Our founders

During their affiliation with Indiana University, three people were most instrumental in the founding and development of the Indiana University Geologic Field Station, contributing greatly to its success.

Charles Deiss – 1903-1959

The impetus and vision that created the Indiana University Geologic Field Station came from Charles Frederick Deiss. His experience in the Rockies and his teaching at the University of Montana (1929-45) led him to select the South Boulder Valley as the site for the Field Station when he came to Indiana as department chairman and State Geologist in 1945.

The first two field courses were conducted out of the YBRA (Princeton) camp near Red Lodge. In 1947 Dr. Deiss was in charge, with 8 students participating, and in 1948 Charles J. Vitaliano led the program, with 21 students and three assistants.

Dr. Deiss selected the South Boulder Valley as the site for the Field Station because "the region offers more extensive and varied geologic phenomena than any other area of equal size in the United States." After a July 1948 visit by the IU Purchasing Agent and the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, the present site was selected for purchase.

The land was part of the original homestead holdings of the Brownback family, dating back to about 1880. The land had reverted to the state of Montana in 1929, and was under lease by Whitehall rancher Frank Koontz. After considerable legal work—the State of Montana was not sure it could reasonably sell part of its territory to the State of Indiana in the person of the trustees of Indiana University—60 acres were purchased in the name of IU Treasurer J.A. Franklin and his wife. The Deed is dated December 30, 1948, and the Franklins assigned the deed to the Trustees of Indiana University on December 31, 1948. The 60 acres cost $5 per acre, for a total cost of $305 (including a $5 filing fee). Today, land in this valley goes for about $1000 per acre—or more.

Charles Deiss was born in Covington, Kentucky, March 18, 1903. He pursued his undergraduate degree at Miami of Ohio, and received the Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1928, followed immediately by his first faculty position at Montana State University (as the University of Montana was then known). His diverse interests and expertise ranged from Cambrian stratigraphy and trilobite research to field mapping and structural geology. During his tenure with the University of Montana, he also worked with the Montana Bureau of Mines and the Montana Power Company, and during World War II he worked for the USGS on dolomite exploration and phosphate rock studies throughout the western United States.

His tenure at Indiana from 1945-59, in addition to the creation of the Field Station, saw a legacy of a much stronger Geological Survey, and the IU Geology Department also was built to a larger group of faculty.

Charles Deiss was Director of the Field Station for its first two years, and he continued to have a strong role in the programs here (usually leading the Glacier Trip) until his death, June 13, 1959, at age 56. The Deiss Scholarship Fund honors him, and the Lodge was named in his memory at the 1999 50th Anniversary celebration.

Charles J. Vitaliano – 1910-2000

Charles J. Vitaliano was the first full-time instructor in G429 at the IU Geologic Field Station. He taught with Charles Deiss in the first IU course offerings (1947-48) at the Princeton Field Camp near Red Lodge, and became primary instructor for the first course offered at the IUGFS in 1949.

Dr. Vitaliano was born April 2, 1910, in New York City, and received his undergraduate education at the City College of New York. His studies at Columbia University culminated in the Ph.D., awarded in 1944. At Indiana University, Charles Vitaliano specialized in Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, and taught the undergraduate Optical Mineralogy courses as well as G429.

Dr. V taught at the Field Station until 1974, and he continued to teach at Indiana University until his retirement in 1983. With his wife Dorothy, a geologist and long-time translator for the USGS, he traveled the globe in the pursuit of both "hot rocks" and the interactions between geologic events and human culture, blending geological study with archeology.

Professor Emeritus Charles Vitaliano shared in the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Field Station in 1999. The Lecture Hall was named for him at that time. He died April 6, 2000. His life is celebrated through the Vitaliano Research Grant.

Judson Mead – 1917-2010

The official name of the Field Station was changed in 1999 to honor Judson Mead, Professor Emeritus of Geophysics at Indiana University and faculty in the field programs in Montana from 1956-1980. Under his Directorship (1960-80) the IU Geologic Field Station gained world-wide recognition as one of the best field programs anywhere. Jud recalls the summer of 1961 as the most exciting time in his academic life, when he and Tom Hendrix worked out the G429 program which is largely in place today, changing the emphasis from traditional, techniques-oriented field geology, to Geology in the Field. That focus of teaching on problem-solving and discovery provides students with skills and knowledge in all disciplines of our science.

Judson Mead was born September 16, 1917, in Madison, Wisconsin. His father, Warren Judson Mead, was a geologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin. Jud received his B.S. (1940) and Ph.D. (1949) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with an intervening wartime job at the Airborne Instruments Laboratory. He came to teach at Indiana University in 1948, and he retired in 1983. He was a pioneer in applying geophysics to archeological investigations, and his research interests included the structure of the crust, exploration geophysics, and computer applications at a time when computers filled entire rooms. But he is probably best remembered as a wonderful teacher.

In addition to implementing the revamping of the educational programs at the Field Station, Dr. Mead introduced radio communication to the caravan trips, enhancing them as teaching experiences. He supervised many geophysics students whose Montana research provides some of the underpinning to the concepts of regional geology that we teach today. In 1966, he brought trailers for faculty families to the Station, making the place a second home for a generation of children. Jud and Jane Mead married in 1944 and have three children of their own—and a grandson who is carrying on the Mead geoscience tradition. Since retirement, Jud has been active in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences’ Advisory Board.

Judson Mead was recognized by the National Association of Geology Teachers, which presented him with the Neil Miner Award, America’s highest award for geological teaching excellence. We recognize him as a leader, teacher, mentor, and beloved friend. He is honored by the Mead Field Station Endowment Fund.