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Erle Galen Kauffman (1933-2016)

December 22, 2016
Erle Galen Kauffman, 83, Professor Emeritus, Geological Sciences at Indiana University, died peacefully at home December 16 after a long illness. Honored for his many contributions to the Geological and Paleontological sciences, Erle also was acknowledged as a master teacher, researcher and mentor, advancing the education of many through his passion for learning, rigorous science, and generosity of ideas. Erle held an academic position at IUB since 1996.

Born and raised in the Washington DC area, Erle received his undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was awarded a Doctorate in Geological Sciences in 1961. Subsequently, Erle built a 20 year career with the US National Museum, Smithsonian Institution, where he ultimately held the position of Full Curator, Department of Paleobiology. During that tenure, Erle also served as Adjunct Professor of Geology, George Washington University, Washington DC. From 1980 to 1986, Erle was Professor and later Chair (1980-1984), in the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Erle received many honors, both as scientist and educator. He was recognized with an Honorary Master of Science from Oxford University, England (1970), where he was a Visiting Professor, and an Honorary Doctor of Natural Sciences in 1987 from Georg-August-Universitat, Gottingen, Germany, and in 1986 as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar to Australia. In 1991 the Society for Sedimentary Geology awarded Erle the R.C. Moore Medal for Excellence in Paleontology, and in 1997 he was honored with the Gilbert Harris Award for Lifetime Excellence in Systematic Paleontology from the Paleontological Research Institution. Additionally, Erle was recognized with The Society for Sedimentary Geology's W.H. Twenhofel Medal for Outstanding Contributions and Sustained Excellence in Sedimentary Geology in 1998, and more recently with the Paleontological Society's Medal for Advancement in Knowledge in Paleontology in 2014. Erle was a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served in leadership roles in many of the professional organizations of which he was a member, notably as President of the Paleontological Society, and Vice President of the International Paleontological Association. 

Erle lived life fully and with great heart, exploring, adventuring, playing as hard as he worked. His love of the Rocky Mountains drew him both professionally and personally. Erle was an experienced hiker, backpacker, climber, skier and an avid fly fisherman, and these adventures were an integral part of the Family life he shared with his beloved wife and colleague Claudia Johnson, his former wife Carolyn Kauffman, and their children Donald, Robin and Erica. Erle was an accomplished banjo player, and was known, particularly by his students, for gatherings famous for good food, good wine, good music, good conversation and camaraderie. 

Erle is survived by his wife of 27 years Claudia C. Johnson; his three children: Donald (Kathleen) of Sydney, Australia, Robin of Paonia, CO, and Erica (Jim) Lancaster of Atlanta, GA; six grandchildren: Shelley, Christopher, Anna, Tucker, Tate, and Reed; former wife Carolyn (Stinebower) Kauffman of Redstone, CO; and his sister Christina Kauffman of Boulder, CO. Erle was preceded in death by his parents: Erle B. Kauffman and Paula V. (Graff) Kauffman.

To honor Erle's legacy, please consider donating to the Erle G. Kauffman fund at the Paleontological Society, the Erle Kauffman Paleobiology Fund at the Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University, or to Indiana University Health Hospice. A private memorial will be held to celebrate Erle's life.