Monday, November 26, 2012

Memorial for Doug Shakel

The following memorial by Alison Jones was published in the monthly newsletter of the Arizona Geological Society:

Douglas Shakel, AGS VP of Field Trips, retired Pima Community College geology faculty member, activist, world traveler, brother, uncle, friend, and student of life passed away on November 19, surrounded by some of the many people who loved him. They will all miss him dearly.   

Doug loved science and learning for its own sake. Practical applications did not interest him as much as did the sheer joy that came in gaining a better understanding of the world. He was a scientist in the purest sense of the word. A self-described liberal with religious views that were “personal,” Doug was a very social guy, with friends in many different circles. One of his favorite quotations was, “Anxiety is fear in search of a cause.”

Doug grew up as an Army brat, graduated from Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn, NY, and then went to the California Institute of Technology, where he studied under Leon Silver and received a degree in geology in 1961. He was commissioned in the Air Force, serving as a flight test and
radar navigator in B-52s, and was honorably discharged in 1967 after attaining the rank of Captain.
Doug made his way to Tucson and the University of Arizona where he received his M.S. in 1974 and studied toward a Ph.D. His thesis was titled, “The geology of layered gneisses in the Santa Catalina forerange.” Doug loved Tucson, and it was here that he would make his mark. He was instrumental
in the creation of Catalina State Park, 5500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams with magnificent saguaros and world-class birdwatching.

During his 27 years of teaching at Pima Community College, he created a lasting legacy by inspiring countless students (many of whom had no idea what geology was when they entered his class) to major in geology and make it a career. Doug’s annual field trips throughout the U.S. and to foreign
destinations including Morocco, China, Tahiti, Thailand, and Turkey were often the highlight of his students’ academic careers. He kept in touch with many of them until he died.

After retirement, Doug continued intellectual pursuits. As VP of Field Trips for AGS, he led many wonderful and well-organized trips and authored exceptional guidebooks. He led trips for the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, gave talks at the Tucson Audubon Society “Institute of Desert Ecology,” and served on the Pima County Flood Control District Advisory Committee. In 2012, Doug took on the daunting task of organizing and writing guidebooks for all of the field trips for the 48th Forum on the Geology of Industrial Minerals. The organizers were amazed that one person could do it all, and do it so well.

Doug leaves behind an astounding number of friends, his sister and brother-in-law, Kay and Larry Cole, with whom Doug was very close, his nephews, Doug and David, and ex-wife and good friend, Carolyn Lee.

At Tohono Chul Park in Tucson, you can see a 55-foot long wall made up of several hundred rock specimens from more than two dozen geologic formations that make up Santa Catalina Mountains. Each rock was carefully selected and placed to tell the geologic history of the Santa Catalina Mountains, which rise up in the in the distance behind the wall. It is also a testament to the designer and builder of this wall, Doug Shakel, whose life’s purpose, in my opinion, was to learn, teach, and be a friend. He was exceptionally good at all of these things. —Alison H. Jones


  1. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Doug was a great friend, mentor, and teacher. He inspired many people to become scientists. We will all mourn his passing.
    Jesse W.Laurie, R.G.

  2. Anonymous5:29 PM

    My life changed the day I stepped into Doug Shakel's class. He was the person who made science seem accessible - even to a former English major. He was also the one who could hold the attention of a group of 20 year-olds during field trips to the Rocky Point tidal pools, despite the lure of cervezas in town. His gruff sense of humor helped to make him a unique and particularly effective teacher. I still remember the sound of his voice yelling from the driver's side window whenever we had to pull over for bathroom breaks on weekend field trips: "Bunny Bladders! Bunny Bladders!"
    As students, we were lucky to have Dr. Shakel as a teacher. Tucson was fortunate to have him as an educator, scientist, and dedicated member of the community. He won't be an easy act to follow.
    - Becca Cammack, Former Student

  3. Anonymous6:40 PM

    My world was changed by Doug Shakel. He opened up the world (literally) for us. His memory will remain in all of us who knew him. We have lost someone who made a difference to so many people.

    Goodbye Doug, from one rockhound to another.

    Stacy Renteria (Besio)