Dorothy L. Stout

2001 Excellence in Earth and Space Science Education Award Winner

Dorothy L. Stout was given the AGU Excellence in Geophysical Education Award at the AGU Spring Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held May 31, 2001, in Boston, Massachusetts. The award acknowledges a sustained commitment to excellence in geophysical education by a team, individual, or group.


“Dorothy Lalonde (Dottie) Stout, this year’s recipient of the AGU Excellence in Geophysical Education Award, is a true educational pioneer, boldly going where few geoscientists have gone before. During the last 3 decades, Dottie received the Robert Wallace Webb (National Association of Geosciences Teachers’) Teaching Award, mentored numerous students, and served the geoscience profession with vision, dedication, and boundless energy. As Steve Semken of Dine College has noted, ‘Her accomplishments are legion: innovative teacher, curriculum designer, National Association of Geoscience Teachers’ President, GSA Councilor, conference organizer, and global field trip leader.’

“First and foremost, Dottie is an outstanding and inspirational educator. As a professor at Cypress College in southern California, she has introduced thousands of students to the wonders of geology and geophysics; led dozens of local, regional, and international field trips; and was one of the first geoscience instructors at either the 2- or 4-year level to infuse new computer and information-based technologies into her classroom instruction. Her interest in the use of new technologies led, in turn, to the development of Project Update Geoscience (PUG) and to her becoming co-principal investigator on the Earth and Space Science Technological Education Project (ESSTEP). These faculty professional development programs have profoundly influenced hundreds of secondary, community college, and university educators, as well as thousands of students. As one ESSTEP participant put it, ‘When I met [Dottie], I was a good teacher, a solid teacher, but not a great teacher. I [now] want to be a great teacher.’

“Second, Dottie is a catalyst for change and a leader in the geoscience education community. As Robert Ridky notes, ‘The range of Dottie’s influence on geoscience education has been enormous. In her quiet, purposeful way, she has been the catalyst behind virtually all of the major initiatives advancing geoscience education during the past several decades.’ In the early 1990s, she helped to create both the GSA Geoscience Education Division and the national Coalition for Earth Science Education (CESE). Dottie also worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the 1994 AGU Chapman Conference, Scrutiny of Undergraduate Geoscience Education. This, in turn, catalyzed the 1996 AGU/National Science Foundation Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science Education conference, which created a blueprint for innovation in undergraduate geoscience departments. In addition to these efforts, in 1990, Dottie became the first woman President of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and, during her tenure, she established the James Shea Award to recognize excellence in geoscience writing.

“During 1999 and 2000, Dottie worked at the National Science Foundation. Her efforts there have been instrumental in advancing the cause of 2-year colleges and raising awareness about the important role they play in the early training of geoscientists and science teachers. Dottie’s infectious enthusiasm and unique ability to bring diverse constituents together have also led to new collaborations between the Geoscience and Education Directorates at NSF and between NSF, NASA, and other government agencies. One outcome of these collaborations is the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE), an initiative that promises to transform teaching and learning at all grade levels across the geosciences.

“Finally, no citation for Dottie would be complete without some mention of ‘Geology Goes Hollywood’ I and II, two wonderful videos that depict the influence of the geosciences on our culture and society. With the help of her talented family, the local video store, and a tape-editing machine, Dottie has given us insights into how Hollywood uses the grandeur of places like Monument Valley, the Alps, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon to develop its stories and mesmerize its audiences. Earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, and raging floods are present in abundance in these videos, and we in the geoscience and education communities have delighted at seeing our favorite Earth processes on the big screen while laughing outright at the scientific implausibility of some of the depicted events. What is most telling about these videos is that they truly represent what Dottie is all about: a person who loves the geosciences and loves to teach, a person who will go the extra mile and take the extra time to make sure that everyone understands why Earth is such an amazing place to live.”

—EDWARD E. GEARY, Colorado State University, Boulder


“Our challenge.

“Geologist Clarence Hall, the former Dean of Physical Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles once stated: ‘The terms and circumstances of human existence can be expected to change radically during the next human life span. Science, mathematics, and technology will beat the center of that change-causing it, shaping it, responding to it. Therefore, they will be essential to the education of today’s children for tomorrow’s world.’

“Geologist Frank Press, former President of the National Academy of Sciences, saw this challenge as an opportunity for geosciences when he stated that: ‘The higher expectations of the decade will present geoscience teachers with challenges that most present courses are unable to meet and offer them opportunities to be in the vanguard of education reform.’

“The advances made by geoscientists in our understanding of the Earth is mind-boggling, even to those well versed in science and technology. While research is critically important, it is also critical to transfer our wealth of knowledge beyond the immediate research community. To accomplish this, we need to involve scientists in the process of translating their research in an understandable way to students, teachers, and the general public-where its effects can ripple throughout our society. It has been my own personal passion to beat the drum (and maybe even bang some heads!) to encourage more scientists to become aware of their obligation and responsibility in education at multiple levels. This does not mean that researchers must become expert educators. But it does mean fostering collaborations between researchers and educators in order to get the point across. These relationships are not just incredibly rewarding, they are integral.

“My objective is to motivate all of you, all of us, to continue-or start if you haven’t-on this path of integrating research and education. Look around you for the people who realize that students, teachers, and the general public need to understand science and technology. To be successful, this effort takes dedicated people and programs. For example, I want to acknowledge my colleagues at the National Science Foundation and the programs within the Division of Undergraduate Education that promote linkages between research and education. But there is room to do a lot more.

“My own involvement in education and the geosciences as a profession continues to be both amazing and rewarding. Throughout my career, I have been inspired and touched by dedicated researchers, exceptional teachers, and those unique individuals that can do it all. Thank you for educating me. More importantly, thank you for making this amazing field of ours available to everyone. Specifically, I would like to thank those who have shared their enthusiasm and commitment to advancing geoscience education throughout my entire experience: from teachers in South Amherst, Ohio, to my mentors at Bowling Green State University, to my colleagues at Cypress College and NSF.

“We still have some heavy lifting to do, but the tectonic forces are in motion. I want to thank my family for all of their support over the years. Finally, I’d like to share with you a poem from Yeats. One that has provided inspiration for me both as a teacher and personally:

‘Had I the heavens’, embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with gold and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night ant light and half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet,
But I being poor, have only my dreams,
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’

“I hope that all of you can share in my own dream of spreading the joys of geoscience to all….

“A message to students everywhere. ‘You may become the president of the United States with a C average, but if you want to be a good scientist, you’ll have to do better than that.’”

—DOROTHY L. STOUT, Whittier, Calif.