My BU Experience with Dawn Garcia

Dawn (van Hoorebeke) Garcia ’82 has been a geologist for more than 35 years, and she fondly recalls her time spent in the labs in the basement of Bradley Hall.

My connection to Bradley was rooted in the very active geology department when I was a student. There were 40 of us in the major when I started in 1978, which was a boom time for geologists due to several oil crises in the 1970s. The department was in the basement of Bradley Hall and there were three professors (Donald Gorman, Henry Helenek and Merrill Foster) who taught there for decades. Every geology major took classes with all of them. Everyone knew the professors, and we had a lab with every class, so that meant lots of time spent in the bowels of Bradley Hall.

The cyclic nature of natural resource jobs (boom/bust) means that geology is for hardy souls. Geologists tend to be passionate about science, and that applied to the professors as well as the students. If you didn’t really like geology, you’d throw in the towel with all those labs and a tough class schedule.

Classes were small and professors knew if you missed. My senior year I left a day early for fall break, and Dr. Foster had scheduled a late afternoon lab, which I skipped—and I never skipped classes. After break, he told the class that he probably shouldn’t have scheduled that lab because almost no one showed up, “even Dawn hadn’t been there,” he said.

The geology department had a well-rounded curriculum that was designed to allow students to go into any specialty of geology. Although I had pictured myself working as a petroleum geologist in Houston upon graduation, reality bit and the oil boom turned into a bust by the time I graduated. A few years later, I started working in environmental projects, and I have continued doing environmental work for a wide variety of industries, including mining, petroleum, landfills, and aerospace, as well as at military facilities. Geologists typically travel to job sites, and I’ve been all over the U.S. and Latin America. I was the 2023 president of the American Institute of Professional Geologists.

I have a strong family connection with Bradley. I am from the Peoria area, so Bradley was a known entity. There were science fairs hosted in the old basketball arena (the Field House) and I took the ACT in Olin Hall. My husband (Kevin Garcia, ’85) and I met in a calculus class, and two of my siblings graduated from there, too. I have lots of good memories from Bradley and you’ll often see one of us wearing Bradley apparel!

Sadly, Bradley’s geology department no longer exists, but I’ll never forget my time in the basement of Bradley Hall.

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