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Department of Geosciences

Brian Lowes

Professor Emeritus

Brian Lowes - Professor
  • Professional
  • Personal


  • Ph.D., Geology, University of Washington, 1972
  • M.S., Geology, Queens University , 1963
  • B.S., Geology, University of London, 1957


Brian E. Lowes joined the faculty at PLU in the fall of 1968. He was born in Pinner, England, near London. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, England and a Master of Science in Geology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. It was while he was at Queens that he first met his future wife Berta. His PhD in Geology was done at the University of Washington, studying metamorphism and structural history in the North Cascades and working under the legendary Peter Misch.

Prior to Brian’s arrival at PLU, some geology courses had been taught, due in part to the efforts of the late Burt Ostenson. Brian’s arrival marked the hiring of the first permanent geologist on the faculty at PLU. Brian’s vision to establish the Department of Earth Sciences was realized in 1970 and the first major graduated that year; he is here with us tonight – Roger Hansen. Since 1970, more than 230 majors and minors have graduated from the department and nearly every student that has passed through the department has taken one or more classes from Brian.

Over the years, Brian has taught a broad range of science courses to both geology majors and non-majors. In the early years, he taught all the courses! For the few courses that were outside his expertise, he arranged a collaborative relationship with the University of Puget Sound that allowed PLU students to take courses to complete their geology major. Brian has traditionally taught the fundamental upper division ‘hard rock’ courses in Petrology, Optical Mineralogy, Structural Geology, Mapping, and Geologic Field Mapping. He is noted for teaching with great enthusiasm and is legendary for his hand-drawn complex multicolored classroom illustrations. He is committed to rigor and developing core geologic competencies in students and he has always given generously of his time to assist students with lab and class assignments. One alum commented “his classes were some of the most challenging, so learning from him was not only a huge accomplishment, but also a privilege that I’m very glad I had the chance to experience.” He is fondly remembered by all for this British accent – with its unusual pronunciations – his gracious manners, and his droll sense of humor.

Prior to coming to PLU, Brian was engaged in both regional mapping projects with the Canadian Geological Survey and mineral exploration with several mining companies; his experience ranged from Labrador to British Columbia. This passion for fieldwork continued at PLU and he has always been dedicated to getting students out into the field as often as possible to experience geology first hand. Every semester he has offered field trips to various sites around Washington. He is renowned for his geological narration on the fly, animatedly waving at important geologic features through the windshield and often times navigating challenging roads in the process. For many years he has helped to lead the Spring Break field trip, always out-climbing the students during hikes to see spectacular geologic vistas. As one alum said, “he walked straight up a vertical hill like a mountain goat while we all took the easy routes.”

He translated his passion for fieldwork into teaching a summer Field Geology course, or field camp. He tirelessly taught field camp over a thirty-year period in the Cascade Mountains near White Pass. While this program was designed for PLU students, he often had students from various universities around the country. During the five weeks each summer, he challenged students to keep up with him as he enthusiastically drove one lane roads and scrambled up the hillsides in search of outcrops. Even after having two hip replacements, he could still out climb the undergraduates and even those who thought they were in pretty good shape were humbled by Brian’s energy.

Brian has given generously of his time to the university and community over the years. He has served as chair of the department, as director of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Advancement or MESA program, as Dean of Natural Sciences, on various university faculty committees, and as President of the Northwest Geological Society. In the mid-1990’sBrian participated in a grant application to the Keck Foundation for the acquisition of research facilities for the division of Natural Sciences. He efforts resulted in the acquisition of a sophisticated petrographic microscope that has been an essential tool for both student capstone research and classroom instruction. He was a pioneer in the early years of Division of Natural Sciences undergraduate summer research program, supervising two undergraduate students in field research projects in the White Pass area.

Brian is a devoted family man, supporting his wife Berta in her weaving career, championing the accomplishments of his daughters Laura and Sara, celebrating the arrival of his grand daughter, and spending countless hours running and walking the family dogs.

We are grateful for all that Brian has contributed during his career of over four decades of service to PLU. We are grateful for his tireless dedication to students. We are grateful for his passion for sharing the excitement of field geology and his leadership in making field experiences as essential part of our curriculum. We are grateful for his vision to establish the Department Earth Sciences, now the Department of Geosciences. And we are grateful for his service the university and the community in so many capacities.