Aureal T. Cross

from TSOP Newsletter 30 (4), December 2013

Professor Aureal T. Cross passed away in East Lansing, Michigan on December 1, 2013. Prof. Cross was a widely known figure in the world of organic petrology and will be greatly missed. In 2005, he was awarded the John Castaño Honorary Membership Award for his significant contributions to teaching, coal geology, and paleobotany. The passages below are a compilation of material from material from T.L. Phillips ‘Bibliography of Aureal T. Cross’, Int. J. Coal Geology, 2007, Vol. 69, 1-2, p.1-20, a laudation
Originally published in the March 2008 TSOP Newsletter and material supplied by several TSOP members. An Ohioan by birth, June 4, 1916, in Findlay, Hancock County, Aureal T. Cross grew up an Iowan on a dairy farm near Waterloo at Castle Hill.

He was the second of five children of Congregational Minister Raymond W. and Mrs. Myra Jane Coon Cross. On a history and music scholarship at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Aureal was drawn to L. R. Wilson's physical geology course and the summer reconnaissance trips. Graduating from Coe College in 1939 with an honors thesis on pollen analysis, Aureal completed his Masters in 1941 and a PhD thesis in 1943 at the University of Cincinnati with J.H. Hoskins on Pennsylvanian age plants from coal-balls.

During 1942–1946 he taught premedical U.S. Navy students at the University of Notre Dame with a 1943–1944 leave as a National Research Council Fellow. His assignment was to work with James M. Schopf at the U.S. Bureau of Mines Central Experiment Station, Pittsurgh, to find additional coking coals nearer existing steel mills for the WWII effort. Using an untried method of examining crushed raw coal samples microscopically under oil, they were able to determine coking coals in Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington before the war ended.

Aureal and Christina Aleen Teyssier met during 1943 in Pittsburgh and married in 1945. Aureal replaced K.E. Caster, his paleontology mentor, for three and one half years (1946–1949) in the Geology Department at Cincinnati, and did field mapping for the Ohio Geological Survey during the summers. From 1949 to 1957, Cross established productive graduate training and research programs in the West Virginia University Geology Department and the West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey where he had dual appointments. His move (1957–1961) to Exploration Geology at Amoco's Pan American Petroleum Corporation Research Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, permitted him to develop and supervise a major palynological research group. The return to academia (1961) at Michigan State University in East Lansing resulted in one of the most comprehensive graduate training programs in paleobotany, palynology, biostratigraphy and paleoecology in North America. Over his teaching career, he graduated a total of more than 70 students, many of whom have gone on to be major contributors in the field. These include Ralph Gray, himself a previous recipient of Honorary Membership from the Society.

Although Aureal Cross officially retired in 1986, he continued working on research projects, publication of manuscripts, attended professional meetings, and kept in touch with several generations of his students as well as with many colleagues. With his passing, the organic petrology community has lost one of the living links to individuals who built the foundations of modern paleobiology in the early 20th century. The Dr Aureal T. Cross Endowed Graduate Fellowship at Michigan State University will represent a lasting memorial to the legacy of Professor Cross.