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About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2016 Awardees 2016 (Honorary Membership Award) - Dr. Richard J. Zakrzewski


Born in Hamtramck, Michigan, an enclave of Detroit, on the day that FDR was elected to his third term as President.

Pre-college education was at parochial schools in the Detroit area, including four-year stay at a military school.

Enrolled at Wayne State University, Detroit in 1958 as a mathematical engineering major. Saw the error of my ways and changed to Geology the next year.  Graduated with B.S. in Geology in 1963.  Spent one quarter as Graduate Assistant and met my wife.  We have been together for 50 years.  We have two children and five grandchildren.

Entered the University of Michigan in January, 1964.  Worked under the late Claude W. Hibbard and obtained my M.S. in 1965 (Ogmodontomys) and Ph.D. in 1968 (Hagerman rodents).  I had met Hibbie in the spring of 1962, when he contacted my undergraduate advisor to see if he knew of a student who might be interested in joining his field crew for the summer. We began the summer in Meade Co. KS and eventually worked our way to the Hagerman, ID area. When it came time to pick a thesis topic, I was given a choice between elephants or rodents. I chose the latter.  The rest, as they say, is history. 

Spent the 1968-69 academic year on a Post-doctoral fellowship at Idaho State University.   Worked with the late John A. White studying rodents from the Anza-Borrego, CA sequence.

I accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Geology at what is now Fort Hays State University in the fall of 1969.   My decision was based on the small, but important, fossil collection in the college museum, the excellent collection of extant small mammals in the Museum of the High Plains (MHP), and the easy access to fossiliferous outcrops.

I taught four classes each semester until the summer of 1973 when I was appointed Director of what was then called the Sternberg Memorial Museum (SMM).  This was a ½ time position and I continued to teach geology classes. Promoted to Full Professor in 1978. In 1993 the SMM merged with the MHP to become the Sternberg Museum of Natural History (SMNH).  I became Chief Curator.  This relationship continued until my retirement in June of 2012.

I had the good fortune to work with a number of excellent students and colleagues.  I directed 39 M.S. students and served on 83 M.S. committees for students in biology or geology.  I wrote or co-wrote 42 peer-reviewed papers and a combination of 34 abstracts, book reviews, open file reports, or pamphlets. I was named the President’s Distinguished Scholar in 2006 and the Outstanding Thesis/Field Study Advisor in 2008. I am a member of SVP, Paleo. Soc., Amer. Soc. Mammal., AMQUA, and KS Acad. Sci. I represented SVP on the organizing committee for NAPC II and co-led field trip to the Cretaceous chalk beds prior to the 1990 meeting.

Upon retirement I was granted Emeritus status and continue to work on various research projects involving late Cenozoic mammals and curate specimens in the SMNH.