Dr. Donald Hattin

Don Hattin
Dr. Donald Hattin

Born: 1929 in Cohasset, MA
Died: June 24, 2016

A celebration of Dr. Hattin’s life and work was held on July 23rd in the Tudor Room at the IU Memorial Union

Dr. Donald E. Hattin, Professor Emeritus of Geology at Indiana University, 87, beloved husband and cherished father, passed away June 24, following an acute cerebral hemorrhage.

The son of Edward Hattin and Una W. Hattin, Don was born in 1928 in Cohasset, Massachusetts, and grew up in the neighboring seaside town of Scituate, where he maintained lifelong friendships. As a boy, Don was never at a loss for something interesting and exciting to do. During his adolescent years in Scituate, he was a very proud and active Eagle Scout, worked at a local produce farm, a small grocery store, and with lobster fishermen. These experiences provided a lifetime of skills and never ending stories. Many of them were retold in his book, Tales of a New England Boyhood. While in high school he met and fell head over heels in love with Marjorie Elizabeth Macy, who remained the love of his life. Last summer they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary by dancing to "Sentimental Journey," "their song" throughout their long and happy marriage.

Don began his college studies in 1946 at the University of Massachusetts, where he soon discovered his love for geology and college high jinks! He graduated with a BS degree in 1950, but the highlight of the year was his marriage to Margie. In the fall of that year he and his bride headed west to Lawrence, Kansas, where he studied stratigraphy and paleontology at the University of Kansas, earning a master’s degree and PhD in 1954 under the tutelage of his mentor, Raymond C. Moore. During his college years and whenever he was away doing field work, he and Margie shared a loving correspondence. Don relied heavily on these letters while writing his memoir, Pathway to a Professorship.

In 1954, Don joined the faculty of Indiana University as an Assistant Professor of Geology. He taught for one year before being called to active duty during the Korean conflict. Serving as a Lieutenant in the US Air Force, Don was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He was later transferred to the Icing Research Establishment on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, and eventually attained the rank of Captain. He returned to Indiana University in 1957. In 1960 he was named Associate Professor of Geology and in 1967 received tenure and became Professor of Geology. He continued teaching at I.U. until his retirement in 1995. As Professor Emeritus, Don continued to visit his office weekly, collaborated on papers, maintained a "Rock of the Month" display, and enjoyed Friday morning coffee with colleagues.

During his career at Indiana University, Don authored or co-authored over 100 scientific publications on numerous topics ranging widely across his fields of study. His knowledge of chalk deposits in Cretaceous strata around the world led him to be affectionately known as "Dr. Chalk." Don was involved in the naming of a fossil genus and 13 species during his career, and was also extremely honored to have a genus and five species named after him (Cretalamna hattini). See this reference link .

He was the recipient of numerous teaching awards, but his students will always remember Don for his irrepressible enthusiasm for geology, which he shared in the lecture hall and while leading adventurous and challenging field courses throughout Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, the Florida Keys, and the Bahamas. Don was especially proud of the establishment of the Donald and Marjorie Hattin Special Field Course Fund. This fund subsidizes students taking non-required geology field courses. This summer, students are utilizing these funds to study in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania.

Even with his countless professional accomplishments, Don’s family was his greatest joy. Family adventures included numerous summer camping trips. Crisscrossing the country, with pop-up camper in tow and a canoe christened “Kwitchurbelyakin” on the car roof, the Hattin family explored most of America’s National Parks. Many trips were punctuated with a surprise ride on one of America’s historic steam locomotives. A Dad who always had time for his kids, Don created a backyard paradise that included a playhouse with a trap door escape, a pond, large fruit and vegetable gardens, and most memorably, a giant snow-dinosaur, nicknamed "Big Bluey." Beach vacations always featured one of Don’s intricate sand castles creatively carved with popsicle sticks.

As the family matured, Don and Margie were proud of their children’s accomplishments, fostered by Don’s continual encouragement. Never allowing distance to matter, Don, Margie and the family maintained tight bonds, with many happy family gatherings and continued travels together. Don’s three grandchildren affectionately nicknamed him "Boomp," a name quickly adopted by the entire family.

Don and Margie traveled internationally as well, including a 9-month sabbatical with the family in England in 1969, and a 1985 visiting professorship in East Germany at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universitat in Greifswald, where he and Margie lived for a month, four years prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Their frequent travels took them to over 20 countries, and as recently as 2014 they visited Denali National Park and sailed through the Panama Canal.

Don’s interests were many and his energy legendary. Don was a 30-year volunteer on the French Lick West Baden and Southern Railroad, where he was the fireman on the steam locomotive #97, which he lovingly helped restore. As an active member of The Indiana Society of Mayflower Descendants and an avid genealogist, Don was extremely proud that both he and Margie were Mayflower descendants. Don was also proud of Margie’s Macy ancestry, and published a biography of her grandfather, W. Ferdinand Macy, a notable painter of Nantucket seascapes.

Don’s incredible zest for life touched all who knew him, from his favorite bank tellers and waiters, whose names he always knew, to the legions of former students, colleagues, and lifelong friends he leaves behind. It was frequently said that "Don Hattin could make friends with a fence post." He was a role model and mentor to all who knew him—a man whose cup was never half full; it was always overflowing. Don’s outlook on life is exemplified by the title of his forthcoming book, Living the American Dream.

Survivors include his loving wife, "the most beautiful girl in the world," Marjorie Elizabeth (Macy) Hattin, children Sandra Belth (Jeff), Dr. Ronald Hattin (Vicki), Donna Hattin (Ric Rawlins), grandchildren Dr. Paul Whitney Swain, III (Naomi), Alan Belth, Devin LaMarche (Matt), and great-grandchildren Sophia, Allison, and Benjamin.

A celebration of Don’s life was held on July 23rd in the Tudor Room of the I.U. Memorial Union. Memorial contributions may be made to the Donald and Marjorie Hattin Special Field Course Fund by mailing a check to the Indiana University Foundation, P.O. Box 6460, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46206-6460. The check should be payable to the I.U. Foundation with a note on the memo line indicating that the gift is for the Donald and Marjorie Hattin Special Field Course Fund. A donation form can also be downloaded at

Link to Don’s obituary.