller.