An Appreciation of Paul Schenk on the Occasion of his Retirement


Retirement Party Photos


Paul Schenk joined the Department of Geology at Dalhousie University in 1963, raising the faculty complement at that time to a grand total of four. Now, in 1997, he is retiring from active teaching as the highly respected Carnegie Professor in the renamed Department of Earth Sciences.

Paul's dedication to undergraduate teaching is legendary. He constantly revised the contents and organization of his courses. He continually sought new ways of helping students to learn the principles of stratigraphy and carbonate petrology. The corridor between his office and his lecture room is deeply rutted from transporting of tonnes of rock over the years, and students gained not only concrete knowledge, but also considerable upper body strength. Paul led the whole Department into the world of personal computers and, ever the teacher, he covered his door with informational tidbits and treasures, including the statistical performances of his students, and the walls outside his office with posters of his research discoveries. Finally, at field school, most of us never knew the difference between Knoydart and Moydart, but Paul could not only distinguish among the subtle variations in limestones, he also knew every ooid by its first name.

His long and distinguished research career has followed two distinctly different paths. First, his painstaking stratigraphic unravelling of the enigmatic turbidite deposits of the Cambro-Ordovician Meguma Group of southern Nova Scotia, and his insightful interpretation of their dispersal patterns turning him toward Morocco as a source region, have legitimately earned him a world-wide reputation, and the affectionate nickname of "Mr. Megu". This year marks the 26th anniversary of his provocative benchmark publication entitled "Southeastern Atlantic Canada, Northwestern Africa, and Continental Drift" (CJES 8, 1218, 1971). With that contribution, and the many subsequent papers which strengthened the case, Paul Schenk has single-handedly achieved acceptance of southern Nova Scotia as a "chip of Africa". Awestruck trans-Atlantic visitors still make pilgrimages to his office. Second, he has challenged existing ideas and applied new models to the Lower Carboniferous carbonate rocks of Atlantic Canada. In the 1960s he reinterpreted the Macumber Limestone of the basal Windsor Group as strand-line carbonates deposited under low subtidal to high intertidal conditions, concluding somewhat heretically that the Macumber laminites had mound carbonates as lateral facies equivalents. Paul and his students went on to study these economically important mounds (the Gays River Formation) in great detail but were partially thwarted by heavy dolomitization of the rocks. Paul solved this dilemma in the late 1980s by collaborative research on the undolomitized equivalent Lower Codroy Group carbonates of western Newfoundland. With characteristic courage he challenged his own hard-won, earlier conclusions. That the basal laminites of Atlantic Canada were the result of deeper water, bacterial precipitation and that their mound equivalents grew at deeper-water hydrothermal vents and/or seeps by bacterial chemosynthesis, was both shocking and revolutionary and has resulted in numerous papers, including two broad syntheses spearheaded by Paul of the regional deposition during this part of the Early Carboniferous.

Not to be forgotten is Paul Schenk's tenure as Chair of the Department from 1980-1983. He masterminded the consolidation of the Department under one big leaky roof in the Life Sciences Building, presided over the difficult birth of the Centre for Marine Geology, and in all administrative matters acted as democratic, dignified, and honest broker for the betterment of the Department.

Anyone who has been in the field with Paul Schenk, has been taught by him, or has had him as a colleague or friend, knows of his perennially youthful enthusiasm, of his flair for explaining a concept, of his constant self examination of the validity of an idea, and of his relentless search for new models to explain his observations. For more than thirty years, Paul has brilliantly investigated the rocks of Atlantic Canada, has inspired and challenged generations of students, has done fundamental and outstanding research on the clastic stratigraphy and carbonate sedimentology of Atlantic Canada, and has formulated depositional and tectonic models whose application and interest reach far beyond this region. All of us in the Department will greatly miss his unique contributions on a daily basis, we wish him the very best on his retirement, and we hope that we will see him frequently in his office, where he has been for so long, giving free rein to his scientific ideas.

Barrie Clarke and Peter von Bitter