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Emeritus Professor William Seager to receive Earth Science Achievement Award

Dr. William Seager (right) and his wife, D.D.
(click for a larger version)
Dr. Shari Kelley (left) and Dr. William Seager.
(click for a larger version)

April 10, 2024

William Seager, an emeritus professor from New Mexico State University who spent his career investigating the complex geology of southern New Mexico, is the recipient of the 2024 Earth Science Achievement Award for research and education, presented by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions in advancing earth sciences in areas of applied sciences and education in New Mexico. It will be presented during the New Mexico Geological Society annual spring meeting on April 19 at Macey Center on the New Mexico Tech campus. The Bureau of Geology is a research and service division of New Mexico Tech.

“Dr. Seager’s contributions to better understanding the geologic history of the lower Rio Grande corridor and adjacent rift-flank uplifts through geological mapping and field studies are legendary,” said Dr. J. Michael Timmons, director of the bureau and state geologist. “His insights into the rich geologic history of the region have informed generations of geoscientists interested in the geology of the state and the patchwork of geologic processes that produce our enchanted landscapes.”

Perhaps Dr. Seager’s finest achievement is his geologic map of the Organ and southern San Andres mountains, east of Las Cruces, said Dr. Shari Kelley, field geologist and geophysicist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology. The accompanying report contains beautiful illustrations, including one showing the Ancestral Rio Grande spilling into the Hueco basin through the Fillmore Gap just south of the Organ Mountains. That illustration helped shape conceptual models of the aquifer beneath El Paso.

Dr. Seager’s series of journal articles in the mid-1980s defined large, northwest-striking Laramide uplifts and basins and changed how geoscientists think about that deformation in southern New Mexico. During this stage in his career, he worked with Dr. Greg Mack, mapping in the Caballo and East Potrillo mountains. Dr. Seager’s insights into the geologic evolution of southern New Mexico—gained through decades of field studies—were recently published in a review paper in the journal New Mexico Geology.

As a professor, Dr. Seager had high expectations of his students, and he pushed them hard to succeed.

Dr. Kelley, a former student, said, “Dr. Seager had a profound influence on my career. He provided my husband and me, as undergraduate students, opportunities to go out in the field with him while he was mapping in the San Andres Mountains in the late 1970s. During those outings, he took the time to explain to us what he was seeing and thinking. We learned a lot about the thought processes involved in making an accurate geologic map.”

Dr. Seager graduated with a BS degree in geology from Syracuse University, where he almost became an artist. He later earned his MS degree under Vincent Kelley at the University of New Mexico; his thesis involved making a geologic map of the Jicarilla Mountains in south-central New Mexico. He mapped in the Virgin Mountains in Nevada as part of his PhD from the University of Arizona.

In 1966, Dr. Seager became the second faculty member to join the nascent geology program within the Department of Earth Sciences at NMSU. He taught structural geology, tectonics, and field geology, and his research focused on field studies in southern New Mexico. He retired from the department in 1998 after 33 years of service.

In retirement, Dr. Seager has returned to art, painting the landscapes of southern New Mexico and the western United States. Several of his paintings adorn the covers of New Mexico Geological Society publications. In addition, he still maps mountains, and he recently completed an update to the geologic map of the Doña Ana Mountains north of Las Cruces.

About the Earth Science Achievement Awards

Each year, two awards are presented to outstanding individuals in two categories: Public Service and Policy, and Research and Education. Earlier this year, Peter Wirth of the New Mexico Legislature was honored at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

Nominations for the 2025 Earth Science Achievement Awards are welcome from the general public and may be made to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology director and state geologist. Visit for more information.