Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dear friends and family of Bob Wharton. This site was created for people to share their thoughts and memories of Bob who passed on September 18, 2012 after a long fight with cancer. Please feel free to leave or view comments below. These comments will be shared with Bob's wife Carolyn and his son Matt. Thanks. A new photo page has been added. Click on "home" at the bottom of the comments below.



41 comments:

  1. I'll get the ball rolling here. Bob was my PhD adviser and friend. I learned a lot from him. He was definitely a major figure in my life. One of those game changers you encounter.

    I had visited with him and Carolyn in June of this year and to me it was remarkable how well he looked given he was undergoing treatment for his cancer. I was shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. We didn't see much of each other over the last 5+ years, but I am thankful for getting a chance to visit with him and Caroline at their home. Bye Bob. Thanks for everything.

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  2. Bob Wharton - Colleague, Mentor & Friend - over the last 35 years we have shared many adventures together - from the High Arctic to small bivouacs near the tops of mountains; from steep ice falls and crevasses to the edges of Antarctic glaciers; and to the bottom of Antarctic lakes and oceans. Your strength of character, honesty and devotion to family and friends, along with your spirit of adventure and deep desire to search for new knowledge made you the special person that you are. You will always be in my heart and mind, and you will always be my friend.

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  3. I met Bob shortly after getting my PhD when I joined the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER project that Bob had started in 1993. Bob was a professional friend, one with whom you enjoyed each others company in the field and at conferences. He had a great sense of balance between work and fun, science for impact and science because it was unknown. I learned much about Antarctic science through Bob and about dealing with people directly from Bob and from his stories of Doc Simmons. I appreciated all those moments. And he was the guy who introduced me to James Brown, now THAT was a life changer.

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  4. Bob changed the direction of my academic career and in turn helped shape the list of people who I count as dear friends. Around 1987 or so Bob introduced Diana Wall and me to the dry valleys as a possible place to test ideas that we had developed from our research in hot deserts. Bob mailed us some soil from the dry valleys in Nalgene bottles and with preliminary data generated from these samples we wrote a grant for a one off trip to Antarctica. As Bob probably secretly predicted we caught polar fever and since 1989 Diana and I have worked continuous on the soil ecology of the dry valleys. Bob was a sincere, fun and dedicated mentor in helping us newbies learn the ropes of Antarctic research. I will always remember our first tour of Lake Hoare, Taylor Valley with Bob as guide. He was full of enthusiasm and helped me understand the history of work there. He touched a lot of students and made the work of many scientists better through his research and skill in promoting polar science as an important field (seems obvious now, less so when Bob was starting). My thoughts go out to Bob’s family and all of his friends at the SD School of Mines. I know those of us in the Dry Valleys in the next few months will find a way to honor his special attachment to a place that few are lucky enough to visit.

    Ross Virginia
    Dartmouth College

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  5. Bob Wharton launched the MCMLTER project with vision, determination and an appreciation of our individual stengths and prespectives. I will always remember working with Bob and Berry Lyons in his office at NASA on the first proposal for the project, the one that was not funded. Bob was focused, optimistic and pragmatic all at the same time, and that approach carried us through to a successful proposal at our second and last opportunity.

    Being a member of this team has had been a great privelige for me personally. I am especially aware that we continue to benefit from his leadership now that I am myself the principal investigator. We just finished an exciting two-day team meeting in Boulder in the same room at INSTAAR where we had the first team meeting. At the end, a younger scientist who had attended to explore possible future collaborations said to me, "you know, you guys really are a team" and I thought about how that was a legacy of Bob's leadership from the beginning.

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  6. My composite memory of Bob over nearly a decade of knowing him in relation to the Antarctic program and Desert Research Institute is of a man, though always with an easy smile and twinkle in his eye, was also serious and intense mainly in the pursuit of science and organizing for a research expedition. Bob seemed unflappable, calm and mainly unswerving, and thus a good scientist, leader and organizer. I also remember Bob as a man of great vitality and fitness, it is thus all the more shocking to hear of his passing. Would love to post a few favorite images here if that is possible.

