It's a long way from the sheep pastures of New Zealand to the Western Canadian foothills, but Professor Donald Caleb Lawton, Head of the University of Calgary Department of Geology and Geophysics, has successfully made that journey. Don has always been involved in earth sciences. Don grew up on sheep and cattle farms in remote areas of New Zealand. His first year of education was in a one-room schoolhouse, where students used horses as a means of transportation. Instead of a parking lot, the school had a horse pasture. Don's interest in geology and geophysics originated early in life when his family moved to another farm in the volcanic area of New Zealand. Gold mining in this a rea was done in quartz veins and he was curious about how drilling success could be improved by the use of geophysical methods.
Dr. Lawton obtained his university education at Auckland University in New Zealand. He majored in geology and physics since the university had no geophysics program at that time. After the university hired a geophysicist (Manfred Hochstein), Lawton did an honours project on the use of geophysical methods for epithermal gold exploration. Following his BSc., Don did a Ph.D. in geophysics, researching a variety of geophysical methods for assessing ironsands deposits on the west coast of New Zealand. In the summertime, these blacksand beaches become so hot that sunbathers get burns on their feet during sunny afternoons. Nevertheless, environments such as these have never deterred Don from geophysical fieldwork - one of his favorite pursuits.
While pursuing his Ph.D. studies, Don worked part time for Amoco's minerals group in gold exploration. He undertook several high-resolution low-altitude aeromagnetic surveys throughout New Zealand. To the amusement of the airborne geophysicists, the helicopters used in the survey caused great concern among communal dwellers who were growing marijuana plants. (Fortunately for us, the pot farmers did not have guns to fire at the low flying helicopters.)
During his graduate studies, Don met his partner Viola, a Canadian Ph.D. student in chemistry who was studying at Auckland on a Commonwealth Scholarship. After graduation in 1979, Don came to a job at the University of Calgary, which happened to be Viola's home town. In the meantime, Viola had moved to the University of Ottawa on a postdoctoral fellowship. Fortunately, within a couple years, Viola also accepted an academic appointment at the University of Calgary, and both were once again in the same city.
Den's academic career at the University of Calgary ha s been highly successful during the 21 years of his appointment. The growth of geophysics at the University of Calgary has also mirrored his success. In his first year, the Department of Geology had just become the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the first undergraduate geophysics program had just started. Today, with 270 undergraduate majors, over 100 graduate students, and 30 faculty members, this department is one of the largest in North America. Dr. Lawton has been Department Head since the autumn of 1997. During his initial year as Head, the Department of Geology and Geophysics was rated as one of the 14 areas of excellence at the University of Calgary.
Don has played a major role in the development of the Department. He has personally supervised more than 20 successful M.Sc. and Ph.D. candidates. He and his students have received Best Paper awards from CSEG and SEG. Dr. Lawton has an amazing capacity to coordinate research and teaching with the all-consuming task of being Department Head. While leading this dynamic group of earth scientists, he maintains a calm and methodical manner and never allows his judgement to be clouded by temporary crises. Students, staff, and faculty are treated in a courteous and friendly manner by the affable New Zealander. In addition to his academic and administrative duties, Lawton continues to seek sources of funding and support for his department's faculty and graduate students. The growth of geophysics at the University of Calgary under Don's leadership is certainly no accident. He is a Director of the Foothills Research Project and an Associate Director of the Consortium for Research in Elastic Wave Exploration Seismology. As for interests outside his professional geophysical pursuits, he enjoys tennis, golf, and his 15-year house renovation project.
During this period of Lawton's leadership, there is really only one item that concerns those of us in the Department. How will the next Department Head be able to measure up to the high standards set by our present leader?