The Wheaton College Geology department received a donation in January of $1 million from the estate of Richard House ‘52 after his passing in March 2022. The money will help cover the costs of field trips and summer program fees for geology students.
Since the 1990s, geology students and faculty have gone on field trips to the Appalachian Mountains, the Carlsbad Caverns, the Guadalupe Mountains, the Middle East and the United Kingdom to visit important geologic sites and hear from regional experts in the field. Because students have had to pay for the trips out-of-pocket, a limited number have been able to participate. Eight to 12 students typically attend the field trips, a mix of geology and environmental science majors.
Thanks to House’s donation, the department, which currently has 6 majors, will be able to cover all student expenses for the trips, and additional scholarships will also be available for summer courses through the new Richard D. House Geological Endowed Fund.
Geology students and faculty alike see the trips as not only a tradition for the small department but also an essential part of their studies.
“Reading about the subject and studying it is valuable, but nothing beats seeing these natural wonders for yourself,” said Carson Frear, freshman geology major. “Hopefully with the endowment more people will be able to come see God’s creation with us.”
Stephen Moshier, professor of geology, said virtually every geology major will now be able to go on at least one of these field trips.
“The money is really going to be benefiting the students directly and the kind of experience that they’ll have learning to be geoscientists,” Moshier said.
House, the benefactor, graduated from Wheaton in 1952 with a major in geology, after transferring from a small Bible college in New York City. A visiting professor from Columbia University and Wheaton alum, J. Laurence Kulp ‘42, taught House in a science course there.
Kulp told House that he might make a better scientist than a minister, his original plan, and convinced him to transfer to Wheaton.
While he was a student, House worked a job on campus shoveling coal into the campus steam plant. Because of this job, he began getting behind in his homework, but one of his other professors, Cordelia Barber, would read him the textbook as he worked to make sure he kept up with everything he had going on.
“He [House] had always told us that was just one of those Wheaton experiences,” Moshier reflects, “It was really special for him.”
After graduating from Wheaton, House went to Northwestern University to get a master’s degree in geology. Through the years, he worked in the gas and oil industry as a consultant and geologist, eventually picking up a job at Texaco.
Andrew Madsen ‘20, who majored in geology at Wheaton, remembers meeting House in 2019, when House visited Wheaton and was hosted by the geology department. He decided to grant money to Wheaton and Northwestern, $1 million each, but made it clear that the donation would be made after his death.
While the donation did not come in time to impact Madsen’s education, it was at a group lunch with House during his 2019 visit that Madsen met his future wife, Lauren Breederland ‘22, also a geology major.
Shortly after that visit, House moved into assisted living when his wife and only son passed away. Soon he was placed into memory care. He died last March at the age of 91.
“I wish that Richard had been able to go on one of these trips,” said Moshier. “He would’ve been delighted to experience that with the students.”