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  7. Hi Kristin, thanks for the message. If you or anyone else wants to send along favorite images of Bob, send to peter.t.doran@gmail.com and I'll post them (somewhere)

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  8. Bob was a great leader. Bob was always an enthusiastic and positive force. He had a unique ability to bring people from different scientific backgrounds, with strong personalities, and diverse opinions together to do creative things. As noted above, Bob was the architect of the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER and helped people engage in many other productive scientific endeavors through his career. My involvement in MCM-LTER has changed my life and I owe these pasts 20 years of great science and wonderful friendships to Bob who picked me to be involved in the activity. I owe him big time. Last night I thought back on that first field season and Bob and I cooking for many people at the original Lake Hoare camp, on a coleman stove in the jamesway. Those were the times. Bob, you will be missed but not forgotten.

    Berry Lyons, The Ohio State University

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  9. Next week, I was to receive the SDSMT Mines Medal from Bob - I say that only because Bob was so proud of the MCM LTER and of SDSMT and I was really thrilled that Bob was presenting it to me. I will receive it, but it will be a very sad event, and the talk - we shall see. Over the past few weeks we talked about this upcoming big dinner, and a little about the past and the future. I am sad that he won't be here for the great things he has launched at SDSMT. I serve on the SDSMT External Advisory Board, and it has been clear that Bob has had a tremendous impact on the university and that the Board was behind his vision. He is widely respected beyond South Dakota for his being an administrative leader and champion for science. We need more university presidents like that!

    As Ross Virginia mentioned above, Bob sent us the first 'preliminary' soil sample in a plastic 'Blecker/beaker" marked 'Lake Hoare' on a military aircraft - literally to my backyard - March Air Force Base, Riverside, CA. The soils had nematodes and it was as exciting as life on Mars - Ross and I were hooked and wrote our first grant on that cold desert. Bob's encouragement and enthusiasm for science changed my career and life, but I think, in many ways, influenced us all. I had first known Bob through NASA and NRC Committees on Astrobiology and he was the reason that I eventually joined the LTER. His humor coupled with objective, clear thoughts on issues were pervasive throughout his career - for example, following the Lake Fryxell helo crash, a call from the outside to the Crary office - Bob, at that time at NSF, asking about the situation and what could he do. That is just one example and we will all get together and add some more stories.

    A friend, advisor and colleague, I will miss him. Thanks Bob - it has been great!

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  10. I first met Dr. Wharton when he arrived at Idaho State University as the Chief Research Officer. I was hired as his Management Assistant. He then was appointed as the Provost for Academic Affairs and I followed to assist him in this new position. He was truly a great man. Dr. Wharton always treated everyone with respect regardless of his position. I always felt like I was part of the team. Though I was happy for him with his appointment as the President of SDSMT, I lost a great supervisor and friend. He embodied the true spirit of a great boss. I've kept in touch with him and Carolyn throughout the years. I was so thankful when they said that he was cancer free. His passing came as a shock. My thoughts and prayers are with Carolyn and his family.

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  11. I guess I go back to the beginning with Bob and his work in Antarctica. I can not tell you which year it was but I was at McMurdo working as the NSF Representative when he arrived with the team from Virginia Tech, headed up by "Doc" Simmons. I remember he looked, he listened, and he learned in those early years. And later, as many others have already stated, he shared his knowledge freely with many others that followed. He will be missed!

    Dave Bresnahan

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  12. Bob was a wonderful supervisor. He would actually come into my office unfailingly at least once every two weeks and just say that "he wanted to make sure things were going alright"--with no added agenda---just his personal touch. He always tried to put a bit of a humorous spin on things even under stress. He was a very fine leader and a person of integrity and quality. He will be missed. ----Deep Sympathy to his family.

