Remembering Kurt Frankel

Jul 5, 2011

Dr. Kurt Frankel was killed on July 2, 2011 while on a bicycle ride in northern Florida. This is unbelievably tragic and very sad news. Our thoughts and great memories of him go out to his family, friends and colleagues. The memorial below has been distributed via email to the Earth science community by several of his colleagues.

Kurt shared our enthusiasm for tectonics and geomorphology especially when viewed with the fine lens of high-resolution topography. Kurt was an advocate for OpenTopography and was very active in the Earth science lidar community. He organized several high-profile sessions on high-resolution topography, faulting and tectonic geomorphology at recent national meetings, and was the chair of the steering committee for the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping. We have submitted papers to a special issue of Geosphere on lidar topography that he and Ian Madin were editing. Kurt also was working with us to build bridges between NCALM and OpenTopography with a real sense of advancing the community of scientific users of these data by establishing strong collaboration between the two endeavors.

We feel fortunate to have spoken with Kurt just last week during a phone conference where his deep voice, calming sense of humor, and positive outlook were evident and appreciated.

While Kurt was ambitious and confident, he was also modest, serious, and kind. Running into Kurt at meetings and workshop was always a treat, and it was great to talk science as well as to swap jokes, gossip and stories.

Kurt was a great guy and we will miss him immensely.


J Ramon Arrowsmith and Christopher J. Crosby

Dear Colleagues,

It is with sadness that we write to inform you of the untimely passing of Kurt L. Frankel, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA. Kurt was killed during a morning bicycle ride this past Saturday (02 July) when he was struck from behind by a motorist. Kurt was 33 years old.

Kurt was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio. He earned a B.S. in Geology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2000, followed by a M.S. in Earth and Environmental Science at Lehigh University in 2002, and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 2007. Since then he has been in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Technological Institute in Atlanta, GA.

Kurt's research focused on tectonic geomorphology and cosmogenic geochronology. He worked extensively in the Great Basin, California, Turkey, Italy, Mongolia, and the Appalachians. His undergraduate thesis described the slip of several Holocene fault scarps in Death Valley, California. For his M.S. work he developed a set of mountain front topographic metrics to quantify the long-term slip rates of normal-fault-bound mountain fronts. His Ph.D. work involved novel applications of LiDAR and cosmogenic dating to compare geologic and GPS-geodetic rates of slip in the Eastern California Shear Zone. During his short, but prolific career, Kurt organized field trips, co-directed two Keck undergraduate projects, chaired meeting topical sessions, was on the steering committee for NCALM, served on an NSF panel, published widely in international journals, and was in the process of building a nationally-recognized program in tectonic geomorphology at Georgia Tech.

Kurt was a field geologist who loved the outdoors. He was an avid runner, biker, and hiker. For everyone who had the honor and pleasure of working with Kurt, he will be remembered for his infectious enthusiasm, quick laugh, and devotion to his projects, colleagues, and students. He leaves behind his wife of two years, Stephanie Briggs, who he met and was committed to since their undergraduate days at UNC-CH.

Memorial contributions can be made in Kurt's name to the Department of Geological Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill, c/o Arts and Sciences Foundation, CB #6115, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6115

Respectfully submitted by Karl W. Wegmann, Patrick W. Belmont, Frank J. Pazzaglia