GFS Endowment Campaign

Endowment Campaign for the IU Geologic Field Station 2007-2012

A visionary foundation of support

In July 2007, the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the Judson Mead Geologic Field Station embarked on an ambitious $3 million fundraising campaign aimed at solidifying the future of the Field Station as the premier location for teaching geosciences in the field. The case was compelling, with two distinct but overlapping goals: create an endowment for the support of scholarships, course development and research, and also provide immediate funding for infrastructure improvements—namely the construction of a much-needed classroom building that could double as a conference and training space.

Led by Professor Emeritus Lee Suttner, this effort began with five dedicated Field Station alumni sitting around a table, each agreeing to pledge a lead gift of $50,000. Over time, as we reconnected with others through professional circles and decades-old friendships, this circle of supporters expanded, forged around shared experiences during summers in Montana. The tremendous momentum of the campaign culminated in the summer of 2012, when we dedicated a new classroom building on the field station campus during a reunion weekend attended by dozens of alumni, donors, friends, neighbors, and IU administrators.


The results of the first phase of the campaign are already being felt in Montana. The most obvious change is the completion of the new classroom, computer lab, and laboratory space within the new geotechnology building. This one building has already transformed both how and what we can teach in our traditional courses; the concentration options now have individual space for lectures, laboratory equipment use, and data analysis at levels previously not possible.

The new building also opens up the possibility for teaching a whole range of courses at all levels, from K-12 to undergraduate and graduate to professional, with the additional possibility of professional meetings, workshops and retreats. The latter reflects that fact that we now have the capability to provide space, technology, and equipment for activities independent of our superb access to the surrounding geology.

One example of how this building is affecting X429 Field Geology in the Rocky Mountains is that students electing to pursue the geophysical option now have the ability to not only access the cutting-edge technology of a LiDAR terrestrial laser scanning system, but also to upload and process data quickly and efficiently with the dual-screen workstations in the computer lab. This ability contributes to the tradition of recognizing the Field Station as a national leader in field education, as evidenced by recent presentations at the Geological Society of America national meeting.

Another direct result of the campaign has been the involvement of a number of companies supplying funds for scholarships and professionals to work with the students in the field. The increased scholarship funding has allowed us to continue to attract the best students in the nation, allowing a dramatic increase in the standards for admission to the courses. Additionally, several major oil companies and independent service companies have made use of these facilities for short courses with the expressed intent of expanded use in the future.

Continued pursuit of excellence

The success of the first phase of the campaign has left us well poised to pursue the next phase of fundraising for the field station. In anticipation of future facility enhancement, a master plan for the Field Station was created by the SmithGroup, the same architectural firm engaged by IU Bloomington for its master plan. Two key pieces of this plan involve the construction of new washhouses for students and another housing unit for faculty and professional visitors. These two projects are critical for being able to move forward with the expanded use of the Field Station, which has been gaining momentum as a result of the first campaign.

We have successfully undertaken a partnership with faculty members from Penn State and the University of Georgia to offer a graduate course in stratigraphic paleobiology, a direct consequence of both the surrounding geology and the availability of the classroom and computer laboratory. We are actively developing other graduate level courses and professional short courses on such topics as snow melt hydrology, remote sensing, sedimentation and tectonics, and tectonic geomorphology.