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August 29, 2011


Greg Wheeler
Emeritus Professor of Geology

Photo: Greg Wheeler
Emeritus Professor of Geology Greg Wheeler is still connecting with students.

Emeritus Professor Greg Wheeler has come full circle.

The energetic geology instructor secured a full-time position at Sacramento State in 1978 after serving as an adjunct and a freeway flier teaching at community colleges in Seattle. He was chairman of the Geology Department from 1989 to 1996 when he spearheaded plans to build Placer Hall, which was completed in 1997. He persuaded the U.S. Geological Survey to pick up part of the cost with private funding paying the remaining tab. "Not one dollar of general-fund money was spent on the building, and the loan is being repaid by the federal agency that is renting the top three floors," he says with deserved pride.

From 1999 to 2010, Wheeler was associate dean for undergraduate studies and oversaw general education, freshman seminars and the Honors Program. Although he left administration last year, he's still connecting with students from the same office in Placer Hall he used while a professor.

"I love teaching and never intended to retire," he says. This explains why he continues to offer a full complement of classes in the spring semester under the University program that allows professors to teach on a part-time basis for five years.

His spring class last semester featured the Honors course Science and the Public Good. "We are lucky to have him," Honors Director Roberto Pomo says. "In addition to being an outstanding instructor, he's been the best administrative role model for me."

Listening to Wheeler's animated description of the course, the books he uses and the quality of his students, one cannot help but be envious of the enrollees. His Socratic approach prompts his students to probe complex issues, particularly as they relate to public policy.

One of his texts, "Physics for Future Presidents," relates the post 9-11 world of potential terrorist attacks to scientific advances that pose special dilemmas for Oval Office occupants. Students are challenged to confront several situations that might arise in the future. Another of the books he uses, "Lies, Damned Lies and Science," deconstructs the degree to which science can be misused by people with agendas.

Wheeler is so committed to ensuring that his Honors students get the most out of his class that he splits it in half about every other week to conduct seminars. That way they are able to concentrate their efforts on a particular issue.

Honors graduate and Dean's award winner Vladimir Petrosyan says, "Dr. Wheeler has very high expectations and provides material that is relevant." We "had a good conversation in his office about the geopolitics and investments. He is an extremely knowledgeable and approachable person."

His commitment extends to students in general which is why he guest-lectures in geology classes and advises during the fall semester when he is technically on hiatus. "It keeps my hand in," he says, "while still allowing me to research and pursue other interests."

-- Alan Miller


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