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Obituary

Robert H. Dott Jr.
June 2, 1929 - February 27, 2018

Robert H. Dott Jr.

Robert H. Dott Jr.
Jun 2, 1929 - Feb 27, 2018

Robert H. Dott Jr.
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Madison - Robert (Bob) H. Dott, Jr. died February 27, 2018 after battling lymphoma for 11 years. Bob was born June 2, 1929 in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Robert and Esther (Reed) Dott. The family moved to Norman, Oklahoma in 1935. He attended elementary through high school in Norman. Beginning at age 10 he first spent three summers as a camper and then three more as a counselor in summer camps in Colorado and New Mexico which began a love affair with the Rocky Mountains. He began college at the University of Oklahoma and then followed both his grandfather and father to the University of Michigan. He graduated from Michigan in 1950 (BS) and 1951 (MS). At Ann Arbor he met his wife, Nancy, in a geology class. They were married February 1, 1951 in Farmington, Michigan. The newlyweds soon moved to New York where Bob entered a PhD program at Columbia University. The couple spent two summers in Nevada doing field research, which began the close partnership of their entire 67 years together.

During two years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, Bob participated in several Arctic research projects. After the Air Force, he worked in the petroleum industry in Oregon and California for three years. In 1958 he accepted a faculty position at the University of Wisconsin from which he retired in 1994. He was delighted to join a major university at age 29. Bob's academic career focused primarily on sedimentology, tectonics, and the evolution of the Earth. He conducted research in Wisconsin's Baraboo Hills, Oregon, Tierra del Fuego, South Georgia Island, and Antarctica. In 1971 Bob co-authored with Roger Batten a textbook of earth history, Evolution of the Earth, (now co-authored with D.R. Prothero). Royalties from this book helped pay college tuition for his five children.

During his first years of teaching, Bob led a two-month summer field course vagabonding around the West where geology is raw. The five Dott children grew up camping and beach combing during those summers. Bob enjoyed being able to have his family with him on those trips.

Over his 36 years at the University of Wisconsin, Bob worked with many MS and PhD students, and several post-doctoral fellows. He and his students studied sediments deposited in nearly every environment from ancient Sahara sands to deep seas. He continued close relationships with many of his former students up until his death.

Later in his career Bob developed a deep interest in the history of geology. He created a course in the subject and published studies of several important geologists. After retiring from teaching Bob continued to contribute to the history of geology and to the knowledge of Wisconsin geology. In 2004 he and co-author John W. Attig published Roadside Geology of Wisconsin.


In 1964 the growing Dott family built a home in an abandoned stone quarry next to Madison's Hoyt Park. They named it the Cambrian Lodge because the sandstones upon which the house stands were formed during the geological Cambrian Period half a billion years ago. Being composed entirely of the mineral quartz, they also inspired an easily remembered name for the family's auto license, "Quartz."

Throughout his life Bob traveled widely and visited every continent including Antarctica and Greenland. At home the family enjoyed nature with the guidance of naturalist Nancy. Bob sang in the First Unitarian Society choir for many years. He and Nancy enjoyed attending plays and concerts in the Madison area. They were long time supporters of the American Players Theater, Friends of the Arboretum, and the First Unitarian Society.

Bob instilled in his children a sense of independence, an interest in nature, and a love of learning. He infected all of them with the "travel bug." He kept an active interest in the lives of his nine grandchildren and his sons and daughters-in-law.

Bob is survived by his five children, James (Ann), Karen (Bill), Eric (Debbie), Cynthia (Gary), and Brian(Sally), nine grandchildren, Kelly, Michael, Gregory, Cori, Gordon, Collin, Helena, Mei Li, and Alex, a sister, Esther (Bobette) Bird, and Dinesh Gunatilaka who became a member of the family. Peter Iselin (deceased), an AFS student from Switzerland, was also a beloved member of the family.

A memorial service will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at the First Unitarian Meeting House, 900 University Bay Drive. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts are suggested to the First Unitarian Society, American Players Theater, or the University of Wisconsin Foundation's Robert and Nancy Dott Geoscience Fund. The family thanks the wonderful staff of Oakwood Village, Hospice Agrace, BrightStar, and Comfort Keepers for their many services.

