Tribute to Richard Pugh

Alex Ruzicka, Melinda Hutson, Dick Pugh
The three original staff of the Cascadia Meteorite Lab, Alex, Melinda and Dick (L to R), in an undated photo taken before 2006.

Edwin Thompson & Dick
Edwin Thompson (founder, ET Meteorites) and Dick wearing an ET Meteorites cap, Tucson Gem Show, February 2020.

Dick explaining meteorites to crowd at OMSI 2002
Dick at OMSI following a talk, August 2002.

Dick and student Niina cutting samples
Dick in the lab cutting a specimen with student Niina Jamsja, February 2010.

Dick and Meteoritical Society president Ed Scott
Dick and Ed Scott, incoming President of the Meteoritical Society at the time, July 2010.

Dick, Alex, Jon Friedrich in front of poster
Dick, Alex and collaborator Jon Friedrich (L to R) at the Meteoritical Society in July 2015, standing in front of a poster given on "Dick's black chondrite" (NWA 8709), an interesting and significant meteorite Dick found in a local rock shop. This meteorite is the subject of continuing research by Alex, Jon and colleagues. The 2015 MetSoc poster on NWA 8709 is available here.

Dick and the Ruzicka twins at the Rice Museum
Dick with the Ruzicka twins in May, 2015, at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals after a talk given there.

Tim Jull, Candace Kohl and Dick in Tucson
Tim Jull, Candace Kohl, and Dick in Tucson, Arizona, February 2020. Tim, Candace and Dick were Meteoritical Society friends and travelling companions, with some legendary trips between them.

Dick with Sam Kimpton and Blaine Schmeer
Dick with personal friends Sam Kimpton and Blaine Schmeer (L to R) in the lab after the Tucson trip, February 2020.

A Tribute to

Richard "Dick" Norman Pugh

March 8, 1940 - June 15, 2020

Richard (Dick) Pugh was a long-time meteorite enthusiast and educator, and the heart of the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University. Dick received both his B.S. and his M.S.T. in physical science from Portland State University. While a student, he worked with Erwin F. Lange on meteorites and meteorite education. From 1968 to 1999, Dick taught science classes at Cleveland High School in Portland, where he was widely known by students as an excellent and challenging teacher who inspired a love of science and meteorites.

During the years that Dick taught at Cleveland High School, he followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Erwin F. Lange.  Dick spent decades giving lectures, talks, and demonstrations about meteorites, astronomy and geology to children and adults in grade schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and clubs in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, and Montana. 

Dick examined thousands (if not tens of thousands of rocks) brought to him by the public.  Most were “meteor-wrongs”, but a few were bona fide meteorites, and Dick contacted and worked with various meteorite scientists to get these analyzed and published, including the Salem chondrite (initial report 1983; full paper with Roy Clarke 1988) and the Study Butte chondrite (initial report with Kurt Fredriksson and Roy Clarke 1984). 

Dick rediscovered the location in West Linn where the Willamette meteorite had been found, and realized that it was on the “strand line” from the ice age floods.  He published a paper with PSU geologist John Eliot Allen suggesting that the Willamette had fallen in Canada and been rafted to Oregon by one of the ice age floods. Dick also published numerous reports of fireballs over the Pacific Northwest. 

Dick regularly attended annual professional conferences such as the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), and the Meteoritical Society Meeting (MetSoc).  Dick met Alex Ruzicka at the MetSoc in New York in 1986, and  kept running into Alex and talking with him at LPSCs and MetSocs.

Ten years after Dick met Alex, Melinda Hutson moved to Portland, and Dick introduced himself to her in January 1997 after hearing her give an invited lecture.  Local meteorite dealer Edwin Thompson wrote Melinda: “I was in Tucson doing the show the year he met you and he called me to say in his most excited voice ‘E.T., we got a Meteorite Scientist and she did her doctoral thesis on Abee!’ I will always remember that day. I was in the middle of the show and he wanted to stay on the phone and start making plans without delay.”

Dick enjoyed recounting stories about meeting Alex and Melinda and creating the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University.  Dick had met each of them under different circumstances and didn’t realize that Alex and Melinda were married to each other until Dick stopped by Portland State University in 2000 and found Alex working there.

Between 2000 and 2002, Dick, Alex, Melinda and Edwin would get together from time to time for lunch or dinner, and talk about meteorites. Inevitably, either Dick or Edwin would say that they dreamed of one day having a meteorite lab in Oregon. During one of those meals in early 2002, Melinda replied “well, why don’t we?” and the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory (CML) was born.

Between 2003 and 2020, Dick served as an integral part of CML.  Dick started the E.F. Lange Endowment in 2005, which supports the activities of CML, in honor of his former advisor. Dick purchased and donated hundreds of meteorite samples to the CML collection. 

He helped prepare meteorite samples for classification, including two from Oregon  (the Morrow County chondrite and the Fitzwater Pass iron meteorite).

From 2003 to 2015, Dick drove tens of thousands of miles (this is not an exaggeration; Dick kept records) to speak to thousands of people as part of three consecutive NASA Education/Public Outreach Grants (links to three sets of summary abstracts and posters describing this can be found on our Publications page under “Education and Public Outreach”).  After the grants ended, Dick continued to drive around the Pacific Northwest doing public outreach funded using donations to CML.

Dick received the Service Award of the Meteoritical Society at the 2011 MetSoc meeting in Greenwich, England. This award "honors members who have advanced the goals of the Society to promote research and education in meteoritics and planetary science in ways other than by conducting scientific research."  See the citation for Dick’s award.  In 2011, Dick also received the Duane Marshall Special Service to Education Award from the Oregon Science Teachers Association and was recognized as a Sigma Xi Distinguished Member.

Dick’s service to the community went beyond meteorites.  Between 1978 and 1992, he served in several positions on the Board of the Mazamas (an Oregon-based mountain climbing club). From 1988 to 2020, Dick was on the Board of the Columbia-Willamette chapter of Sigma Xi, serving twice as President. A very nice tribute to Dick was just published on the Sigma Xi website and is available as a pdf here.

Dick was a true Renaissance man, with an incredible diversity of interests, including hiking, hunting, raising Highlander cattle, and researching pottery. He co-authored a book entitled “China Painters of the Pacific Northwest” with Harvey Steele. 

Dick had an abiding love of nature and was concerned with conservation. As an example, Dick was involved in the creation and restoration of Oaks Bottom, a complex mix of forest, meadow, and wetlands along the east bank of the Willamette River near downtown Portland, Oregon.  Dick was one of the authors of the 1988 Oaks Bottom Coordinated Resource Management Plan, and helped plant native oak seedlings as part of restoration efforts.

Dick Pugh was a good friend to many people, and godfather to Alex and Melinda’s twins.  We are grateful to have had him in our lives for as long as we did.  He will be greatly missed.


Page last modified September 17, 2022