Obituary: Donald Zenger

Donald H. Zenger, an emeritus professor of geology at Pomona College, died on January 9, 2016. He was 83 years old.

Born in 1932 in Little Falls, New York to Arthur and Caroline Zenger, he was educated in the public schools there. In 1950, he graduated from Little Falls High School where he played varsity football and baseball and was a member of the National Honor Society.

In 1954, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi from Union College in Schenectady, New York where he majored in geology. A well-rounded student, he also played soccer and lacrosse and was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity.

He served in the US Army from 1955 to 1957. His basic training was at Fort Dix, New Jersey and his advanced training was at the Engineering School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Mr. Zenger spent the remainder of his time in the military in Germany, mostly teaching at the US Army Engineering School in Murnau, Bavaria.

After leaving the military, he married Ann Rearden, whom he had met in high school, on January 19, 1957. They had two children, Susan and David. Mr. Zenger earned a master’s degree in geology from Dartmouth College and a PhD from Cornell University. His field of expertise was dolomite formations in upstate New York, California and Wyoming. For his master’s thesis, supported by the New York Geological Survey, he mapped the Cooperstown, New York 15-minute quadrangle and his PhD dissertation, also supported by the survey, dealt with the stratigraphy of the Lockport Dolomite in New York State.

Don was the Minnie B. Cairns Professor of Geology at Pomona College, where he arrived in 1962. Over the years, he taught introductory geology, earth history, paleontology, sedimentology, structural geology and oceanography. He was elected to full professorship in 1973 and served as chair of the geology department from 1984 to 1992. In 1973, he was awarded a prestigious Wig Professor Award, voted for by students at Pomona College.

Mr. Zenger held grants from the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society (1966-1974) for his work on dolomites. He spent his first sabbatical leave in 1968-1969 at the University of Liverpool, supported by grants from both the National Science Foundation and, again, from the American Chemical Society. His family joined him as he traveled to various locations of geologic interest in Britain. He retired from full-time teaching at Pomona College in 1999.

Over his long and distinguished career, Mr. Zenger had dozens of monographs, abstracts and book reviews published in scientific journals. He also co-edited four volumes of research work and presented numerous papers at professional conferences. He was associate editor of the Journal for Sedimentary Research from 1982 to 1987, and was associate editor for the journal Carbonates and Evaporates from 1986 to 1999. Widely known for his extensive research into the composition of dolomites, he continued his scholarly work after retirement. It wasn’t uncommon to see rocks scattered around the house.

Don was a member of several professional societies, including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the International Association of Sedimentologists, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the Society for Sedimentary Geology (president, pacific section, 1973; vice president of the national organization, 1984-1985) and the Wyoming Geological Association. He was also a member of the Geological Society of America for more than 50 years. In the 1970s, Don had the distinction of having a tiny Silurian fossil named after him—“Zengeri”—by a British colleague.

From 1975 to 2003, Mr. Zenger taught for the University of Missouri at its summer geology field camp in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. His enthusiasm and tireless energy traversing the mountains and prairie earned him the nickname “Zengalope” from the field camp students trying to keep up with him.

From 1969 to 1974, Mr. Zenger served as the first coach of the Pomona-Pitzer men’s varsity soccer team, winning Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships in 1971 and 1973. In both seasons, he was named Coach of the Year for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 2. In 1973, he led his team to the NAIA national championship tournament in Florissant, Missouri, where the team earned a sixth-place finish. From 1975 to 1984 he served as an assistant coach, and from 1985 to 1987, he served as the first coach of the newly-organized women’s varsity soccer program for Pomona-Pitzer, leading the team to a conference championship in its first season. In 2007, he was inducted into the Pomona-Pitzer Athletic Hall of Fame.

Mr. Zenger was a longtime member of the United Methodist Church in Claremont, where he was active in various committees and sang in the choir. “He was an honorable, selfless and generous man who exemplified a Christian life,” according to his family. Don loved his family, Pomona College, his students and his dogs, Sammy, Duffy and Toby. He was greatly loved in return.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ann, and two children, Susan Zenger de Vasquez of Pomona, California and David Zenger of Anaheim, California.

A memorial service will be held Friday, February 5 at 4 p.m. at Bridges Hall of Music on the Pomona College campus, with a reception following at the Seaver Alumni House, also on campus.

Donations in Don’s name may be made to the Pomona College Geology Department or the United Methodist Committee on Relife, c/o the Claremont United Methodist Church.



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