Ruth Schmidt

  • "I was one of Dr Schmidt's students in late 1970 and she..."
  • "I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Schmidt in her capacity..."
    - Ivy Spohnholz
  • "Ruth's vitality and entry into the field of Geology so..."
    - Nancy Vaughn
  • "Details on Celebration of Life: Saturday May 17, 5-7 pm..."
    - Sally Gibert
  • "Ruth's dry sense of humor and wonderful smile lightened up..."
    - Peg Tileston

Well-known geologist, Dr. Ruth A. M. Schmidt died peacefully on March 29, just short of her 98th birthday.

Born April 22, 1916 in Brooklyn New York, the youngest among siblings Edna, Gertrude, Edward and Dorothy Schmidt (all pre-deceased), Ruth became a geologist when women in geology were rare indeed. She earned a Masters and Ph.D. in Geology from Columbia University.

She worked for the US Geological Survey from 1943 to 1963, starting in Washington D.C. and transferring to Alaska in 1956. The 1964 Earthquake struck while Ruth was working on the frozen Portage Lake, requiring skill to get her and her team off the broken ice safely. She was named the Federal coordinator of the Engineering and Geological Evaluation Group to assess earthquake damage and future risk.

She started teaching geology in 1959 at Anchorage Community College, and later founded and chaired the Geology Department at University of Alaska, Anchorage, from where she retired in 1984. She was well respected by her students who, over the decades, would often approach Dr. Schmidt in restaurants with praise for inspiring their love of geology.

Both before and after her teaching career, she consulted on many projects - continuing well into her 80s. She was active in a number of professional organizations, including a charter member of the Alaska Geologic Society, and often served in leadership roles.

As a philanthropist she supported conservation, opera and symphony, social services, public media, science, and science education for women and minorities.

Those who knew Ruth will remember her no-nonsense Brooklyn accent, intelligence, unpretentious manner, lightning-quick wit, and generosity.

Ruth is survived by her nephew John Charles Meyer, Senior; grand niece Carol Meyer; grand nephew John Charles Meyer, Jr; her best friend and beloved caregiver Gurbinder Randhawa; as well as close friends and legal guardians Sally Gibert and Jean Paal.

A celebration of life, to be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature, or Hospice of Anchorage.

Published in Anchorage Daily News from Apr. 6 to Apr. 7, 2014