WMU News

Geosciences dedicates mineral collection Oct. 21

Oct. 19, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The Department of Geosciences at Western Michigan University will dedicate a collection of "extremely fine, unique mineral specimens" being given to the University by WMU graduate James H. Duncan Jr. Thursday, Oct. 21.

The public dedication begins at 4:30 p.m. at the department's Lloyd J. Schmaltz Museum of Geology in the lobby of Rood Hall.

Speakers will include Dr. Elise B. Jorgens, dean of the WMU College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Alan Kehew, chairperson of the Department of Geosciences; Dr. Lloyd J. Schmaltz, professor emeritus of geology and former department chairperson; and Bud Bender, associate vice president for development at WMU.

The crystal specimens, valued at more than $180,000, are from Duncan's private collection. They range in color across the spectrum from black to white, with such hues as rose red, purple, green and honey, and come from mines in Tennessee, Colorado and California.

"We're thrilled to have this wonderful, truly museum-quality collection," Kehew says. "In addition to their spectacular beauty, these specimens will prove highly useful in our classes. Students and faculty members, as well as the public, will benefit from Jim Duncan's generosity for years to come."

Duncan, who graduated from WMU in 1974 with a degree in political science, developed an interest in minerals while accompanying his father, James H. Duncan Sr., and others on raft trips down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Kehew said. Schmaltz started the trips when he was chairperson of what was then the Department of Geology.

Duncan, of Carmel, Ind., is an expert in the U.S. radio broadcasting industry and former owner of Duncan's American Radio. He and his father are both former Kalamazoo residents and are major donors to the WMU Foundation. James Duncan Sr., who now lives in Santa Fe, N.M., retired in 1985 as chairman and CEO of First of America Bank Inc., now National City.

The collection contains more than 250 specimens, including amazonite (green), barite (white), calcite (honey-colored), fluorite (purple), rhodocrosite (rose red), sphalerite (black) and tourmaline (pink) as well as one specimen of gold. Most crystals form in open spaces in underground rock.

"These extremely fine, unique mineral specimens are virtually flawless," says Dr. John D. Grace, professor emeritus of geosciences at WMU, who helped prepare the collection for display. "There are no chips or broken tips. This makes the collection a very valuable one."

"The specimens come from well known mining districts," says Grace, a mineralogist who, though he retired in 1997, is teaching a course on the subject this fall. "It's a comprehensive collection, with a wide variety of minerals, and not a smattering of things from here and there."

The museum is open to the public during regular University hours. The Duncan collection will be permanently on view as a major addition to the museum.

Media contact: Mike Matthews, 616 387-8400, michael.matthews@wmich.edu

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