De Boer Remembered for Teaching Connecticut Geology

Olivia DrakeJuly 29, 20163min
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus, died July 23 at the age of 81.

De Boer received his BS and PhD from the University of Utrecht before coming to Wesleyan as a postdoctoral fellow in 1963. During his early years at Wesleyan he worked closely with Geology Professor Jim Balsley in the field of paleomagnetism. In 1977, de Boer was named the George I. Seney Professor of Geology and in 1984 he was named the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Sciences.

In the 1970s de Boer worked as a joint professor at the University of Rhode Island at the Marine Sciences Institute where he was a PhD supervisor for Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic in 1985. Ballard later invited de Boer to go diving in the submersible Alvin to collect rocks in the Cayman Trough.

Originally interested in coming to the United States to study the Appalachian Mountains, de Boer’s research focused on the geotectonics of the Appalachians, Southeast Asia and South and Central America.

In 2015 de Boer received the Joe Webb Peoples Award, presented annually by the Geological Society of Connecticut to someone who has contributed to the field of geology in Connecticut. Wesleyan’s current Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science Joop Varekamp, de Boer’s friend and colleague, was quoted by The Wesleyan Argus at the time of this award: “[De Boer] was an outstanding teacher, who received the Binswanger prize for excellence in teaching roughly a decade ago. His classes were very well-liked by many, and he taught many intro science classes until the day that he retired. [His] great talents were in drawing in students to the field of earth and environmental sciences, making people enthusiastic about geology, and his field trips on the geology of Connecticut aroused interest among students who never thought that they would be interested in science.”

De Boer is survived by his wife, Felicité, his son, Bjorn, daughters Byrthe and Babette, their spouses, and his four grandchildren, Cheyne, Indiana, Braedon and Marino.

A memorial event will be planned for the fall.