Wakefield Dort, Jr.

Wakefield Dort, Jr. was born on July 16, 1923, in Keene, NH, the son of Wakefield Dort, Sr. and Elizabeth (Edwards) Dort. He died peacefully in his home on Saturday, May 13, 2023 in Lawrence, KS.

He is survived by his son, Christopher Dort, his wife Missie, and two granddaughters, Brianne Dort and Erin Havrilak, her husband, Cody.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Doris Virginia Stage Dort.

Wake obtained his bachelor’s degree in geology from Harvard in 1944, went on to California Institute of Technology for a masters in 1948, and doctorate from Stanford 1955.  Between his bachelors and masters, he served in the U.S. Marines as a second lieutenant in the Engineer Battalion of the First Marine Division and saw action on Peleliu (Palau Islands) in the South Pacific.  His first teaching experience was as an Instructor in Mathematics in the Marine Corps schools in North Carolina.

After discharge from the Marines, he taught at Duke (1948-50) and Pennsylvania State (1952-57) universities prior to joining the faculty at KU as an Associate professor and was promoted to Professor in 1970.  In addition to his teaching, he supervised 9 doctoral students (including two in geography and two in special studies) and 24 masters in his time on the faculty.

Arriving at KU in the fall of 1957 as an Associate Professor, Wakefield Dort, Jr. took up teaching his specialty courses of geomorphology and Quaternary geology.  In addition, for three and half decades he also taught a variety of courses including Physical Geology, History of the Earth, Geology for Engineers, and Environmental Geology.  He was the geomorphologist at The University of Kansas and many, if not all, the geology majors were introduced to his subjects in their time at KU.

He worked in Idaho for a quarter of a century studying alpine glaciers in the Lemhi Mountains, northwest of Idaho Falls.  He also was drawn to the Antarctica where he could study the modern glaciers.  After retirement he researched the geomorphology of the Great Plains and the river systems, especially in the Kansas River. He has published extensively on Pleistocene geology and geomorphology of Kansas, described some of the archeological sites in the state, and published on the Pleistocene and recent environments of the central Great Plains with the effects of climate change.  He has conducted field trips for various groups in Kansas and Nebraska.  In addition to his studies in Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska, another interest has been in the geomorphology of Antarctica.

Wake was active in several organizations and is a Fellow of the AAAS and the Geological Society of America and a member of the American Geographical Society, Association of American Geographers, Society of American Archeologists, and Sigma Xi.  He was a member of the Executive Committee & Education for the Institute of Tertiary-Quaternary Studied, honorary lecturer for the Mid-American University Association, Research Associate at Idaho Museum of Natural History, member of the American Geological Institute’s Visual Education Committee and Earth science Curriculum Project, and a member of the U.S. Antarctic Expeditions in 1965, 1966, and 1969.

Wake retired with emeritus status in 1993, from teaching but continued his research.  One of the results being an in-depth study of the changes in the course of the Kansas River through time.  The results of his investigation were published as an American Geographical Society Special Publication in 2009.

The family would like to thank Ascend Hospice and Home Instead for their care and compassion.  Without these loving professionals, Wakes wish to remain in his home until death could not have happened.  A special thank you for Justine who cared for Wake for over 6 years and became a trusted friend and extended family member.

No formal services are planned. Wake and Doris will be inurned together in Keene, New Hampshire.

Memorial contributions may be made to KU Endowment, Geology Department and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary 120 W. 13th St. Lawrence, KS  66044.

5 Condolences

  1. Madisen Hannahan on May 16, 2023 at 8:32 am

    My thoughts are with you guys! He was such a great guy to help take care of. I am so sorry for your loss! Big hugs to you all❤️

  2. David McBride on May 16, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    The consummate professional and always the gentleman. A student focused teacher and superb researcher. He was a tremendous asset to the Department. My condolences and best wishes to his family, former students and friends.

  3. Jennifer Lauritsen on June 11, 2023 at 10:56 am

    Wake was a joy to be around and a friend. Our conversations were fun, pleasant and could be quite colorful. I so enjoyed talking with him and caring for him. Jennifer, Home Instead.

  4. P. Allen Macfarlane on August 19, 2023 at 3:56 pm

    I was one of Wake’s graduate students doing a master’s at KU in Geology. He was generous with his time and encouragement. I was proud to be one of his students. After I graduated I would often see him where I was employed at the Kansas Geological Survey either in the Data Library or the at the Publications counter. We will all miss him.

  5. David Mikols on September 20, 2023 at 8:08 pm

    I had Professor Dort for Geology 101 in the mid 70s. Enjoyed his class. Earlier in 2023 we were at the amazing Flinders Chase at Kangaroo Island Australia. As I looked at the amazing colors of the Geology, I posted on my blog that Professor Dort would have enjoyed this. Teachers have impacts on you that surface many years later. RIP and condolences to his family.

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