A rock star of a very different sort
As Prof. Ray Price looks back over an illustrious 60-year career as a geologist, he is about to add two new honours to an already lengthy list of proud accomplishments.
Ray Price is passionate about geology – especially about rocks and mountains. If you think you’d find the subject matter dull, spend an hour with Price; his knowledge and enthusiasm about the topic he has spent his life studying is astonishingly infectious. Perhaps it was because he grew up in the prairies, but the first time Price saw the Rocky Mountains, his life took a quantum shift. He has spent the last six decades studying the Canadian section of the North American Cordillera, the mountain ranges that are the western backbone of North and South America
Now an Emeritus Professor of Geology who at age 79 can still to be found most days hard at work in his lab, he will receive an honorary doctorate from Queen’s this spring. A new teaching lab in Miller Hall is also being named in his honor.
Price intended to study physics and chemistry when he started at the U of Manitoba in 1951. Instead, with just one course in geology to his credit, he landed a summer job with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). Sixty years later, he still fondly recalls his first exposure to the BC interior, on a trip that changed the course of his life. “It was my first time heading west, the first time I’d ever seen mountains. The impact was huge,” says Price.
He decided to major in Geology and to spend the rest of his undergrad summers working for the GSC. After graduating, he spent another summer, mapping the terrain of the Southern Albertan foothills. Then in what must have been a heady move for a prairie boy, in the fall of 1955 Price began grad studies at Princeton. His PhD thesis topic – proposed by the GSC – was to map the Flathead area along the continental divide between southern Alberta and BC.
In those days, before there were roads into his study area and before helicopters were available for such purposes, Price spent the summer in the field with pack horses. The camps were remote. There was little contact with the outside world, and the horses often got bogged down. Price and his colleagues were frontier geologists, akin to explorers, discovery-mapping territory. It was tough slogging, but Price was interested in the geological evolution of the mountains, and along with the team was mapping potential coal, oil, and mineral deposits.
￼Sixty years later, [Ray Price] still fondly recalls his first exposure to the BC interior, on a trip that changed the course of his life.
Somehow between his studies at Princeton and his summer fieldwork, Price married his U of Manitoba sweetheart, Mina (Geurds), a petroleum geologist. They had three children, Paul, Artsci’82; Patricia (Van Huesen), Artsci’82, MES’11; and Linda (Price-Bennett). Linda and her husband have seven children, two of whom are Queen’s graduates, Erica Anastasia, known as Stasia, NSc’07, currently a student in the 2012 nurse practitioner program at Queen’s; and Joel, Artsci’10, who is now a Cordon Bleu student chef in Paris.
Price has experienced many highlights in his career and his life. He has traveled the world, mapped frontier territory in the mountains of western Canada and the northern Yukon, and arrived at Queen’s as a professor in 1968. He is internationally known for his research on the geological structure of the Canadian Cordillera and is widely regarded as a leading expert in the fields of structural geology and tectonics.
In 1981, in a move he likely never imagined when he took that first summer position in the mountains, Price moved to Ottawa, and became Director General of the GSC. Around the same time, among other things, he also became the First President of the International Lithosphere Program and President of the Geological Society of America. Eventually he was named Assistant Deputy Minister of Earth Sciences. Price retired from the Federal Government in 1988 and returned to Queen’s in a half-time position, continuing his research, supervising graduate students, and teaching in the undergraduate geological engineering program.
When he reflects on his career, Price still recalls fondly a paper he wrote for the U of Manitoba Science Student’s [sic] Association, entitled, “Whence the Mountains.” Fittingly in 2007, Price was honoured by the Geological Society of America, with a special volume in his honour, aptly called, Whence the Mountains?
“There have been many great moments over the years,” says Price, “I’ve always been involved with and believed in the power of education, and I’m especially honoured by having a new teaching laboratory here at Queen’s dedicated in my name.”