First Unitarian Society of Madison
900 University Bay Dr,
Madison WI, 53705
Online: https://fus.ministryplatform.com/portal/online_giving.aspx?filter=campus:1%20target=_blank

American Players Theatre
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Online: https://tickets.americanplayers.org/donations/individual%20operations

Robert and Nancy Dott Geoscience Fund
University of Wisconsin Foundation
1848 University Ave,
Madison, WI 53726
Online: https://secure.supportuw.org/give/?id=40a39727-5752-4a01-be1c-56bffae24bf2

Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road, Madison
608-238-3434

Robert Laudon on Mar 19, 2018

I am deeply saddened by this news. Bob was a major mentor for me. I camped and travelled with Bob and Nancy for parts of two summers, once on the eight week summer field course all over the west and once as his TA to Oregon. I have very fond memories of those trips, especially the trip to Oregon. Bob put a lot of faith in me. He recommended me for a PhD at a time when I didn't even consider myself to be a very good student. Years later I taught Historical Geology using his book as a textbook. That was one of the most fun courses I ever taught and was one of the greatest learning experiences of my career. It is a great textbook. I still refer to it quite often.
Bob and Nancy are two of my favorite people in the entire world. I am greatly saddened by this news. He was a true gentleman and a scholar.
Bob Laudon

Bob Blodgett on Mar 17, 2018

Field work in west-central Nevada in 1967 or 1968; photo by K.O. Stanley.

Bob Blodgett on Mar 17, 2018

Geology 535 field trip in Lodi, WI on May 2, 1971

Bob Blodgett on Mar 17, 2018

Geology 102 field trip at Rock Springs Park on October 26, 1968.

Bob Blodgett on Mar 17, 2018

1970 Geological Society of America Baraboo field trip

Kent Syverson on Mar 12, 2018

Dr. Dott was on my Ph.D. committee at UW-Madison, and he was also my instructor and TA supervisor for Physical Sedimentology. I called most faculty at UW-Madison by their first names, but somehow to me that didn't seem proper with Dr. Dott, even though he didn't demand titles. I still remember when Dr. Dott came to meet my class at Baraboo when i was on a UMD Structural Geology field trip in 1984. The "Quartz" vanity plate impressed me...! Dr. Dott took interest in my career long after I graduated from Madison, and I'm thankful to have known him. All the best to the family of Dr. Dott.

Mike Porter on Mar 6, 2018

Scholar. Gentleman. Friend. The accolades the honor Bob Dott are so widespread, so universal and so well deserved. Each of us that had the opportunity and privilege to work with Bob in our formative years has a unique story to tell. And yet, collectively these stories and reminiscences don't begin to fully illuminate Bob's impact on so many. Maybe that's the way it should be. I don't think Bob Dott ever tried to put boundaries on his curiosity and love of learning, and he certainly imparted that view on the rest of us. I'm left grasping on how to summarize someone like Bob, and I can't. What simply comes to mind is "A Life Well Lived". RIP, Robert H. Dott Jr.

Mike Porter on Mar 6, 2018

+1

Matt Hood on Mar 5, 2018

I was a floundering college student and I had the privaledge of studying under Professor Dott through one of his grad students out west. His love of geology, his ease of expression and passion to teach hooked me. Thank you Professor Dott and Godspeed.

Joy Bowen Ochs on Mar 3, 2018

I had just committed to become a geology major when I took Dr. Dott's course on the evolution of the earth in 1990. Bob sparked my imagination in ways that are still with me today. He was generous with his knowledge, he made time for students, and he opened his home to us so we could visit the quarry. I went on to become an English professor, but I am grateful and delighted that I have been able to share the earth's history with my own daughters as we have traveled around the world looking at rocks. My condolences to the family, especially to Gary, who was Bob's graduate student when I was at UW, and Cynthia, who hung out with us undergraduates on at least one occasion.

George_Devries Klein on Feb 28, 2018

I met Bob at a Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting in 1957 when he was still in the Air Force. I lost track of him until 1962 when we both attended a GSA annual meeting and stayed in contact since. By then he had moved to Madison, WI. Between 1962 and 1967, I used to spend Christmas with in-laws in the Marinette, WI, area, and would visit Bob for a day to talk geology, sedimentology, graywackes, turbidites, current sedimentology issues of the day, and anything else that would come up.

Because of common geological interests, Bob and I would write letters of recommendation supporting each other's efforts to get starter grants. We both benefitted from those efforts.

Bob was also instrumental in my being appointed to the geology faculty at the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign. For that I was always grateful to him.

And who could forget memorable dinners at their home on DuRose Terrace home featuring a floodlit outcrop of Cambrian sandstone seen from a large picture window in the back of their dining room!

Bob was that rare individual who was a true scholar, a true gentleman, and a true colleague. There were few like him. In fact, it is fair to say that people like Bob Dott come only once into our lifetimes. I'm glad he came into mine.

In closing, at times like this, I always say, Remember the good things about Bob Dott. It's the best living memorial he can have. Be assured, I shall.

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First Unitarian Society Meeting House
900 University Bay Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53705
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