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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Like a rock: Geosciences prof. nears 50th year at the UA

    Geosciences professor Spencer Titley stands in front of a bookcase filled with theses in his office in the Gould Simpson building. All the theses were written by his graduate students over the period of his employment.
    Geosciences professor Spencer Titley stands in front of a bookcase filled with theses in his office in the Gould Simpson building. All the theses were written by his graduate students over the period of his employment.

    Spencer Titley is a constant in a world of changeð – he has been teaching at the UA longer than many of the buildings have been standing.

    The geosciences professor has been teaching at the UA for 49 years and is the university’s longest-standing professor, according to the department of human resources.

    During his time here, Titley said he has seen a lot of change on the campus.

    “”Well, for one thing, the size and look of the campus has drastically changed,”” said Titley. “”When I started, I think (the University of Arizona Police Department) had a staff of eight and their biggest concern was jaywalking.””

    Titley was drawn away from the mines of Colorado to the Tucson desert for graduate school at the UA. He had finished his undergraduate degree at the Colorado School of Mines and decided that he wanted something more.

    “”I felt like I needed additional education,”” Titley said.

    Upon graduation, Titley took a teaching position at the UA in 1956. He taught for two years, took a year off, returned in 1960 and has been teaching ever since.

    “”The clothes are different. The courses have changed due to new knowledge of topics. In fact, I tell students I give the same test every year, but the answers keep changing.””

    -Professor Spencer Titley,
    on teaching at the UA for 49 years

    Jon Patchett, a geosciences professor who has worked with Titley for more than 20 years, said by the time he arrived at the UA in 1984, Titley was already well-established in the department.

    “”He has such a wonderful relationship with his students,”” Patchett said. “”He is so helpful to his students in a one-on-one context. That doesn’t happen much anymore.””

    Titley said students have remained a constant in his career, year after year.

    “”The clothes are different. The courses have changed due to new knowledge of topics,”” Titley said. “”In fact, I tell students I give the same test every year, but the answers keep changing. But the students are always the same polite, ready-to-learn students that they always have been.””

    Titley said he remembers when classes were small and the campus was closer together and said he is partial to that closeness.

    “”I think we all like the small feel,”” Titley said. “”At least that is my preferred way of looking at it. I think when classes get too large, there is a deep impersonalized relationship created between faculty and students.””

    While not all of the large classes are impersonal, he prefers the smaller setting because he loves to interact with students, Titley said.

    Titley said he has taught around 3,000 students, which may not sound like a lot in nearly 50 years, but his class size ranges between about 20 and 40 students.

    “”I can’t imagine a world without students,”” Titley said, who still has the dissertations of some of his graduate students from as early as 1960 on a bookshelf in his office.

    Ask Titley about the bookshelf containing the dissertations and without opening the book, he will explain who the author is, what it was about and where the student is now.

    “”Many of his students are working in the field they studied with him,”” Patchett said. “”Most of them become geoscientists all around the country.””

    Tyler Vandruff, a geosciences graduate student who has taken two of Titley’s classes, said Titley is a helpful teacher who “”wants the best for his students.””

    “”He is engaging. There is a lot you get from him that you might not get from new teachers,”” Vandruff said. “”A lot of students appreciate to be taught by a professor of his caliber and experience.””

    Titley teaches basic and advanced courses on mineral deposits, mineral resources, societal relevance, on-demand courses in regional ore settings, hydrothermal alteration and ore and alteration microscopy.

    He has received many awards and distinctions locally, nationally and internationally in his time teaching at the UA. He is one of only nine UA members of the National Academy of Engineering, two of whom are retired.

    “”It will be a strange world when I have to leave it, but I am not going to think about that now,”” said Titley. “”I am 78 going on 35. I feel great.””

    Vandruff agreed and said Titley is “”young at heart.””

    “”He likes to believe that he can still do some of the things he did, and he actually does a lot of them,”” Vandruff said. “”On a trip to a mine to do some mapping, he was crawling around the mine with us, down vertical shafts and everything to help us with our mapping.””

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