Apr
25
2014

Passing of Minnesota geologist Charlie Matsch

Charlie Matsch: the Minnesota geologist and professor emeritus (right) explains Duluth geology to GSA field trip participants in 2011.
Charlie Matsch: the Minnesota geologist and professor emeritus (right) explains Duluth geology to GSA field trip participants in 2011.Courtesy Mark Ryan
I was saddened to hear of the death of Charlie Matsch, a well-known geologist, author, and highly-regarded professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. According to his obituary, Matsch was born in 1930, and graduated with a degree in geology from the University of Maine, and Master of Science degree from the University of Minnesota. After a stint as a petroleum geologist in Midland, Texas, Matsch acquired his Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin, then joined the Geology Department at UMD where he served as teacher and mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students, until he retired from teaching in 2001. Matsch helped co-write the classic book, Minnesota Geology, with geologist Richard Ojakangas (my geology instructor when I attended UMD).

I met Charlie Matsch only once, back in the autumn of 2011, as part of a Geological Society of America field trip in Duluth. The GSA was holding their annual meeting in Minnesota that year, and I was fortunate enough to attend with a media pass. Besides entry into the conference, the pass also gave me the opportunity to sign up for a field trip to Duluth. The excursion was comprised of a half day on Lake Superior aboard the research vessel, Blue Heron, and a half day with Charlie Matsch exploring some of Duluth's geological highlights.

Charlie was very pleasant, open, and easy going. In the course of our conversation, it came up that several years before I had written a history of Duluth's parks and boulevards, and that one of my favorites was Seven Bridges Road, a local and historic parkway running up the western branch of the Lester River, not far from where I grew up. Charlie's eyes lit up. He said Seven Bridges Road was one of his favorite places in Duluth.

During his segment of the field trip, you could tell Charlie was really passionate about geology as he explained the dark gabbro intrusion outcropping on top of the hill near Duluth's landmark Enger Tower, or the black sand sedimentary layers interlaced between basalt flows along Lake Superior's shoreline.

At the Deeps: Geologist Charlie Matsch (center in green cap) explains the geological events that formed the natural popular swimming hole seen in the background.
At the Deeps: Geologist Charlie Matsch (center in green cap) explains the geological events that formed the natural popular swimming hole seen in the background.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Between those stops, Charlie took us up to one of my favorite spots in Lester Park to see a spectacular waterfall that has carved a beautiful, natural swimming hole out of the billion year old basalt flows that make up much of Duluth's rocky bluffs (along with the aforementioned gabbro). The idyllic setting, known as "The Deeps", was one of my hangouts while growing up in Duluth. Not surprisingly, it's located just off Seven Bridges Road.

Charlie's research focused on Minnesota geology, and the effects of the ice age in the Midwest. It's no surprise to learn that Charlie Matsch passing occurred April 18 while he was attending the annual Geological Sciences Banquet and Awards Ceremony, an event he never missed.

A celebration of Professor Matsch's life will be held 6pm-9pm, May 9, at the Tweed Museum of Art at UMD in Duluth.

SOURCES and LINKS
Duluth News Tribune obiturary
UMD biography

No votes yet

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Jan Dieter's picture
Jan Dieter says:

He is my uncle and will be missed dearly.

posted on Tue, 04/29/2014 - 6:42am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options