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Tributes to Bill Berry

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Dr. Berry was a consummate scientist …
By Roseanne Chambers Perman, AMEC Geomatrix Consultants, Inc.

Roseanne Chambers Perman
Roseanne Chambers Perman in Peru.
Dr. Berry was a consummate scientist with great enthusiasm for a wide range of scientific pursuits! I had the good fortune to become acquainted with him while he was my graduate advisor (1984 M.A. and 1988 Ph.D.). Although his major interest was in Paleozoic graptolites, he also appreciated the Cretaceous ammonites that I used to help reconstruct depositional environments in Wyoming. By paving the way for me to talk with his colleagues at the USGS in Denver, he steered me toward a fascinating research project. With Dr. Berry's encouragement, and because I enjoyed the research so much, I pursued and completed a Ph.D. — definitely an advantage in my professional career. Later, Dr. Berry always welcomed me as a visitor to his office, where we would discuss my work — for many years, focused on earthquake and volcanic hazards associated with the proposed high level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. His questions and interest in my work always inspired me. I am deeply grateful for Dr. Berry's positive influence on my career — as well as for our friendship. His passing is a great loss.

Bill Berry was a mystery to me …
By Mark Wilson, Professor of Geology, The College of Wooster

Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson in the Sundance Formation of Wyoming.
Bill Berry was a mystery to me when I first met him as my new advisor in the hallway outside his office. He was a tall, taciturn New Englander; I was a callow youth from a small Mojave Desert town by way of a small liberal arts college in Ohio. I seemed to be outside his experience, and he certainly was a new type of person for me. Now I look back and see how utterly kind and tolerant he was of my enthusiasms and na´vetÚ. Bill wanted me to work on Paleozoic graptolites, but I only learned this later. He encouraged me to explore my own ideas and bring him a proposal for my doctoral research. I was soon happily studying Carboniferous paleoecology and conodont biostratigraphy in southern Nevada, far from any place or topic of Bill's own professional interest. Yet he treated me with a kind of bemused respect, never once trying to direct me towards graptolites or anything else in his research program. He tolerated my strange insistence on meeting every week to talk about my progress, whether I had any or not. He made sure I had full support and encouraged me to write my first papers, even though he was never a co-author. This is a kind of mentoring and advising that is rare in the graduate school world, and it made me and my Berkeley generation unusually independent in our research and teaching.

As an example of Bill's thoughtfulness, he helped me start my oral examination with unexpected confidence. I was very nervous as the proceedings began, sitting at the end of a long table lined with distinguished professors about to spend hours of quality time with me. As my advisor, Bill had the first question. He reached under the table and produced a slab of gray limestone and handed it to me, saying, "Identify for us all the fossils you see here." I lit up: the rock was from the Upper Ordovician of Ohio and covered with bryozoans, brachiopods, corals, clams, and crinoids. He knew that I loved this Cincinnatian fauna from my undergraduate days, and that I could name every critter there. It was a gesture from him that calmed me down, and it allowed me to show that I knew something, at least, as the exam began.

Bill Berry — a valued mentor, colleague, and friend …
By Doris Sloan, Adjunct Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences, UC Berkeley

Doris Sloan
Doris Sloan outside McCone Hall.
Bill Berry was my valued mentor, colleague and friend over the 40 years of my association with UCB. I admired him greatly for his exceptionally broad interest and expertise in the Earth Sciences. He was equally conversant with 500-million year old mollusks and corals living in shallow Ordovician seas as he was with forams and diatoms living in Bay muds 120,000 years ago. He supervised my MS in lower Paleozoic rocks in the White-Inyo Range of southeastern California; then a few years later supervised my PhD on depositional environments in San Francisco Bay during the Last Interglacial.

Ranging even further, Bill asked to serve on the Faculty Advisory Committee of the L&S Environmental Science program that I taught. He was a strong supporter of the program and helped to keep it alive through biennial threats of extinction. He became chair of the Advisory Committee and, when I retired, took over my classes. He greatly expanded their scope, teaching hundreds of students each semester in the largest classes offered by the Department of Earth & Planetary Science. Through these classes and community projects, he introduced a multitude of students to the physical sciences, sharing with them his wide knowledge and love of teaching.

