Dr. M. Lee Allison, State Geologist and Director of the Arizona Geological Survey, passed away at noon on Tuesday, August 16th, after suffering a severe head injury from a fall at his home on Saturday.
Lee held BA (University of California, Riverside), MS (San Diego State University) and Ph.D. (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) degrees in geology. Having extensive experience in petroleum and geothermal exploration throughout the United States, he was active in science and public policy, especially as it related to natural resources, geologic hazards and public engagement.
Lee served as the Utah State Geologist (1989-1999), Kansas State Geologist (1999-2004), Policy Advisor for Science and Energy to Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas (2004-2005) and chaired the Kansas Energy Council (2002-2005) before becoming the State Geologist and Director for the Arizona Geological Survey in December 2005.
He developed and successfully implemented a business model that enabled the Arizona Geological Survey to become one of the nation’s most innovative, entrepreneurial and high-regarded geological surveys. Its transition from a state-funded to mostly grant-funded agency enabled the AZGS to provide core services to the citizens of Arizona and participate in other important state, national and international projects that have made scientific data accessible to all via the internet. Internationally recognized as leaders in cyber-infrastructure and data management, cyber developments at the AZGS have been adopted by the U. S. Department of Energy, the White House, U. S. GEO (Group on Earth Observation) Committee, Power Africa and ISPRA (Geological Survey of Italy).
Lee also served as President of the Arizona Geological Society in 2008 and held a councilor position on its executive committee during 2007 and 2010-2011. He was the guest speaker at two of our monthly dinner meetings, the most recent occurring on August 2, 2016, when he spoke on “The Future of State Geological Surveys: the Arizona Case Study.”
We offer our sincere condolences to Lee's family, friends and colleagues. He was an incredibly dynamic leader, a mentor to many, and highly respected by all who knew him. He will be missed by all, but his contributions to geology, cyber-infrastructure and data management will endure. May he rest in peace.
Four years ago, the Arizona Geological Society began
offering a new scholarship intended to target a broader number of students than
the Courtright Scholarship. The newer award, dubbed the AGS Scholarship, is
aimed at goal-oriented undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students in
geosciences who are enrolled at one of the three Arizona universities. It seeks
to reward students who excel in academics and research, and who can demonstrate
outstanding leadership qualities through their involvement in diverse community
activities. The committee that designed the criteria for the AGS scholarship
might well have been using the career of Dr. M. Lee Allison as a template.
In less than ten years, under Lee Allison’s innovative
leadership, the Arizona Geological Survey grew from a state-endowed department
to a largely self-funded and world-renown institution. During that time, Lee
served on many community, state, and national organizations and committees,
often as a board member or executive. The lists of successful projects
initiated by him, his tireless outreach activities, together with his many
other achievements, are absolutely eye-popping. He was and remains an
inspiration to all of us. For this reason, the Arizona Geological Society feels
it is highly appropriate to honor him and his service to so many people and
organizations by changing the name of the AGS Scholarship to the M. Lee Allison
Scholarship. We hope that Lee will continue to inspire students of all ages to
strive for the levels of excellence in both science and community that he made
seem so easy to achieve.
While under the direction of the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum averaged 50,000 visitors each year, half of whom were scheduled school tours. This museum had more than 3,100 minerals, crystals, gemstones and lapidary items, rocks, and fossils on display and an additional 20,000 specimens in storage cabinets in the basement. Displays included old historical mining equipment that has been restored to working order and a diorama of a modern open pit copper mining operation.
As an educational science museum, it helped future generations of Arizonans learn about rocks and minerals, how they are used by society, their importance to our nation’s economy, and the role mining has played in Arizona’s history. Educational products included workshops and teacher kits (40 numbered rocks and minerals plus an identification key and various activity booklets and CDs) that were provided free of charge to Arizona’s teachers. These materials were greatly appreciated by thousands of teachers and students, who have used them for laboratory activities in their classrooms.
The Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum was able to accomplish this with funding for rent, maintenance and one salaried position provided by the state. Revenues generated from its gift shop provided funding for its gift shop employees and tour guides. Much of the other work was performed by volunteers from associated mineral, lapidary and prospecting clubs, who provided 10,000 hours of work, annually.
All of this came to an end on April 30, 2011, only nine months after the Arizona Historical Society took administrative control of the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum from the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources. At that time the museum’s staff was fired without notice and the museum was closed. Furniture, fixtures and displays were disposed of and many of its irreplaceable mineral specimens distributed to other museums around the state. The building has remained vacant over the last five years and been allowed to deteriorate.
With the approval of the Agency Consolidation Budget Bill (SB1530) by Governor Ducey, the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum will be transferred from the Arizona Historical Society to the Arizona Geological Survey in August 2016. However, the building cannot be occupied until $700,000 to $900,000 in repairs are made and will require approximately $2.86 million over the next five years to make it like new. However, the state has provided no funding for these renovations and efforts to obtain funding from private sources has been further complicated by a clause in the legislation that returns the museum to the Arizona Historical Society if it is not refurbished and open by July 1, 2018.
Given the elimination of its modest state appropriation, added costs resulting from its consolidation with the University of Arizona, and small staff, the Arizona Geological Survey will be hard pressed to fund the renovations required to reopen the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. In absence of financial assistance from the state of Arizona, successful reopening of this important educational resource will require support from private and corporate sponsors. Those who may be interested in supporting this effort are encouraged to contact the Arizona Geological Survey to see how they can help make this a reality.
Over the April 30th - May 1st weekend, Arend Meijer lead a small but enthusiastic group of geologists on a very informative field trip that examined the Paleoproterozoic Pinal Schist of southeastern Arizona.
Predominantly composed of interbedded quartz-sericite/muscovite schist and meta-wacke (interpreted as turbidite sequences), the Paleoproterozoic Pinal Schist of southern Arizona shows many characteristics consistent with the hypothesis that it was part of a subduction complex associated with a Paleoproterozoic arc complex in central Arizona.