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William Rudolf (Bill) Muehlberger

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William (Bill) Rudolf Muehlberger William (Bill) Rudolf Muehlberger, 87, died September 14, 2011. Bill Muehlberger was born in New York, New York on September 26, 1923, and grew up in Hollywood, California. He entered the California Institute of Technology in 1941, but the U.S. Marine Corps sent him to the University of California at Berkeley in civil engineering in 1943. He studied at UC until 1944, one semester shy of a degree. He returned to the California Institute of Technology and completed his B.S. (1949), M.S. (1949) and Ph.D. (1954) in structural geology. Bill married Sally J. Provine in 1949. Bill and Sally had a passion for traveling around the world. It was common for them to take multiple trips in a single year. They shared their passion for travel with their four grandchildren by traveling with them individually to a destination of each grandchild's choice. After Sally's death, he met Louise Reeser, with whom he enjoyed the remainder of his life. Bill felt incredibly lucky to have been able to share his life with these two wonderful women. Bill joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin in 1954 where he taught structural geology and tectonics and remained there until his retirement in 1992 when he became professor emeritus. He was director of the Crustal Studies Laboratory at the University of Texas from 1962 to 1966. He also served as chairman of the department from 1966 to 1970. Bill took a leave from the university from 1970 to 1973 to be NASA's Principal Investigator for the Apollo 16 and 17 missions to the Moon. He continued as an instructor/advisor to the astronauts on Earth observations from Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station. Two NASA medals attest to his contributions to astronaut and public instruction in geological and solar system exploration: the 1973 Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the 1999 Public Service Medal. A structural geologist by trade, Bill studied brittle fault zones and fracture systems worldwide, but especially in Texas, Turkey, Israel, New Zealand, and Guatemala. He also studied basement lineaments and correlated geophysical data with them. His work helped with the understanding of tectonics, focusing on the Western United States and Latin America. He compiled the most recent Tectonic Map of North America, grounded in plate tectonics concepts and for those efforts was given the Outstanding Paper Award of the GSA Structure and Tectonics Division. With his extensive observations of the character of the Earth's crust, he was the ideal person to help assemble large-scale geological maps and to help educate NASA astronauts. Bill held numerous endowed chairs at the University of Texas, including the Fred M. Bullard Professorship for excellence in teaching (1980-82), the Charles E. Yager Professorship (1982-83), the John E. ('Brick') Elliott Centennial Endowed Professorship in Geological Sciences (1983-85), the William Stamps Farish Chair in Geology (1985-89), and the Peter T. Flawn Centennial Chair in Geology (1989-92). Dedicated to his profession, he also served on the U.S. Geodynamics Committee and on several committees for the National Research Council, Geological Society of America, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and the American Geophysical Union. He was an associate editor for Geological Society of America Bulletin and for Geophysical Research Letters. Above all, Bill valued time with his family, friends, and colleagues. He never missed an opportunity to learn or to teach. He taught every one he met about the world around them and encouraged them to experience and discover it for themselves. Those who knew him feel privileged to have been included in his life. Bill is survived by son Eric Muehlberger and his wife Edie of Austin, Texas; daughter Karen Erickson and her husband Paul of Albuquerque, New Mexico; grandchildren Hahna and Olivia Muehlberger of Austin and John and Kristen Erickson of Albuquerque; siblings Roy Muehlberger and wife Nancy, Eugene Muehlberger, Diana Muehlberger Ritmire and husband Ken; numerous nieces and nephews; and good friend and partner Louise Reeser. The family would like to thank all his caregivers, especially: Noel Chapi, Paul Alvarez, Britni Balfanz, and Eric Chou. In addition, we extend our heartfelt thanks to Hospice Austin for their support. A celebration of his life will be held at The Umlauf Sculpture Garden, 605 Robert E. Lee Road, on Monday, September 26, 2011 at 3:30 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the William R. Muehlberger Field Geology Scholarship Fund or the William R. Muehlberger Graduate Fellowship in Structural Geology/Tectonics in care of the Jackson School of Geosciences, 1 University Station C1160, Austin, TX 78712-0254.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Sept. 17 to Sept. 25, 2011
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