Bill was an inspiring lecturer and actually a young maverick …
By Peter Sheehan, Milwaukee Public Museum

Peter Sheehan
Peter Sheehan on a 2010 Great Basin field trip.
I was one of Bill's early students, studying with him for nine years and three degrees. He was an inspiring lecturer, and actually a young maverick. As a grad student I did not understand how far, as an assistant professor, Bill stuck his neck out for me. The faculty was united in a conservative view that a public fellowship for graduate students was tantamount to communism; students did not bother to apply. When my application was signed by Bill, I think the fellowship office gasped in amazement and approved it on the spot. Years later, my daughter, who Bill had last seen as a five year old, took a class from Bill. It was his turn to gasp — he confided to me it was not possible so much time had passed.

Rodney Watkins was an undergraduate and master's student under Bill, and although he died a few years ago I know he would have liked to add to this tribute. Perhaps this will suffice: Rodney made a drawing of Bill, and it hung over his desk in his office at the Milwaukee Public Museum until Rodney's death a few years ago.

Bill was a visionary …
By Mark Goodwin, Assistant Director, UCMP

Mark Goodwin
Mark Goodwin jackets a disarticulated Triceratops skull in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana.
Bill was a visionary in his understanding of the educational role a public university played and how UCMP could have a positive and direct effect on students and amateur paleontologists of all ages. Under his direction, UCMP began sponsoring a variety of public-oriented activities to promote paleontology, the museum's collections and research, and the importance of the fossil record. These events were first held at the Lawrence Hall of Science and then expanded to become an annual weekend of outreach activities in McCone Hall each spring — UCMP's "Open House." A Young Person's Lecture Series was also initiated at this time. It didn't take long for the campus administration to realize that having thousands of citizens from Berkeley and the surrounding communities come to campus was a win-win for UC Berkeley and all the attendees. This UCMP event soon transformed into the now widely popular Cal Day held every spring on campus, and UCMP continues to be a popular destination as we share our fossil treasures and research.

In his capacity as Director, Bill supported UCMP fieldwork, in particular the annual UCMP spring field trip for paleo majors from the then Department of Paleontology, as well as for other interested undergraduate and graduate students. These trips served as effective training exercises, while building camaraderie and, most important of all, growing the collections, which resulted in more research opportunities for the UCMP community. Bill's professional activities as a research scientist are reflected in the wealth of resources he leaves in UCMP, including a top notch library focusing on graptolites, Ordovician and Silurian marine paleoenvironments, numerous field conferences, and rare original Russian and Chinese literature.

Bill was the Director in 1978 when I ventured to California from the east coast to interview for the position of museum preparator, and he hired me. As I continued my education at UC Berkeley and my professional development as a vertebrate paleontologist, Bill always took an interest in my contributions to UCMP. I was fortunate to land at a first-rate institution for my first full-time job in the museum world, and Bill's door was always open — well, you had to knock first, but he always had time for conversation, counsel, and advice, and was open to suggestions on making UCMP a better place to work, learn, and grow. He was kind, and I was fortunate to have Bill as the first of many UCMP directors with whom I have worked closely over the past 30 years.

UCMP awards party, circa 1986
Bill Berry (center) presents Howard Hutchison with a plaque at a UCMP awards party, circa 1986. Background, from far left: Laurie Bryant, Zhe-Xi Luo, Sam Welles, and Pat Lufkin. Foreground, from left: Matthew Colbert(?), Elmira Wan, and Joe Gregory.

 

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Roseanne Chambers Perman photo by Ross Wagner; Mark Wilson photo by Paul Taylor; Doris Sloan photo by Margaret Gennaro; Peter Sheehan photo by Frank Lotter; Mark Goodwin photo courtesy of Mark Goodwin; photo of Berry presenting award by Mark Goodwin, UCMP