Dr. Robert H. Rutford, Emeritus President and Emeritus Excellence in Education Foundation Chaired Professor of Geosciences at the The University of Texas at Dallas, is a native of Minnesota. He attended the University of Minnesota where he lettered in football and track. He graduated in 1954 with a B.A. in Geography and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He married Margie Johnsen in the summer of 1954, and they now have three children and seven grand-children. After serving two years in the Army, one of which was spent in Greenland, he returned to the University of Minnesota as a graduate student in geography.
In 1959 he made the first of his more than 25 trips to Antarctica. He completed his M.A. in Geography in 1963: his research dealt with the physical geography of the Sandy and Sachigo Lakes area of northwest Ontario. He changed his major to Geology and received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1969. His dissertation dealt with the glacial geology and geomorphology of the Ellsworth Mountains in West Antarctica. While a graduate student he served as head football and track coach at Hamline University in St. Paul Minnesota from 1958-1962.
In 1967 he moved to The University of South Dakota as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor, and served as Chairman of the Geology Department from 1969-1972.
In 1972 he went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to head the Ross Ice Shelf Project, a multi-institutional and international research project in Antarctica. He also was involved in the formation of the Polar Ice Coring Office at Nebraska, a group that focused on ice drilling in both Polar Regions. At this time he also held an appointment as an Adjunct Professor in Geology.
In April of 1975 he became the Director of the Division of Polar Programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and directed the NSF sponsored research in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. While at NSF he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award given by NSF.
Dr. Rutford returned to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1977 as Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies and professor of geology, a position he held until becoming President of The University of Texas at Dallas in May, 1982. From August, 1980 through May, 1981 he was the Interim Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
From May, 1982, through August, 1994, he served as the President of The University of Texas at Dallas. After twelve productive years he resigned to return to the faculty and was named by the Board of Regents to a chaired professorship. While President he was active in community affairs in Dallas, serving on the boards of both the Richardson and North Dallas Chambers of Commerce, the board of the Association of Higher Education of North Texas, and on the Plano Economic Development Board. He served in several positions including the position of Vice Chairman with the U.S. Savings Bond Campaign in the Dallas area.
He was member of the Polar Research Board of the National Research Council and was chairman, 1991-1994. He has been an advisor to the Department of State on Antarctic Science matters, served as a member of the U.S. delegation to several Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, chaired a committee dealing with Antarctic mineral issues for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (1988-89), chaired the National Research Council panel on “Major Award Decisionmaking at the National Science Foundation” (1994), served on the NAS Study Committee “Setting Priorities for Large Research Facility Projects Supported by NSF” (2003-2004), and has served on numerous NSF ad hoc committees.
He was a member of the Baylor College of Dentistry Board of Trustees, currently serves on the Board of Governors of the U.S. Corporation of the Arctic Institute of North America and on the Board of the American Polar Society, and served on the Geology and Public Policy Committee of the Geological Society of America.
In 1986 he was appointed as the U.S. Delegate to the international (26 member nations) Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) 1986-2002 In 1996 he was elected a vice-president of SCAR and in 1998 was elected President for a four-year term.. He served as a member of the SCAR Executive Committee (2002-2004). SCAR underwent a significant reorganization while he was president. During this same period SCAR was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation
Dr. Rutford is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Texas Academy of Science. He is a member of the Arctic Institute of North America, Sigma Xi, the Philosophical Society of Texas, the American Polar Society, and is on the Board of the Geologists of Jackson Hole.
In 1993 he was elected to the St. Petersburg, Russia, Academy of Engineering, and in 1994 was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science Degree from St. Petersburg State Technical University, St. Petersburg, Russia. . The regents of the University of Minnesota recognized him with their Outstanding Achievement Award and medal in 1994, and the University of Minnesota “M” Club selected him to receive their Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. He holds the Antarctic Service Medal of the United States. Most recently he was awarded the Medal for International Science Coordination by SCAR.
Dr. Rutford has been active in teaching and research. He ended his formal teaching career in 2007. His last season in the field in Antarctica was the austral summer of 1995 where he did work in the Royal Society Range and in the Dry Valleys. He has published numerous articles on Antarctic geology, science, and science policy.
He recently completed a term as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Geological Society of America Foundation and serves Board of Governors of the American Polar Society. He is the senior author of a laboratory manual for physical geology, now in its 15th edition.