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John Thomas Knight Stark
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Memorial to John Thomas Knight Stark
I F. C. DAPPLES
J3035 98th Drive, Sun City, Arizona 85351
R. M. GARRELS
140 Seventh Ave. South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
6. F. BROWN
2031 Royal Fern Court, Resron, Virginia 22091
Certain uncommon men lead exceptionally full lives; John "Jack" Thomas Stark was one of these. He was born in Jackson, Tennessee, September 1, 1887. His mother died when Jack was only 9 days old and he was placed in the care of his "aunts~" actually his father's nieces. He graduated from the local schools and worked locally as a bookkeeper, office manager~ and auditor. This was a man of small stature, of extraordinary physique and vitality, who lived actively to the age of 97 (died May 10, 1984).
In 1916 he found his life in Tennessee inadequate and worked his way to Portland, Oregon. Enroute he met Carl Beecher, then Dean of the School of Music at Northwestern University. Beecher recognized Stark's remarkable intellectual talents' and interests in all
natural things, and convinced him to enter Northwestern as a freshman., where he could study geology under the great teacher Ulysses S. Grant. Except for much of the year 1918, when he was in the U.S. Navy, he continued his undergraduate studies, demonstrating exceptional interest in both geology and English literature (B.S., 1921, M.A., 1922). Dr. Grant recognized Stark's abilities and energy, nurtured his interest in geology, introduced him to the Precambrian geology of northeastern Minnesota, and added him to the faculty of his department.
Stark continued his graduate studies at the University of Chicago (Ph.D., 1927). His colleagues there also were exceptional. One was M. King Hubbert, a trusted predictor of future~world oil r1eserves; another (Stark's roommate) was John Scopes~ a principal in the famous Tennessee evolution trial.
During this time as a graduate student and as instructor in geology at Northwestern, Stark and Beecher continued to be close friends. Both were interested in music and art. As the years passed, they became collectors of etchings, assembled an important library of English literature, and made such books available to interested students. From time to time, Stark offered special courses in the Department of English, and his vast experience in art, literature, and science made him a master teacher. His influence in broadening the horizons of his students was immeasurable.
Professor Grant was a magnetic man. deeply immersed in geology and teaching. He had married into the well-known Winchell family, of which two were original Fellows and early presidents of the Geological Society of America, but he was getting physically old when Stark became his understudy. Nevertheless, they led field trips into the Lake
Superior region of Minnesota; set about to understand some of the complexities in rock types, their structure, and stratigraphic correlatives; and generally to savor this attractive, primitive region. Unfortunately, Grant died in 1932; Stark, without his old teacher, leader, and friend, began to work in other areas.
In the same year (1932), Arthur Howland, fresh from Princetonq was appointed to the Department of Oeology at Northwestern. Re brought~an interest in the petrology of the MîchiganMinnesota Precambrian and the research ability to investigate it. He also had a strong love for English literature. Rowland was great medicine for Stark. In many respects they were much alike; they became staunch colleagues and exceptionally loyal friends. For several years the'y returned to the studies in Minnesota, but this was to be more or less halted when they became important members of the Northwestern project that had been organized by C. H. Behre, Jr., to map South Park, Colorado, and a4jacent mountain areas. 1932 was also the year Stark became a Fellow of GSA.
Sometime before 1935, Beeèherq who was always quite frail, decided to voyage through parts of the South Seas in search of some locality where his health might improve. In the Society Islands he found such a spôt and forthwith resig~ned his university post to live in Tahiti, where he purchased a coconut and vanilla plantation. In subsequent visits to Tahiti, Stark developed an interest in the volcanics, particularly of Borabora, Rajatea, ànd Moorea; he set about to develop techniques for identifying characteristics of individual and coeval flows. Later he was to return to this interest when he joined the U.S. Geological Survey to continue similar mapping in Guam.
Two significant events in Stark's life occurred about this time. The first was his marriage to a young and pretty Tahitian girl; the second was the involvement of the United States in World War Il. From the marriage, which was severed during the latter stages of the war, came Stark's beautiful daughter, Teura. She spent her early years in the îslands, but later came to the United States to be reunited with her father.
