Iowa State receives $1.8 million gift to support geology field station

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Evonne and Tom Smith

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University has received a $1.8 million gift from alumni Tom and Evonne Smith of Houston, Texas, to renovate the Carl F. Vondra Geology Field Station near Shell, Wyo.

The Vondra Field Station is managed and used by the Iowa State Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences for a hands-on, six-week course in geology field concepts and methods for undergraduates. Iowa State has operated the field station each summer since 1957.

The Smiths’ latest gift to Iowa State will allow for construction of new living quarters that will expand the field station’s use by ISU and non-ISU groups. The two new buildings will have 10 total rooms, each sleeping up to four people. The gift also will provide for property improvements and maintenance, and temporary salary support for a new employee to oversee the station.

Tom, an Iowa State University Foundation Governor and a member of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from Iowa State in 1968 and 1971, and a doctorate in geophysics from the University of Houston. Evonne received a bachelor’s degree in textiles and clothing from Iowa State in 1968.

Tom is from the Iowa Great Lakes Region and Evonne grew up on a farm near Washta, Iowa. In 1984, they founded Seismic Micro-Technology in Houston, which grew to be the world leader in Windows-based geoscience interpretation tools for the oil and gas industry. The Smiths sold the company in 2007.

“Evonne and I are greatly honored to be in a position to make this leadership gift and delighted to contribute to such a worthy initiative,” Tom said. “Without an outstanding education in geology and geophysics, our company could not have succeeded as well as it did. We are of the opinion that the geology program can grow from excellent to world-class. The faculty and administration are moving to greater levels of educational excellence and companies have taken notice. We encourage all ISU friends and alumni to consider joining this initiative. Let’s help today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders.”

The field station is named in honor of Carl Vondra, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of geology at Iowa State who directed the summer station for nearly 40 years.

“The Carl Vondra Geology Field Station is one of those unique features that make an Iowa State University education so exceptional and so valuable to students,” said Iowa State President Steven Leath. “Thanks to Tom and Evonne Smith, this field station experience will be significantly improved and expanded so even more students can participate. We are deeply grateful to faculty like Distinguished Professor Emeritus Carl Vondra for building the geology field station into such a great program, and alumni Tom and Evonne Smith for investing so generously in it.

The Smiths previously provided a lead gift of $370,000 to fund the 2010 construction of a new main building at the field station. A year later the structure, which houses a kitchen, a dining room-classroom and staff quarters, was named Smith Lodge.

“Tom and Evonne Smith are longtime friends and supporters of Iowa State University, and their latest donation will create a fantastic opportunity for national prominence for our geology program,” said Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Their gift has allowed us to ‘dream big’ and fulfill their vision for an unparalleled field camp experience for our students and many others.”

“Our field camp allows students to immerse themselves in the geology of a spectacular part of the West and, thereby, study geologic relationships and materials firsthand,” said Neal Iverson, professor of geology and the Smith Family Foundation Departmental Chair in Geology. “There is absolutely no substitute for this style of education, and the result is a truly transformative learning experience for our students.”

Iverson explained that ISU geology and earth science graduates tend to be a close-knit alumni group that has generously supported the field camp over the years. “The field station experience has resulted in many lifelong friendships among our alumni,” he said.

Iverson added that many more student and non-student groups now will be able to use field station for extended time periods each year.

“The major renovations made possible by the Smith’s generous donation will enormously improve the station’s usability and livability. It will turn the station into a world-class facility that will enhance the field camp experience for our students, allow more courses to be taught at the camp, draw geology students from around the country to our courses, and allow use of the station by other education-oriented groups, such as elderhostels and geo- and eco-tourism organizations.”
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About Liberal Arts and Sciences
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in Iowa and around the world.

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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University

Contacts:
Neal Iverson, Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, (515) 294-1837, niverson@iastate.edu
Steve Jones, Liberal Arts & Sciences Communication, (515) 294-0461, jones@iastate.edu