George E. McGill, 1931–2018

George E. McGill, 1931-2018

George Emmert McGill, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), passed away peacefully on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Amherst, Massachusetts, at the age of 86.

McGill was born on June 10, 1931, in Des Moines, Iowa. He moved to Minnesota to attend college, receiving his B.A. degree from Carleton College in 1953 with a major in geology and a minor in biology. M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in geology were completed at the University of Minnesota in 1955 and Princeton University in 1958. Although he remained a generalist throughout, he acquired a special interest in structural geology while in residence at Princeton. McGill joined the faculty of UMass in 1958 and served as Department Head from 1977 to 1984 and 1988 to 1993.

McGill’s career at UMass spanned nearly four decades. Until 1970, he conducted field research on the structural geology and stratigraphy of the Montana Rockies, and laboratory research involving high-pressure rock deformation. After 1970, most of his research was in planetary geology, with emphasis on structural geology and the crustal evolution of terrestrial planets, including relevant Earth-analog field studies in the Colorado Plateau area. While he spent many happy weeks out in the wilderness, solving geologic puzzles, he was probably best known for his later work in planetary geology. He worked with NASA on many projects, including serving as a member of the Science Steering Group and on the Radar Mapper Team for the Pioneer Venus Project of NASA, and he compiled major global summaries of the geology and tectonics of Venus as a result of this activity. He also was a Guest Investigator for the Magellan radar mapping mission to Venus from 1990 to 1993.

Over the years, McGill played an instrumental role in building and developing the geology department he loved. While he was a devoted teacher, his true passion was working with and mentoring his many graduate students, work he continued long after his retirement in 1997. McGill counted his students among his friends, and he took great pride in their many achievements. He was also devoted to his family, and one of his greatest pleasures, particularly after retirement, was traveling with his wife to visit his far-flung children and grandchildren. He loved music, tended an organic vegetable garden for years, and always made sure the bird feeders were full.