Between intervals of mapping in Borabora, Stark was asked in 1937 to join a party, chiefly of California geologists, to undertake structural studies of the Precambrian of the Grand Canyon. The canyon was then still poorly known, and traversing certain rapids with wooden boats equipped only with oars was extremely hazardous and time consuming. Unfortunately~ there were also problems ofjurisdiction, as well as mistakes in preparation~ and very little publication resulted.
Sometime in the mid~193Os , Stark met Oliver Jahn an Evanston, Illinois, resident who was knowledgeable in financial matters~ and the two developed a friendship which was to grow for more than 50 years. Jahn guided Stark in organizing his financial condition. Although they saw one another only occasionally after Stark's retirement from professional life, they renewed their staunch friendship during three separate round-theworld cruises on freigbters.
Stark had a personality which attracted people. He was never long in becoming part of the group of wrîters, artists, local politicians, geologists, and others, wherever the place might be. He enjoyed young people and invariably developed a strong rapport with graduate and undergraduate students. He was their confidant, good friend, and often their benefactor. Wherever Stark arrived, the social life was enriched, as when he brought musicians, artists, and writers-including Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall into a closely kni't group who enjoyed one another thoroughly during their stay in Tahiti.
In 1940, having returned to Northwestern from Tahiti, Stark. became interested in mapping the Precambrian of the Los Pinos and Manzano Ranges in New Mexico, but this came to an end when the U.S. entered World War Il. Stark, who was then 56, enlisted as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Force, and was assigned to the Arctic-DesertTropic Information Center. Ris duties were to help develop route descriptions between the U.S. and Panama, vanous countries in South America, North Africa, and China. Also, his group prepared survival manuals, intelligence reports~ and a handbook on Burma for Air Force personnel. By 1944 he was transferred to the Office of Strategic Service where he was chief of a division attached to the I Sth Army of Great Britain for the second Burma campaign. Later, as a major, he was commander of a final briefing camp on Ceylon, and liason officer with the British assault troups in Penang and Singapore.
The excîtement and importance of his war experiences in the Far Fast left their mark on Stark, and when in 1946 he returned to Northwestern~ his old research areas of the Precambrian of the Southern Rocky Mountains no longer satisfîed his professional interests. One might say, after an initial enthusiasm devoted to a research project, he was ready for a different problem in a new place. Perhaps this is why he was never recognized by his peers as a great geologist. Yet~ he was a reader of the literature, was cognizant of and understood new concepts~ and always was ready to test them'in new territories. He had been the first.to recognize the sedimentary rock ancestry of the granitoid rocks in the Sawatch Range~ demonstrating that soine had never been completely fiuid.
In 1949 he took leave froin his professorship at the university to become assistant to the Director of Strategic Minerais of the Economîc Reconstruction Administration; however, when he believed his task to be accomplished, he returned to Northwestern. One year later (1952) he resîgned from Northwestern to join the U.S. Geological Survey party mapping Guain. His responsibility was to demonstrate his methods of identifying and correlating individual fiows, and to this end he did much of the mapping. Soon thereafter (l95~1955) he became chief of the group carrying on simi!ar studies of Truk. According to S. O. Schlanger (who some 25 years later went to Northwestern as Deering Professor of Geology)~ invariably Stark organized an important social life at each island. It was he who gathered together professional people, sometimes including the governor~ into a cosmopolitan group of many cultural interests; he had staunch friends everywhere he had been.
By 1958 Stark had completed his work on Guain and Truk, whereupon he was loaned by the USGS to the State Departinent in support of its aid to the universities program in Brazil. There, he taught special courses in geology at the Universities of Recifê and Sao~ Paulo. Despite the fact that he never Iearned to speak Portugese, he became an important member of the faculties. He was so much respected by the students that during a major revoit, which involved the burning of a building, he was able to convince thein to resume an orderly protest without its former violent aspects.
Eventually, at the age of 76, he retired froin professional service, returned to Jackson, ~ennessee, and began an active career in journalism~ reviewing books for lôcal papers and journals. He organized, and was active in, vanous societies devoted to poetry~ until the time of his death, he participated with groups of poets and writers in sections of eastern and southeastern United States.
Stark had three great loves to which he devoted most of his life: namely geology, literature and the world of culture, and friends he could gather in stimulating conversation and writing, wherever the geographic locality. He was at home everywhere, but eventually he grew restless for a new part of the civilized world, where he could meet new interesting people. He was not an explorer of poorly known regions; rather he loved the civilized world, its art, literature~ and professional people.