    David Friscic

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  13. I met Bob during the first year of the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER project in 1993. He was our team leader and I was a new technician. He was a great teacher and mentor. His leadership set the stage for many productive years of science activities in the dry valleys. I always remember Bob checking in with the rest of the team to make sure that we were doing OK. He would say, "I wanted to tell you all that you are doing a great job." He also made a point of making sure we were being well fed after a long day in the field, and trying to make sure that each dinner that was served in camp was more delicious and elaborate than the night before. Eventually we needed a reset and he made us a simple dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches. I have many fond memories of working with Bob in the field. I am still a part of the McMurdo LTER project and will carry these memories with me to the field next season.

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  14. I met Bob when he came to work at the National Science Foundation as the Deputy Director of the Office of Polar Programs. He was a wonderful colleague and mentor. He brought his positive energy and leadership qualities to the role of facilitating polar research. I appreciated the opportunity to work with him and know him as a person. My thoughts go out to his family.

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  15. Miles Ecclestone, Trent UniversitySeptember 20, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    I first met Bob on May 10th, 1998 at the McGill Arctic Research Station, on Axel Heiberg Island. He had flown in that day (with a motley crew) and arrived in camp while I was working on a nearby glacier. So I met him later,around 6pm in the small kitchen hut, where martinis were being mixed and consumed. Bob was "supervising" and I was impressed! In talking with mutual friends today, I remembered instantly liking him - he was the type of person you wanted to get to know better and spend time with,to learn lots, sure, but also because he was just the kind of person that made you feel good just talking with him about, well, just about anything...and there are very very few amongst the 6+billion of us that this can be said about. Since then we kept in touch through periodic emails and I always kept trying to entice him back north for a visit,and of course some martinis (or bourbon). Now, I 'll have the fixin's for a good martini with me in early 2013,to toast Bob.

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  16. Pascal Lee, Mars Institute and SETI InstituteSeptember 20, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    Bob Wharton was an outstanding scientist and explorer. He was a pioneer in the study of the Earth's polar regions to help us understand Mars and other planetary bodies, and the possibility of life out there. Bob was an inspiration to an entire generation of scientists and will continue to inspire. He will be greatly missed.

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  17. Bob came to NSF to serve as OPP’s Executive Director in 2001, at a time when the polar research community had been gradually broadening its traditional research portfolio into areas as diverse as astrophysics, evolutionary biology and ecosystem science. His deep roots in the community, his widely respected personal integrity and his personal leadership abilities were all brought to bear in helping NSF and OPP address new opportunities for leading-edge research, while continuing to build on traditional strengths. The continuing evolution that Bob helped to foster has made U.S. polar research programs very much stronger and more diverse today than they were when he arrived.



    Within OPP, Bob's optimism, good cheer, integrity and dedication to fair play were wonderful assets that made our work life better and more fun for every one of us. Choosing to serve as the President of The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was a logical and well-deserved next step in Bob’s career. We were happy for him and knew he would be equally appreciated there, but at the same time we expected that we would miss him very much -- and we did. We mourn his passing as we celebrate his life.

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  18. These comments are very uplifting. I know my father was truly passionate about his work and the people he worked with.

    I don't claim to understand all the intricacies of the various aspects of his work, but I've always respected what he did. It makes me smile to know that he's had such a positive impact to both the scientific community as well as the people he's worked with.

    My wife and I, as well as our two children, are very proud of Grandpa Bob and are sad to lose him. He will surely be missed.

    Thanks everyone!

    -Matt Wharton

    p.s. I love the pictures too!

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  20. Bob Wharton was one of the nicest people I ever met. I wish I had told him what I thought while he was still alive. It reminds us not to hold back when there is someone who you admire you should just tell them. I knew Bob first as a field researcher in Antarctica and then as a colleague at NSF. In recent years when he had become a very successful university administrator and then President of South Dakota School of Mining and Technology I was always impressed that he would take the time to stop in and say hello while visiting NSF on business. Bob was also a dog lover and he used to update me on the dogs that he and Carolyn both loved. My thoughts are with Carolyn and the rest of Bob's family. Hopefully she will take some solace in knowing how much we all loved and admired Bob for being the wonderful, caring and kind person that he was. I will miss his smile and as Kristin said, that "twinkle in his eye". Bob, we will never forget you.

