posted November 17, 2010

Last Lecture Series to Feature Geologist Edward Hansen

 Dr. Edward Hansen, professor of geology and environmental science at Hope College, will present the address "The Call to Humility:  A Scientist's Faith" on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Maas Center auditorium.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Hansen will be speaking through the "Last Lecture Series" organized by the college's Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society to feature members of the faculty.

The title of the lecture series, which the chapter initiated during the 2008-09 school year, is rhetorical.  The lectures are not literally presented as the last that the speakers will deliver at Hope, but are meant to highlight the advice that they would most want to share if the event was indeed the final opportunity for them to address the college's students.  The professors are being asked to reflect on their careers and lives, and to think deeply about what matters to them and about what wisdom they would like to impart.

The concept was inspired by the "Last Lecture" delivered at Carnegie Mellon University by Dr. Randy Pausch on Sept. 18, 2007.  Pausch, a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty who had terminal pancreatic cancer -- a fact known at the time that he spoke -- presented "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."  He died on July 25, 2008, at age 47.

Hansen has taught at Hope since 1984. He joined the faculty as an assistant professor, and was promoted to associate professor in 1990 and to full professor in 2000. He served as chair of the department from 1995 until 2001.

Hansen's primary research emphasis is on the history of the sand dunes along the southeastern coast of Lake Michigan across the past 5,000 years.  Working collaboratively with student researchers, he has been exploring the history of the dunes from as far south as Michigan City to as far north as Muskegon, with particular focus on the dune complex in the Holland area.  In 2008, he received an award through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program that enabled him to spend the fall semester in Europe learning additional research techniques in support of his work.

He is also interested in metamorphism, the process by which rocks are transformed by heat, pressure and chemically active fluids in the interior of the earth, and has been working with other scholars internationally as well as Hope students on a variety of projects, most recently in Sweden's Halland Province.

Hansen is active in the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), currently serving as a member of the executive board and as chair of the Geoscience Division.  He was president of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters during the 2005-06 school year, with his service to the academy also having included serving as a member-at large on the executive committee and leading the section in the geological sciences.

He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1978 with a B.S. in geology, and completed his doctorate in the geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago in 1983. After completing his Ph.D. he continued to work with his thesis advisor as a research associate for a year.

Mortar Board is a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for outstanding achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and provides opportunities for continued leadership development, promotes service to college and universities, and encourages lifelong contributions to the global community.  Since its founding in 1918, the organization has grown from the four founding chapters to 228 collegiate chapters with nearly 250,000 initiated members across the nation.

The Alcor chapter has existed at Hope since the 1936-37 academic year, although it did not become part of the national Mortar Board organization until 1961.  During the 2010 Mortar Board National Conference in July, the chapter received the organization's highest honor for a collegiate chapter, the Ruth Weimer Mount Chapter Excellence Award.  The chapter also received eight "Project Excellence Awards," including for the Last Lecture Series.

The chapter also sponsored a "last chance talk" during the 1960s.  The idea back then was to invite a faculty member to express his/her ideas under the hypothetical assumption that this would be the last opportunity to address the student body.  The late Dr. D. Ivan Dykstra, professor of philosophy, delivered the first "last chance talk" in the spring of 1962.

The Maas Center is located at 264 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.