Obituary | Robert H. Rutford

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Obituary | Robert H. Rutford

Robert H. Rutford
Robert H. Rutford

Robert H. Rutford, 86, former faculty member and interim chancellor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, died Dec. 1.

Rutford came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1972 to lead the Ross Ice Shelf Project, a multi-institutional and international research project in Antarctica. He helped found the university’s Polar Ice Coring Office, which focused on ice drilling research in both polar regions. He also held an appointment as an adjunct professor of geology.

In April 1975, Rutford became director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs, directing sponsored research in both the Arctic and Antarctic. While with the NSF, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the organization’s highest honor.

Rutford returned to Nebraska in 1977 to serve as vice chancellor for research and graduate studies and professor of geology. From August 1980 through May 1981 he was interim chancellor of the university.

From May 1982 to August 1994, Rutford served as president of the University of Texas at Dallas. He led the university for 12 years before returning to a faculty position. Rutford remained active in teaching and research, ending his formal career in 2007. His final season in the field in Antarctica was in 1995.

Rutford’s research interests were in the fields of glacial geology and geomorphology, primarily in Antarctica. He participated in more than two dozen research treks across Antarctica and his final season on the southernmost continent was in 1995. Mount Rutford, located in the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica, and the 130-mile-long Rutford Ice Stream are named for him.

A Minnesota native, Rutford was born in 1933. He earned a bachelor’s degree in geography in 1954 from the University of Minnesota, where he lettered in football and track. After graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

He married Margie Johnson in 1954 and the couple had three children. Following two years in the Army, Rutford returned to the University of Minnesota as a graduate student.

Details on services for Rutford are pending.