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  21. I had the privilege of working with Bob in both the Arctic and Antarctic, but my fondest memories are of my first trip to McMurdo and Lake Hoare and the never ending sense of excitement and wonder that he radiated. Bob’s achievements speak volumes about the sort of person he was, his professionalism and his passion for science. Bob was a true gentleman, a rather rare quality in science these days. Bob’s sudden passing is both tragic and sad, particularly since it appeared he had won his battle with cancer. Like everyone else here I will miss him.

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  22. As the 18th President of SDSM&T, Dr. Wharton had a "world class" vision for our alma mater and constantly strived to improve the quality of our Hardrocker brand. It is indeed ironic that roughly 24 hours after campus email 'Inboxes' were being filled with links to an article by Bloomberg reporter By Joe Richter declaring "Harvard Losing Out to South Dakota in Graduate Pay", that the entire Mines family was shocked with news of his sudden passing of President Wharton.

    His legacy is that his vision for our alma mater is shared by alumni everywhere, and our pledge is to support forwarding that vision with respect for his tenure at SDSM&T. Heartfelt condolences from alumni and friends continue to be wished for First Lady Carolyn Fassi Wharton, son Matt, and the entire Wharton family. His mark on our alma mater will remembered among the proud 127 year history of this special university.

    Sincere regards.

    SDSM&T Alumni Association

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  23. Dr. Wharton took office during my junior year at college. He instantly became involved on campus and made appearances on a daily basis. I would see him in the dining shack, outside of the activities office, and between classes on a daily basis. He took special interests in some of the initiatives I’ve stood up for during my four years at Tech. During my senior year, he and his amazing wife wrote my letters of recommendation for medical school. I am currently a third year doing my second rotation as a medical student. I remember the words he whispered in my ear as I shook his hand after receiving my diploma. I owe a lot to him and promise to fulfill my oath. I am saddened by his loss but I know that his hard work and dedication will live on with all the accomplishments he has achieved over the years. My heart goes out to his family and to Dr. Carolyn Fassi Wharton.

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  24. When Dr. Wharton first started as the new President of SDSM&T, he took the time to get to know everyone and for us to get to know him. The campus took on a new life after he and Carolyn came onboard and I will forever be grateful to have had the experience of knowing him.

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  25. I worked with a lot of people during my time in Antarctica, and Bob always stood out from the crowd. Always pleasant, always smiling, always kind. And on top of that a top-notch scientist. It was always a pleasure to be around him. Can't believe he's gone. He will be greatly missed.

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  26. Thank you for your dedicated service to a place that I hold so dear in my heart. Greatful Alumni with Respect and Sadness.

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  27. Talk about a life changer. I cannot even begin to express the impact Bob had on my life - from the minute I met him in the Dry Valleys to my time working for him at the Desert Research Institute. He encouraged me to return to school (which I did), was my mentor, boss, and friend and I feel extremely fortunate to have known him. Although we had not been in contact for the past few years there is a hole in my heart knowing he is gone. But I believe we can all be consoled knowing that our lives are better for having known Bob.

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  28. My name is Madison Phelps, my dad is Stacy Phelps and he had a camp called gear up on the campus. And my dad said the Bob was an amazing person and I met Bob and Carolyn a few times and you two were unforgettable, he was very nice and whenever I was on campus he was really nice to me. And I am only 14 but he still greased me more mature ans I respected Bob a lot so its really sad that he passed away and I am going to miss seeing him around, but he did do a lot of good in his life time. And had an impact on everyone including me and I want to thank him and Carolyn for that.

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  29. I am, along with the seniors this year, the lucky students who have 3- 4 full years to learn about the school President. I wish my English and my social skill was better... so that somehow I could get to know Dr Wharton and Dr Fassi better. I loved the fact that SDSMT was being led by a wonderful person. As a student ambassador, I enjoyed so much the warm and welcome atmosphere whenever I came to President events at Dr Wharton's house. I am an international student, going to school in is the US first time leaving far from home. All I can say is I do feel SDSM&T is my 2nd home, thanks to terrific individuals from the school, led by Dr Wharton.

