Remembering Rand


From the Chair

September 2015

Dear Friends and Members of Earth and Planetary Sciences,

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences—and the greater geology family—has lost a good friend. Rand Schaal unexpectedly and peacefully passed away overnight September 10-11, 2015 in Needles, California. He was traveling between his homes in Davis and Arizona. 

For those of us who had the great fortune to know and work with Rand, this is sad news indeed. Rand was a beloved member of our Department, receiving his B.S. in 1973 and Ph.D. in 1991, both in geology. After completing his doctoral degree, he became a celebrated teacher, specializing in general education courses that inspired and entertained thousands of undergraduates. His students—who adored him—bestowed on him the nickname “Moondude” for his love for planetary geology: a moniker he enjoyed greatly.

A legacy of Rand’s commitment to teaching is present on campusthe Ted and Rand Schaal Auditorium in Warren and Leta Giedt Hall. Rand and his father donated the resources to equip this room to teach geology. Department members teach hundreds of students to think scientifically in this classroom every year. 

Rand also knew what all geologists know—the spark in understanding and appreciation of the earth sciences lies in the field. To that end, he created the Rand Schaal Field Fund, challenging alumni to match his contributions to support the Department’s efforts to get students into the field. That fund has supported many undergraduate and graduate students in their fieldwork over many years.

Rand and his father were also generous contributors to the campus. Rand was an avid, perhaps even obsessed, competitive swimmer. This passion for swimming and UC Davis led to a major gift to the campus to build the Ted and Rand Schaal Aquatics Center, which is used today by countless numbers of students. 

While Rand was generous in his support for the Department and campus, he will be most remembered for his generosity of spirit. If you met Rand, you met a friend. He always greeted you with a smile, a warm heart, and a goofy joke. This sense of fun persists in Rand’s fiction; he finished writing and self-published "The Radon Trilogy" in August of this year, which features characters based on his friends. And if you had the great luck to spend time with him—especially flying around in his several planes—you always came away feeling great. That was Rand’s special gift to all of us. 

The Department sends its condolences to Rand’s family—his sister Connie and his father Ted and all who called him a friend.

Dawn Sumner

PS: If you wish to share memories about Rand with his geological community, please send them to If you wish to be notified of information related to Rand, including memorials, please send a request to A web page has been established at