In Memoriam: Reuben J. Ross

Title: In Memoriam: A Memorial Tribute to Reuben J. Ross, Jr.
Authors: Ruth Murray Grier and Mark W. Longman
Publication: The Outcrop, May 2005, p. 35

Reuben J. Ross, Jr. died on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005, after a long illness. Born in New York City on July 1, 1918, Rube was fortunate to be exposed to the intellectual and artistic riches of the New York area as well as ample opportunities to participate in sports. He maintained a life-long interest in music, both jazz and classical, and a devotion to participatory sports. Attendance at his beloved Saint George’s school in Providence, Rhode Island, instilled in him a certain tolerance for austerity as well as a disciplined approach to learning.

While attending Princeton University, Rube spent a summer shepherding students on a geologic tour of the West. At the Princeton Field Camp near Red Lodge, Montana, his “digs” consisted of a sleeping bag under the porch of the dining hall where he listened late into the night to debates by some of the “learned lights” of the geologic world. It was during this period that Rube became enamored of the “Wild West” as well as of Jill Fabian who was spending the summer at her family’s cabin in South Dakota. The result of all this was a marriage, four children, six grandchildren, and a symbiosis that lasted until Jill’s death in 1993.

After receiving a B.A. degree from Princeton University in 1940, Rube spent one year at Yale University before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served in North Africa and Europe during World War II, received a Bronze Star, and worked his way up through the ranks to the level of Lieutenant Colonel. Rube then returned to Yale University where he received an M.S. degree in Geology in 1946, and a Ph.D. in 1948. He then began his professional career as an Associate Professor of Geology at Wesleyan University in Middleton, Connecticut, from 1948 to 1952. Rube joined the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver where he worked as a paleontologist from 1952 to 1980. From 1980 to 1992, he served as an adjunct professor of geology at the Colorado School of Mines, and supervised several graduate students. He was active in numerous geological societies, a Fellow in GSA, and the leader of the first four Great Basin Ordovician Excursions from 1965 to 1986.

Rube published his first paper in the Journal of Paleontology in 1942. It dealt with the use of foraminifers to date the Cannonball Formation in North Dakota as Paleocene. In the following 60 years, he published more than 80 papers on subjects ranging from terminology for trilobites to fission-track dating of Ordovician and Silurian stratotype sections in Great Britain. Probably his single most important contribution to geology was “The Ordovician System in the United States” published in 1982 by the International Union of Geological Sciences, which became the classic reference for correlating and dating Ordovician formations across the U.S.

Despite a well-deserved reputation for cantankerous outbursts, he also was known as a generous, witty, inquisitive, and loving human. To Be Missed!