Geologist Margi Rusmore Named First Gibby Professor of Science

Jim Tranquada

Geology Professor Margi Rusmore, an internationally known scholar in structural geology and tectonics, has been named the inaugural Michael G. Gibby ’68 and Barbara J. Gibby ’68 Professor of Science at Occidental College.

“We’re delighted that Margi was selected as the first Gibby Professor. She has all the hallmarks of an Oxy professor: intelligent, accomplished, challenging, engaged and engaging, and always approachable,” says Barbara Gibby, a religion and psychology double major and a pioneer in public school special education.

“I was really surprised and gratified—it’s quite an honor,” says Rusmore, who joined the Oxy faculty in 1985. “I am deeply grateful to the Gibbys for recognizing the central role of the faculty in their education at Oxy.”

As a structural geologist Rusmore studies the evolution and growth of continental margins, with a particular focus on the mountain ranges of the western portion of the North American continent. “The middle of continents are very inert geologically,” she says. “I’m interested in how something that stable becomes so complicated at the edges and what that tells us about how the Earth evolved.”

Gretchen North, John W. McMenamin Endowed Chair in Biology, called Rusmore “the model of what a science professor at Oxy should be” in a letter of recommendation for the professorship. “She does leading-edge research, serves as an international leader in her profession, improves the intellectual and day-to-day lives of her students and colleagues, and exemplifies science as an inclusive endeavor, one that she actively encourages students from a broad range of backgrounds to join.”

A Fellow of the Geological Society of America, Rusmore is an author of more than two dozen publications and dozens of abstracts on her research, which has been funded by the National Science Foundation. She is currently an editor for the American Geophysical Union’s Tectonics, one of the top peer-reviewed journals in the field.

At Occidental, she is now chair of geology for the fifth time and has served three times on the Faculty Council and once on the Advisory Council. She played a central role in the design of Oxy’s environmental sciences program and the California Environment Semester, and served as the faculty coordinator for the design and construction of the College’s Hameetman Science Center, which houses the Geology and Physics departments.

“Margi's commitment to the mission of the College is exemplified in her work on preparing the NSF COSMOS grant, which aims to broaden the pipeline of underrepresented, low-income, and first-generation students in science fields, and by twice teaching its lead-in course, CSP 96,” said Wendy Sternberg, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College.

Rusmore was presented with the Graham L. Sterling Memorial Award, Occidental’s most prestigious faculty honor, in 2007.

Unlike many endowed professorships, the Gibby Professor is not limited to a single discipline. It can be awarded to any professor who has achieved distinguished and notable success in his or her teaching and scholarly activity in any one of five scientific disciplines--biology, chemistry, computer science, geology and physics--or mathematics.

Inspired by their 50th reunion last year, the Gibbys established the professorship “because we really wanted to do was something impactful. We really wanted to hit the core of a liberal arts education,” says Mike, a chemistry major at Oxy who went on to found Arion Systems, an engineering service company.