Alfred Traverse
Obituary published by Centre
Daily Times on Sept. 20, 2015

Alfred was born on Labor Day, 1925, in Port Hill, Prince Edward Island, Canada. His family moved to the United States in 1928. He got his public education in St. Joseph, Michigan, where he graduated from high school as valedictorian in 1943.

He entered Harvard University in June of the same year and graduated in June, 1946, SB magna cum laude, elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and soon left for England, having won a Lady Julia Henry Fellowship for a year of study as a research student at the Botany School of Cambridge University. For his work there, he received a Certificate in Botany. In August 1947, Alfred returned to Harvard and resumed graduate work there, concentrating on fossil pollen and spore studies, a field now called palynology. He received a Masters degree in 1948, and a Ph.D. in 1951.

His dissertation on the palynology of the Brandon lignite of Vermont was published later by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. In June, 1951, Alfred married Elizabeth Jane (Betty) Insley. That same year, he was hired by the U.S. Bureau of Mines to do research on petrology of lignite-coal in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Then, in 1956, the USBM transferred him to the Federal Center in Denver, Colorado, to be head of the coal microscopy lab, but he almost immediately accepted an offer from Shell to set up a palynology lab at their Bellaire research headquarters in Houston, Texas. Soon after his employment with Shell, he was sent to their international headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, to learn about the company's palynological methods and previous research. During his years with Shell, his most significant contribution was study of the distribution of palynomorphs in sediments offshore from the Bahamas and the significance of this for sedimentation in general.

Alfred resigned at Shell in 1962, and enrolled at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. He graduated with a degree of Master of Divinity in 1965 as the top-ranked student. For the academic year 1965-66, he was Assistant Professor of Geology at the University of Texas, and assistant clergyman at a nearby Episcopal church, having been ordained deacon. In May, 1966, Alfred was ordained priest, and in June that same year moved to State College to become Associate Professor of Palynology in the departments of Geosciences and Biology at Penn State. He also took up duties as assistant to the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Philipsburg. In 1967, he was one of the co-founders of AASP, now known as The Palynological Society. He was the first secretary-treasurer of the organization and later was elected president.

Beginning in 1950, he became active in the Botanical Society of America, in which he served several years as secretary and chairman of the Palenobotanical Section. He was a member and fellow from 1950 until his death of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. In 1975, the Traverses moved from State College to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Alfred became priest-in-charge of St. John's Episcopal Church while continuing his work as professor at Penn State. He also served as Adjunct Professor at Juniata College in Huntingdon, where he gave occasional lectures. From 1980-81, Alfred and Betty were in Zürich, Switzerland, on sabbatical. Alfred was associated with the geology department of the Swiss Federal Technical Institute, where he gave a course on Cenozoic palynolgy. While in Zürich, he also served as assistant priest in a parish of the Old Catholic Church, a denomination in communion with the Anglican Church. This was his last church connection, because upon his return to the U.S. and after much deliberation, he came to realize that he had actually become a secular humanist, more in tune with his scientific present than with his religious past. However, he has remained positive about his deep association with the Church and has never felt it appropriate to make a public disavowal of his religious connections.

Alfred is the author of Paleopalynology (Unwin Hyman, 1988), the first comprehensive textbook in English on the subject, and countless other scientific articles published in periodicals all over the world. He loved to travel and spent much of his free time studying various languages so he could interact with the people he met. In 1995, Alfred retired from teaching at Penn State. His personal herbarium of about 5,000 specimens was given to Penn State Herbarium in Whitmore Lab, of which Alfred was Voluntary Curator from 2007-2015. A point of interest is that the original collection for the Herbarium was brought back from Europe by Penn State's first president, Evan Pugh. Dr. Pugh believed a herbarium to be an essential asset for research at what was the "Farmers' High School" renamed by him to be "Pennsylvania College of Agriculture." Alfred was proud to be integral in the continuance of this legacy and important collection for Penn State.

Alfred Traverse died at the age of 90 after an extended illness on September 15, 2015 at Juniper Village, State College. Alfred is survived by his beloved wife, companion and colleague of nearly 65 years, Dr. Elizabeth Insley Traverse, their four children, Paul Whitney Traverse, M.D., Martha Jane Traverse, John Insley Traverse and Celia Elizabeth Traverse Lerner; one daughter in-law, Kathy Lynne Traverse; seven grandchildren; one great-grand-child; two step-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren.