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Dr. James Taranik

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Dr. James Taranik Obituary
Dr. James V. Taranik

Dr James Vladimir Taranik passed away on Tuesday, June 21 at the age of 71. He was born on April 23, 1940 to Vladimir and Jeanette Taranik in Los Angeles, California. He graduated with a BSc in Geology from Stanford University in 1964 and earned his PhD in Geology from Colorado School of Mines.

Dr. Taranik has served the State of Nevada, the University of Nevada, Reno, The Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering and the Desert Research Institute well in his illustrious career. After four years with NASA and the Space Shuttle Program, where Jim was a senior scientist and Chief of NASA's Non-Renewable Resources Branch, he came to Nevada in 1982 to serve as Dean of the Mackay School of Mines. As Dean of Mackay, he secured $28 million for a new Mackay School of Mines building and the modernization of major teaching facilities. He led the School of Mines as its Dean until 1987, when he was appointed by the Board of Regents as President and CEO of the Desert Research Institute. At DRI from 1987 to 1998, Jim helped it grow to one of the world's foremost environmental research organizations with an international reputation. Again with his planning and fund raising prowess, he and his team secured $38 million for two major new Science centers, one in Las Vegas and the other in Reno. He became DRI Emeritus President in 1998.

Dr. Taranik returned to Mackay in 1998 and served as Regent's Professor and the Arthur Brant Endowed Chair for Geophysics. During this time, Jim also founded and directed the Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy at UNR. He brought in millions of dollars in research funding, taught numerous courses and mentored hundreds of students. In yet another time of change, in 2003, the University of Nevada and the Mackay School of Mines turned, once again to Dr. Taranik, asking him to serve as Acting Dean of the School. After major reorganization at the University in 2004, Jim became the first Director of the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, where he again led the School until moving back into the academic department of Geological Sciences and Engineering in 2009. Dr. Taranik was planning to retire from the University of Nevada, Reno on June 30, 2011 as an Emeritus Regents Professor, and President Emeritus of the Desert Research Institute.

He began his career as a student at Stanford where he earned his BS in Geology he received a varsity letter as Captain of the water polo team. He joined the Iowa Geological Survey where he created the Iowa Remote Sensing Laboratory. His next career posting was to the U. S. Geological Survey, Earth Resources Observation Systems Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he was Principal Remote Sensing Scientist for Geological Applications. He became Branch Chief for Non-Renewable Resources at NASA Headquarters in Washington,

D. C., and was NASA's Program Scientist for the first two space shuttle flights, the second of which contained the first payload of scientific instruments ever flown on the Space Shuttle.

Dr. Taranik served as a Director of Newmont Gold Company from 1986 to 1998 and as a Director of Newmont Mining Corporation from 1998 to 2010. His tenure was the second longest serving Board member in Newmont's corporate history. He served as a Director of Earth Satellite Corporation from 1997-2002 and currently serves as a director for Klamath Basin Geopower, Inc.

Dr. Taranik is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Explorers Club. He is an academy member in the International Academy of Astronautics and is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. He received the Bronze Star Medal for bravery and meritorious services as geologist for the U. S. Army Engineer Command in Vietnam and NASA's Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for leading the Shuttle science team on Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications - 1. He is a Certified Professional Geological Scientist of AIPG and a Certified Remote Sensing Scientist.

Dr. Taranik is a member of the St. Mary's Foundation, the Challenger Learning Center Foundation as well as many other national, state and local boards and foundations. He has received many other honors and awards.

Dr. Taranik is survived by his wife, Colleen, his son, Dan Taranik of Singapore, his daughter Debra (Krishnan) Chittur of Decatur, Alabama, brother Nikolas (Cathy) of Auburn, Washington, and three grandchildren, Rachel Davis of Nashua, New Hampshire, Benjamin Vladimir Davis and Athena Chittur of Decatur, AL, as well as many nieces and nephews. Dr. Taranik was a great-great grandson of Sergeant Patrick Gass, an officer of the Lewis and Clark Expedition commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, and author of the first printed journal of the expedition.

Dr. Taranik was admired for his scientific accomplishments, leadership capabilities, mentoring of students and faculty, and easy-going, upbeat spirit by his friends and co-workers. His passing is an incredible loss to the State of Nevada, The University of Nevada, Reno, the Desert Research Institute, his current and former colleagues, dear friends and, of course, to his loving family.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts be made in Dr. Taranik's name to the Desert Research Institute Foundation, on-line at or via mail to 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV 89512.

A private family service will be held and a public Celebration of Life will be organized and held by the Desert Research Institute and University of Nevada with full military honors at a later date.

Arrangements entrusted to Walton's Funeral Home, Reno.


Published in Reno Gazette-Journal from June 25 to June 28, 2011
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