Dr. Glenn Embree was named 2015 IASE Distinguished Communicator at the March 21st Symposium Awards Banquet. Embree was nominated by Dr. Dan Moore, Professor of Geology and Associate Dean of the BYU-Idaho College of Faculty Development and Mentored Research. In his letter of nomination, Moore stated:
Dr. Embree is a skilled and dedicated teacher and a passionate, skillful geologist who has spent his career building students, supporting colleagues, and researching the geology of southeastern Idaho.
As a teacher, Dr. Embree is passionate and engaging. He has a love for field geology that is boundless and contagious. He has taught hundreds of geology majors and thousands of general education students. For most of his career, BYU-Idaho (then Ricks College) was a two-year institution. Dr. Embree spent years providing undergraduates (mostly sophomores) with research experiences—before it was “in vogue” to do so. They were his “graduate students”, and he provided them with significant opportunities for learning. Those he introduced to geology have gone on to graduate schools and professions across the country. Those he taught are now employed as mining, petroleum, and environmental geologists, secondary and elementary school teachers, museum curators, professors, etc. Many others have gone on to careers outside geology, but continue to build on the fascination for the Earth that he fostered in them. I have observed him interact with former students. They clearly have a special place in their heart for him.
Dr. Embree is a facilitator of science. Most everyone who has done significant geological work in southeastern Idaho knows him, and many have received significant help from him. He is a friend to all. He helps without regard for personal profit. He is motivated by his love for the geology of this area and his willingness to be of service. He spends time with colleagues in the field, flies them over field areas in his plane, or provides accommodations for them at his house. He does this for professionals and students alike. The first time I met Dr. Embree was when he allowed me and a group of ~20 other students to spend the night in his basement. We were students at another university and were on a field trip to the area. After allowing us to stay at his house for the night, he spent the next two days teaching us the geology of the area. In his 38-year tenure in the department, Dr. Embree has served as Department Chair twice. Just after Ricks College became BYU-Idaho, and shortly after completing his second stint as Dept. Chair, Dr. Embree was asked to serve as Dean of the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, the largest of the colleges on campus. While this was not a position he personally wanted, he accepted the call to serve. This was no ordinary time to be dean, for tremendous amounts of work have been required as the departments in his college transitioned from their roles in a junior college to their new roles and responsibilities in a university. His efforts have been tireless and have come at great personal sacrifice. During his tenure as dean he has not had any significant time for research. Even so, he has made the time to mentor student research projects.
I believe the following analogy about the growth of two seeds helps capture the essence of Dr. Embree’s research career and accomplishments. Two seeds are planted in different areas: one in fertile soil in a warm, moist climate; the other in a crack in a basalt lava flow in southeastern Idaho. The seed planted in fertile soil grew into a large, fruitful tree while the seed planted into the Idaho basalt flow struggled against the odds, but grew into a strong, productive tree. Dr. Embree is the tree that developed from the seed planted in the Idaho basalt flow. If one compares the volume or impact of his research to that of full-time research scientists, he has not been as productive nor had the impact they have had. However, when seen against the backdrop of the research environment in which it was produced, his research is most impressive! There are few that spend their careers at two-year institutions of higher learning with research credentials as impressive. He has made significant contributions to the understanding of silicic tuff stratigraphy and the characteristics and history of rocks produced by the Yellowstone-Snake River Plain volcanic system. He was an active participant in geothermal research in the area, in the peak days of that field. He has also made meaningful contributions to the understanding of Paleozoic stratigraphy in the Beaverhead and nearby mountains. His skill as a research scientist lead to being offered a full-time research position with the United States Geological Survey; however, after a year with the USGS, his love of teaching brought him back to then Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho), where he has spent the remainder of his career.