Department Awards

Each Spring the Earth and Environmental Geoscience faculty present several awards at an always fun BBQ party. All majors are eligible to be considered for appropriate awards. Some awards acknowledge the most engaged, responsible, and curious students; some awards support research projects. All awards listed below, other than the Departmental Award, were started and funded by geology alumni. Thank you alums for ensuring students will be able to have the best research and conference experiences possible!

Outstanding student awards
Departmental Award

Given to promising students considering or entering the study of geoscience.

Lena T. Stevens Award
The Lena T. Stevens Award honors Mrs. Stevens' interest in and aid to geological education. This award recognizes senior majors who are excellent students, applying their skills and curiosity to their studies.

Marcellus H. Stow Award
The Marcellus Henry Stow Award honors M.H. Stow, who taught geology at Washington and Lee from 1926 to 1957. He was an internationally known sedimentologist who during the Second World War was director of the mining division of the War Production Board. The award recognizes junior majors who are excellent students, applying their skills and curiosity to their studies.

Frank G. Young Award
The Young Award in Geology was established in honor of Frank G. Young, a former student and trustee of the University, and great benefactor of the Geology Department. The award is given to majors in recognition of exceptional excellence in academic performance in earth and environmental geoscience courses. This award is not necessarily granted every year.

Research support awards
R. Preston Hawkins IV Geology Award
The Hawkins Award was established by family, friends, and colleagues of Preston Hawkins '91 to assist students conducting field research. Preston loved geology field work as a student and spent his career as a lead field geologist, respected for his expertise in subsurface exploration in environmental, groundwater, engineering studies, and UXO remediation projects, with North American Exploration of Virginia (NAEVA) Geophysics, Inc. in Charlottesville, VA. Preston was an avid fishermen and outdoorsmen.

Samuel J. Kozak-Odell S. McGuire-Edgar W. Spencer-Frederick L. Schwab Award
For nearly three decades, the Geology Department at W&L thrived under the direction of professors Samuel Kozak, Odell McGuire, Fred Schwab and Edgar Spencer. To honor the memory of Professor Kozak and the careers of Spencer and McGuire, this fund was established in 2001 to provide financial support for students to travel to professional meetings, to prepare publications and to present the results of their research. Professor Schwab's name was added to the fund upon his retirement.

Ed Spencer transferred to W&L from Vanderbilt University and graduated from Washington and Lee in 1953. After finishing his doctoral work at Columbia, he returned to W&L in 1958 as the second member of a two-person department. Soon after, Spencer became chair of the department and served in that capacity until 1995. He died in 2020.

Sam Kozak met Spencer in Montana while working on his thesis and came to W&L for a one-term replacement position. After finishing his Ph.D. at Iowa, he joined the W&L faculty in 1961 and remained an active member of the teaching faculty until his untimely death in 1997.

In 1962, Odell McGuire became the third member of what had been a two-person department and taught geology until his retirement in 1994. He died in 2008.

Fred Schwab joined the faculty at W&L in 1967 after finishing his doctorate at Harvard and most of his research focused on sedimentology. He retired from W&L in 2003.

All four professors were instrumental in shaping the academic success of the department and for developing strong, personal relationships with their students. What started as classroom, laboratory and field student-faculty relationships expanded into long-lasting friendships.

Edgar W. Spencer '53 Geology Field Research Fund
The Edgar W. Spencer '53 Geology Field Research Fund was established in 2018 by Quinn T. Kiley '95 to provide support for student field research under the supervision of a W&L geology professor. Kiley established the award in 2017 to honor Ed Spencer, the Ruth Parmly Professor of Geology and a member of the W&L Class of 1953. Spencer returned to the university in 1957 to teach geology and spent his life and career unraveling the mysteries of the Earth's interior and the structure of mountain systems. He retired in 2001 and died in 2020.

Spencer taught courses on oceanography, meteorology, structural geology and geophysics, as well as seminars on Greek natural philosophy and the geology of the Pyrenees. His research, in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana and in the Appalachians, was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Geological Institute, the American Chemical Society and the Mellon Foundation. In 1990, he received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia Council of Higher Education.

The highlight of every academic year for him was his Spring Term geology field course. Spencer regularly traveled around the country with students and other faculty to explore regional geology in locations that included the West Coast from California to Washington, New England, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and the Southwest.

Spencer also focused on research, conducting fieldwork and leading countless field trips in the Blue Ridge Mountains and other parts of the world. He published geologic quadrangle maps of the Appalachian region and a map interpretation book and was the author of several textbooks on structural and introductory geology. He was the recipient of the Virginia Geological Field Conference's 2013 Anna Jonah Award for Outstanding Contribution to Virginia Geology. His most recent book, "Guide to the Geology and Natural History of the Blue Ridge Mountains" (2017), was named an Outstanding Title for 2018 by the American Library Association and was also named Best Guidebook of 2019 by the Geoscience Information Society.