By Skylar Hopkins, Alumna Contributor: Class of 2012
On a geological time scale, Dr. Thomas Eastler’s tenure at UMF has occurred in the blink of an eye. But in those 41 years, Dr. Eastler has had a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of UMF geology students and thousands of students with other majors.
Dr. Eastler has taught a variety of geology courses, including sedimentation and stratification, Earth history, geographical information systems (GIS), environmental geosciences, and terrain analysis. His legendary “48-hour project” in terrain analysis has caused acute sleep deprivation, copious caffeine consumption, and rapid professional development for decades worth of students, who fondly remember those frantic hours as a period of true accomplishment.
Dr. Eastler’s passion for science has always been infectious to students. His excitement, sense of humor, and epic tales have ingrained in students the differences between casts versus molds, meteor falls versus finds, strike slip versus dip slip faults, and rural versus urban hydrographs. And of course, all of Dr. Eastler’s thousands of students can explain, in excruciating detail, the journey of quartz and feldspar from the top of a mountain to the bottom of the ocean. Furthermore, frequent field trips to local places such as the waste water treatment plant and the Sandy River – as well as more exotic places such as Newfoundland, the Colorado Plateau, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska – have provided hands-on-learning experiences for students that are unrivaled by other undergraduate institutions.
More importantly, Dr. Eastler is known for his superb mentorship. He has always been willing to pick up the phone at anytime to call anyone and put in a good word for a student. He has advised students in a tiny office crammed with thousands of books, in a diesel-fueled car (license plate: Dr. Rock) or a rickety 12-passenger van, over the phone at the crack of dawn or late at night, and via emails somehow always sent between the hours of midnight and 5:00am. That kind of personalized, dedicated mentorship is rare and highly cherished, and the impact of those interactions on a young person’s career is immense. For these reasons, Dr. Eastler will be dearly missed by UMF’s science students, old and new.
Dr. Eastler will officially be retiring on August 31st of this year. Though he is wrapping up his last semester, he will continue to mentor students throughout the summer. And because he is Dr. Eastler, he will surely continue his mentoring role long into his retirement. His students and colleagues near and far wish him all the best of luck in his future endeavors.