Even though Western is geographically far from his home in Switzerland, it is also far from forgotten. Geologist Keith Barron, PhD’97, wears his Western necktie with pride, and a glass Professional Achievement Award from Western Alumni holds a prominent place in his office.
In 2009, out of concern that the study of geology at Western was at a critical crossroads, Barron donated $1.2 million to establish the Robert W. Hodder Chair in Economic Geology.
Before the chair was established, Barron and other geology alumni expressed worry that academic retirements and a proposed change in direction would mean a decline in the study of the discipline at Western. The Bre-X Minerals fraud (a Calgary-based company’s gold “discovery” in Indonesia) had also done no favours to those in the profession or those hoping to train for it.
Barron and other Canadian geologists redoubled their efforts to show that solid research trumped a fast buck, and they began a campaign to persuade administration to strengthen the study of economic geology. Or, in Barron’s less diplomatic words, “I raised holy hell, I sure did.”
“It’s not only money. He donates his time, in giving guest lectures, mobilizing alumni, mentoring students, offering expertise and helping forge strong connections with industry partners. He speaks to students about the importance of rigorous research, the value of entrepreneurship and the risk and potential of economic geology. He is an incredible inspiration to our students.”
The Robert W. Hodder Chair in Economic Geology
The chair makes Western the premier institution in Canada where students can pursue an undergraduate program in economic geology, leading to becoming a professional geoscientist.
Barron has helped reinvigorate both the focus and financial health of the study of Geology and Earth Sciences at Western, said Robert Linnen, who holds the Robert W. Hodder Chair in Economic Geology.