As students, faculty and staff return to the Colgate campus for the beginning of a new and exciting school year, we also mourn the loss of an extraordinary and dear member of our community, Professor Bruce Selleck.
Selleck was deeply committed to Colgate and the region surrounding Hamilton. Selleck grew up in Upstate New York on a small dairy farm near Canton, N.Y. He graduated from Colgate in 1971 and received a bachelor’s degree in geology while playing for the varsity soccer team. He went on to pursue his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Rochester, and returned to Colgate as a faculty member in the Geology department in 1974.
Selleck has left a tremendous legacy at Colgate, having occupied various roles as a dedicated scholar, teacher and administrator.
“I was lucky enough to have known Bruce first as my professor and then as my colleague. Bruce was a man of strength, wisdom and warmth of spirit, and he had an incredible wealth of knowledge,” Senior Lecturer in Geology Diana Keller said.
Keller remembers what he shared with her over the years.
“I treasure all that he taught me, geologic and otherwise, and all the stories that he shared with such enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment of his family and legendary Uncle Gilman, and his many fond memories of times spent with his colleagues, students and alums throughout his time here at Colgate,” Keller said.
Selleck was an accomplished and distinguished expert of geology, with a particular interest in the local region of Upstate New York. He studied sedimentary rocks, with a focus on understanding what they meant to ancient marine environments. Selleck expanded his research into studying in Alaska and Australia, and worked closely with Charles A. Dana Professor of Geology James McLelland to explore tectonic development throughout the Adirondack Mountains.
Geology concentrator senior Carlie McCumber was lucky to experience Selleck’s love for the local area.
“He was one of the most passionate professors I’ve ever had and constantly expressed his love for geology in his teaching. He has lived in this area his entire life and all of his lectures were filled with so many stories about Madison County and not only were we able to learn the geologic history of the area, but the local history as well,” McCumber said.
McCumber also remembered his charm and perceptiveness.
“He always ended his classes every Friday by telling us, ‘Stay out of the Jug, because nothing good ever happens there,’ and always made an effort to come to his students’ sports games and concerts,” she said.
Throughout his career, Selleck published several articles in prominent scientific journals, such as the Geological Society of America Bulletin, American Journal of Science and the Journal of Sedimentary Research.
Selleck was also very involved in Colgate’s extracurricular groups, spearheading many study trips to Wales and Australia, and serving as an advisor to sports teams, clubs and Greek organizations.
Selleck passed away unexpectedly but peacefully in his sleep early Monday morning on July 31, 2017. He was 68-years-old.
Selleck is survived by his wife of 46 years, Nancy Barlow Selleck ’76, their two daughters Caity Selleck (Jim Murphy), Beth Selleck Fiore (Chris Fiore), grandson Cooper Murphy, Bruce’s two sisters Linda Selleck Kershlis and Laura Selleck (John Jenkins), Nancy’s sister Cindy Lawrence (Kevin Lawrence) and his nephews Zachary and Adam.
Dunham Beldon Jr. Professor of Geology Rich April worked alongside Selleck for 40 years. Their offices were right down the hall from one another, both when the Geology department was in Lathrop and then when it moved to the Ho Science Center.
“Bruce was a good friend as well as a longtime colleague. He was like a walking encyclopedia. You could ask a question about anything and you’d see the wheels in his head begin to turn and he’d come up with the answer. He had quite a following. He could probably name all his students since the ’70s and kept in touch with a lot of them,” April said.
April also fondly remembered that Selleck had a knack for the grill.
“He was great at the barbecue. During the summer, he would organize a chicken barbecue with his off-campus study group and make fine meals out of nothing. That’s just one example of why he was such a lovable guy,” he said.
Senior Geography concentrator Alex Taylor echoed April in reflecting on Selleck’s impressive capabilities.
“Bruce was a genius, with a seemingly inexhaustible pool of knowledge that he was always eager to share with students,” Taylor said.
Taylor took Selleck’s Sedimentation and Stratigraphy class and also attended the Geology off-campus class out west over the summer, commonly known as Field Camp, and has fond memories of both.
“When I think about Bruce, I think about how highly he regarded his students. He expected us to act and think like professional geologists, and pushed us to become experts in our field. It was a sign of the utmost respect for students; he taught us that we were capable of more than we had previously thought possible,” he said.
As Selleck’s student, Taylor can also attest to his extraordinary and compassionate character.
“He was very kind. I have many fond personal memories of him, from driving together across Wyoming to surprising the class with ice cream after a long day in the field. Bruce inspired me, and he has inspired many generations of Colgate geologists. I will miss him dearly,” Taylor said.
Selleck devotedly held many official leadership roles, serving as chair of the Geology Department (1983–1986 and 2003–2006), Associate Dean of the Faculty (1988–1990), Dean of the Faculty and Provost (1990–1994), and Interim Dean of the Faculty and Provost (2011–2012).
In addition, he served as chair of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, director of the Picker Institute for Interdisciplinary Science, and director of the Upstate Institute.
Senior Erica Nathan, also a Geology concentrator, reflected on Selleck’s immense talent as a professor.
“Professor Selleck taught my hydrology class last spring and helped inspire my decision to study glaciology abroad this semester. He went beyond the usual computer labs to field studies and even arranged an opportunity for us to take a flight over the Hamilton area to observe the post-glacial features of the landscape. For every class concept, there was an anecdote about a stream or well somewhere around Hamilton; he made it clear that class mattered outside the classroom and beyond the end of the semester,” she said.
As Colgate begins the fall semester of 2017, it remembers the legacy of a beloved and wonderful man.
Gifts in memoriam may be sent to the Colgate University Advancement Office for the Rich April-Bruce Selleck Endowed Fund for Geology Student Travel or directly to the Friends of Rogers Environmental Education Center, Sherburne, New York.
A memorial service is being planned for Saturday, October 14 at Colgate, and further information will be provided closer to the event.
Contact Maddie Veronis at [email protected]