Charles J. Vitaliano


Fulbright Award (1953)
Fulbright Award


Professor Emeritus Charles J. Vitaliano, Fellow of the Geological Society of America, died on April 6, 2000, just a few days after his 90th birthday. Charles completed work for the B.S. degree from the City College of New York in 1936 and enrolled in the graduate program at Columbia University. There, he earned the A.M. degree in 1938 and the Ph.D. degree in 1944. Under the tutelage of Paul F. Kerr, and holding a James Furman Kemp fellowship, Charles specialized in igneous petrology, a subject that remained a consuming passion throughout his lengthy career. Upon graduating from Columbia, Charles accepted a position as instructor in ceramic petrology at Rutgers University, and then, from 1942 to 1947, he served as a field geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, engaged primarily in exploring for magnesite in the strategic minerals program.

In 1947, Charles accepted an associate professorship at Indiana University, where he was responsible for teaching elementary geology and field geology. Within a few semesters, his teaching role expanded to include igneous and metamorphic petrology. The need for a summer field-training program was recognized as a primary goal for the department. Accordingly, in the summer of 1948, Charles took a group of Indiana University students to the Princeton University field station at Red Lodge, Montana, and in 1949 became director of the new Indiana University Field Station, which was constructed near Cardwell, Montana. Always an ardent field geologist, Charles was in his element as field station director, a position he held through the summer of 1950.

Charles was one of the few Indiana University geology faculty members to receive Fulbright awards, serving as senior research fellow in New Zealand during the 1954–1955 academic year and as a Fulbright lecturer in Australia in July 1955. His expertise in and zeal for igneous petrology were by this time widely known, and his efforts in this field were supported by National Science Foundation grants in 1957–1961 and 1966–1972. Charles's research had tremendous geographic reach, including the Great Basin, the northern Rocky Mountains, the Snake River Plain, the U.S. Midwest, New Zealand, and Greece. He dealt with geologic problems as dissimilar as the origin of western mineral deposits and the archaeological geology of volcanic ash, and with rocks ranging in age from billions-of-years-old (Archean) "basement" rocks to surficial deposits formed within the past few thousand years. In 1982, the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences honored him with its Distinguished Teaching Award.

Excerpts from Donald Hattin's Geological Society of America Memorial, 2002.