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  30. Dr. Wharton was a very gracious man who focused beyond the present and into the future. His leadership at SDSM&T will forever be present in the aspirations of the university, faculty, and most of all the students. Dr. Wharton brought the campus, reputation, and notoriety to a new level that rivals major universities but retains our South Dakota basis and values. I first met Dr. Wharton and his wife at their first SDSM&T Homecoming and loved how they embraced all of the traditions and kept things alive years after. Dr. Wharton was always interested in meeting new people and foster those relationships. His forward thinking will be a legacy on our campus and within our Tech family as the man who would lead the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology into 2020 and beyond. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Rely on your family, friends, and anyone from SDSM&T as we are all here for you.

    It was a true pleasure to know Dr. Wharton.

    Chuck Cox (ME '00)

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  31. I had the opportunity to share part of a field season with Bob up in the Canadian Arctic. The field party included Bob, Peter Doran and Dale Anderson. At our first stop we were based on Axel Heiberg Island, one of the sites of Peter's previous MSc work. Bob was just waiting for it, and kidding around screamed "I've got acid in my eye!" while we were sampling Colour Lake (pH~3.5 or so).
    We then moved up to Ward Hunt Island on the northern coast of Ellesmere Island, where we cored a small lake with over 4.5 meters of ice. Bob made it fun, even if there was strong winds and horizontal snow filling the drill hole. We got the core. It was a tremendous experience to share with a remarkable person.

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  32. Cathy Payne, SDSMT Veterans Resource CenterSeptember 24, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    I can't express my gratitude enough for the encouragement and support that President Wharton has given to the student veterans, as well as to the campus Veterans Resource Center (VRC). Whether just dropping by the VRC to sincerely ask how we're doing, or being our #1 cheerleader during M-Week and Veterans' Day parades and events, President Wharton definitely made it clear to the veterans that they mattered, and that he was proud to have them on his campus. In the words of a School of Mines student veteran, "Seldom does a man give as much to veterans as he has done."

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  33. Mike Rauenhorst, SDSU Students' Association SenatorSeptember 24, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Wharton. He was always an easy guy to approach about different higher education issues or just life in general. Being an engineering major, he could relate to me very well and for that I am grateful. I didn't get to work up close to him, just during Board of Regents etc. but I could imagine what a vital part he was to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

    You will be greatly missed

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  34. I met Bob when I first came to OPP, I was the sole social scientist among many natural scientists. Bob didn't know me at all and didn't exactly understand the science that may program supports but his encouragement and willingness to learn about what I did made me feel as though what I did mattered. May the world be filled with more Bob Whartons, we would all benefit and be the better for it.

    Thanks Bob for your warmth and kindness you will be missed by many, by your family most of all and they have my deepest sympathies.
    Your colleague,
    Anna Kerttula de Echave

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  35. I came on staff at Mines the same year as Dr. Wharton, 2008. He was so approachable, always offering support to our Native student initiatives, and all students of color.

    He and Carolyn always attended and supported our OMA events, our Award Events (Student Leadership, Board of Regents etc.)and the OMA Feathering Graduation Ceremonies with special words for our graduates; many times being their champion. They were sincerely interested in Native culture, and supported our unique programming combining this into STEM here at Mines.

    Thank you for your kindness, your encouragement of our underrepresented students at Mines, insuring they had a voice, welcoming us into your and Carolyn's home and hearts.

    Though you became a warrior in your fight with this dreadful scourge that is cancer - a fight for all of those who have been suffering, and though you won that fight -Creator called you home. You accomplished so much for this university and in life however, creating legacies - ensuring funding for many of our programs long into the future. You are felt and missed at every turn.

    My sincere condolences to Dr. Carolyn Fassi Wharton,(and to your family) and prayers for courage and faith during this extremely difficult time.

