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Brainerd "Nip" Mears, Jr - 2003 - Outstanding Former Faculty
Geology and Geophysics Department
Brainerd “Nip” Mears, Jr., came to the University of Wyoming in 1949 as an assistant professor and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1950. Mears’ research specialty is geomorphology and Quaternary geology, and he is deeply interested in the paleoclimate of the periglacial areas, particularly those in Wyoming, during the Pleistocene Era. He is recognized internationally as one of the foremost authorities on the recognition of periglacial features and their use in interpreting paleoclimatic conditions. Among his favorite research areas are the large Laramide basins that separate Wyoming’s great mountain ranges. His study in this area led to the development of a model for glaciation in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Remembered fondly for his dry wit and lively lecture style, Mears left his former students with much more than a knowledge of geology. Professor Kent A. Sundell (B.S. 1977; M.S. 1980, geology), chairman of the Department of Geology, Casper College, said, “Dr Mears was the most sincere, caring instructor. His door was always open and he was willing to give his students his most valuable possessions: time and knowledge. He could have closed his door, written papers, and received more grants and research accolades. Instead, he chose the unselfish path of doing research and writing during evenings and weekends. During the day his priority was to educate and help his students, and we all benefited from his philosophy of what a good teacher should be.”
Thomas C. Nissen (B.S. 1981 and M.S. 1985 geology) described Mears’ lecture style this way: “With a glint in his eye and with great low-key zeal, Nip regulated the class with examples of death and destruction brought on by geologic catastrophes—clenched fist occasionally raised high to emphasize a particular point. Nip told it as if he’d been there, watching it happen. Shards flew as he struck the colored chalk to the blackboard to draw a picture—usually a cross-sectional of some feature. More often than not, he would explain the drawing into a block diagram. He delighted in this saying, ‘I know ya did this in pen, but let’s throw it into 3-D.’ We students learned to start these drawings low on our notebook pages and leave plenty of room at the top.”
Mears served on many university, college, and departmental committees and received professional awards, including the University of Wyoming Sang Distinguished Professor 1973-74, fellow of both the Geological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Recently, Mears and his wife created The Anne and Brainerd Mears Geology Chair Fund.