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  36. I never had the chance to meet Bob Wharton– but I have benefited from his significant influence since I am part of the connective fabric that working in the McMurdo Dry Valleys creates. When I was finishing my Masters I desperately wanted to work in the Antarctic and I contacted him to inquire about research opportunities. He was encouraging and connected me to the current MCM PIs. Before I knew it I was heading to the ice as part of my Ph.D. research with John Priscu. I feel so fortunate to be a part of the unique legacy that is the MCM-LTER and consider the MCM scientists not only as mentors and colleagues, but friends. Clearly from the sentiments on this page – Bob Wharton played a special role in creating that legacy. I always looked forward to someday thanking him in person but instead I do so in spirit.

    Jill Mikucki

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  37. I first met Bob in 1980 in McMurdo and we instantly hit it off. We talked about our common interests in Antarctica and we talked about mountaineering. We eventually wrote an article together about climbing in Antarctica. With Dale Anderson, we had a superb time together climbing Mt. Dixon in the New Zealand Alps after the Antarctic field season. A decade and a half later we spent a memorable week together climbing in the North Cascades. The last time we were able to get together for some climbing was a weekend in Leavenworth with his son Matt. You can learn a lot about a person on the other end of a rope. Those were special times with a special person, which were all too rare. Bob’s passing leaves the world diminished.


    John Schutt

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  38. Bob was a grad student at Humboldt State University in the late 1970s when I was an undergrad. He was studying "pink snow" algae, and was making frequent trips over to Mt. Shasta. He also gathered some pioneering data on algae and I think cyanobacteria in the summit hot springs. He took me on a couple of my first climbs on Shasta, and before long he invited me to go on a winter ascent of Mt. Rainier, around New Years. He picked me up at my parents house in Los Angeles, driving a big truck full of floor polishing material; a side job he had as an undergrad. We succeeded on Rainier, and later I took him rock climbing in the Castle Crags. Years later, fellow guide John Schutt told me he worked and climbed with Bob, small world! Bob had gone on to bigger things obviously, and I was amazed to get a call from him maybe a dozen years ago as he was in Reno with DRI, and I in Bishop. We never got together, and I figured he'd moved on again. I didn't know he had cancer, and was so surprised and saddened to hear the news.

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  39. Berry Lyons introduced me to Bob in the early ‘90s when he learned I was interested in doing my Ph.D. in the Antarctic. Bob became my faculty advisor at DRI, and was a great mentor not only for my research and conducting field work in Antarctica, but also on how to manage and lead large interdisciplinary teams, skills I use every day in my present position. When he wasn’t at Lake Hoare, I tried to emulate Bob in his supervisory role in overseeing cocktail hour by making G&Ts with age-old Canada Glacier ice. I haven’t seen Bob much in the last decade, but I’m so glad I was able to reconnect with him and Carolyn when they were in Reno last year. We will miss you Bob, rest in peace

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  40. It was with great sadness that I learned of Bob's passing. My entry on this site apparently didn't make it through the posting-process, so I'll try to recompose my thoughts. I first met Bob and Carolyn at the DRI in the late 1980's when I was finishing up my doctoral degree. Bob's friendship and love of the mountains brought us together on many occasions both for research and for climbing. He gave me the opportunity to participate in some of the early Dry Valley work, and it was both a pleasure and an honor to work with him. He always had a tremendously positive outlook and changed many peoples lives for the better. Out hearts go out to Carolyn, family, and all of those whose lives were touched by Bob.

    Scott Tyler and Connie Howard

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  41. I knew Bob Wharton as a graduate student at Virginia Tech. He and I were graduate assistants to Bruce Parker in the Biology Department trying to get PH.D'S. I remember Bob as a good student who had a lot of energy and was very interested in polar research. We were Botanists specializing in algae. I remember one time we had dinner with Bruce, Bob, myself and Dr. G.W. Prescott who was the major professor for Bob and I Master Degrees major professors and a noted Phycologist. After the meal we lit "a big stogie" together to celebrate our fortunate we were. I will always remember Bob.
    Kenneth Gus Seaburg

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