Donald M. Hoskins

May 22, 1930 - December 5, 2018
Donald M. Hoskins, who served as Pennsylvania State Geologist from January 8, 1987 until his retirement in January 27, 2001, passed away on December 5. 
 
Don started with the Pennsylvania Survey in November 1956 and never left.  Even after his retirement he was active in his life-long field of study continuing to lead geology tours, mentoring students and volunteering his time to help others understand a subject he loved.
 
“I remember Don as the consummate professional while he headed the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.  “He continued his life of public service by assisting DCNR in mapping and by mentoring many current staff. He still has an office at the survey, and he will be missed by DCNR.”
 
“Don was a pro’s pro. He was extremely committed to the work of his Bureau.  Don strongly believed in the value of his Bureau’s work to the health and welfare of Pennsylvania citizens,” said Richard G. Sprenkle, Deputy Secretary, DCNR (Retired).  “For instance, topographic maps were important for bridge placement and construction, while geologic services were critical to watershed conservation efforts and mineral extraction.
 
“He was very supportive of his staff including efforts to find a more suitable headquarters as well as protecting them from adverse management and political threats,” add Sprenkle.  “Don was a true and unselfish advocate for his successor, Dr. Jay Parrish, at his retirement. He was also quite the accomplished sailor. I have lost a good friend and will treasure what he taught me about the natural and geologic resources of this great Commonwealth.”
 
The following tribute to Don appeared in Pennsylvania Geology, the magazine published by the Survey, and was written by his long-time colleague Thomas M. Berg on Don’s retirement from the Survey in 2001:
In this issue of Pennsylvania Geology, I am honored to pay tribute to fellow State Geologist Donald M. Hoskins, who has served the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as Director of the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey since January 8, 1987, and who is retiring January 27, 2001.
 
During his 14 years as State Geologist, the Pennsylvania Survey has achieved great things. I was not at the Survey to observe all of them firsthand, but I did witness great accomplishments under Don’s leadership during the years I spent there, from 1965 to 1989.
 
During most of those 24 years, I was influenced by Don’s management and geological career together with the direction of former State Geologist Arthur A. Socolow. I learned much from both Art and Don that has been invaluable to me as Chief of the Ohio Geological Survey.
 
Don came to the Pennsylvania Survey in November 1956 and shortly thereafter obtained his doctorate in geology from Bryn Mawr College. He conducted detailed geologic mapping in the Ridge and Valley province and authored the outstanding Fossil Collecting in Pennsylvania (General Geology Report 40).
 
I got my first impression of Don Hoskins when I came to interview for a field mapping position with the Bureau in late 1964. Don was asked to ferry me around Harrisburg to show me some housing possibilities for my family.
 
I handed over the keys to my Dad’s car and got the high-speed tour. He didn’t waste a moment. Don was obviously someone who got things done quickly, but I was glad to get the keys back. We hit it off right away because we were both very interested in paleontology. He still maintains that interest, as I do.
 
Those first impressions of Don were amplified shortly after I began work at the Pennsylvania Survey when he led a staff field trip to his mapping area north of Harrisburg. A convoy of state cars full of excited geologists zoomed through the valleys and along the ridge crests.
 
After examining outcrops at the nose of one ridge, we discovered that someone had closed and locked the road gate; most of the Survey was trapped in the middle of nowhere. I naively thought someone would have to walk out and find a key.
 
However, with two swift blows of his rock hammer, Don dispensed with the lock and we were on our way. Small things never got in Don’s way.
 
Few years passed before Don Hoskins moved into the position of Editor, and then Assistant State Geologist. No one could ever accuse him of lacking ambition.
 
I knew him as Assistant Director for most of the years I was with the Pennsylvania Survey. Don confronted state-government bureaucracy head-on. He even went to the trouble of attending night school to obtain a master’s degree in government administration.
 
With the very best of them, Don could handle annual budgets, Theory-X management, government audits, decision trees, Gantt charts, position descriptions, personnel-evaluation systems, goal-and-objective setting, PERT networks, management by objectives, strategic planning, and all the trendy management schemes that government bureaucrats continually unearth.
 
To his great credit, Don recognized the urgent need to market the Survey and all of its services.
 
I greatly enjoyed joining Don in giving presentations about the Survey to county officials, trade organizations, other state agencies, and university geology departments.
 
In his own way, he always maintained the strong applied-science and public-service focus that Art Socolow had cultivated for the Pennsylvania Survey.
 
Now don’t get me wrong. Don Hoskins never succumbed to management superciliousness. Although he embraced the management world with a vengeance, he always remained a first-rate geologist. He kept up with the science.
 
For decades, Don worked hard to maintain and promote the Field Conference of Pennsylvania Geologists. A lot of good science was (and still is) accomplished through the Conference.
 
You could always count on hearing a geological presentation by Hoskins at regional and national Geological Society of America meetings. (Don is a GSA Fellow.) All aspects of geology fascinated him.
 
At a meeting in Providence, R. I., as Don, Bill Sevon, and I were walking to our hotel after dinner, we became captivated with the green-stone base course of a building. Picture the scene: three well-dressed gentlemen on their hands and knees on the sidewalk with noses and hand lenses pressed up against the stone. That’s dedication!
 
As I knew him, Don Hoskins was also more than the consummate scientist and geological-survey manager. I remember many of his other outside interests.
 
Don grew roses, cultivating unusual varieties. He made fine wines. He became an outstanding sailor, plying the waters of Chesapeake Bay– always wearing his Greek fisherman’s hat.
 
Don was constantly interested in physical fitness. He was dedicated to maintaining good health by following the Royal Canadian Air Force daily fitness routine.
 
I will never forget sharing a motel room in Troy, N. Y., with Don and four other geologists (saving money on a tight travel budget). At about 5:00 a.m., a fearful and persistent stomping noise accompanied by heavy breathing awakened me in the darkened room. It was Don running in place as he did his fitness routine.
 
With all of his outside interests, Don knew how to celebrate life. He and his wife Barb were always deeply devoted to their children and their careers. His sense of history and his fascination with the history of geology were contagious.
 
To know Don is to become immersed in the growth and development of our science.
 
As State Geologist of Pennsylvania, Don Hoskins has worked hard to maintain the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey. Like so many other state geologists, he has had to struggle with the “cut government spending” wave that continues to prevail.
 
Politicians and government bureaucrats persistently overlook the long-term value of geological surveys and the work that they do. Yet Don has never given up the ghost.
 
He has endeavored to market the Pennsylvania Survey and make the geological sciences serve the public good. He has been faithful to neighboring state geologists and the Association of American State Geologists (AASG), serving as president of that association.
 
Don has maintained influential and constructive relationships with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) over the years, participating in many cooperative projects with the national survey. Through several AASG committees, he has worked hard to help the USGS keep its focus on citizen needs.
 
Pennsylvanians have been well served by Dr. Donald M. Hoskins, State Geologist and Director of the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey. Like his predecessors, he has left a legacy that will sustain his successors.
The times are changing. The state geological surveys face new challenges in the information-technology revolution. But I believe the Hoskins legacy leaves the Pennsylvania Survey on solid ground.
 
Many thanks to you, Don. I wish many happy years to you as you embrace new challenges ahead.
Click Here to see the full article and related photos of Don through his career at the Survey.
 
For more information on the Survey today, built on a foundation of the first Pennsylvania Geologic Survey in 1836, visit DCNR’s Bureau of Topographic & Geologic Survey webpage.
 
In Memoriam Tribute by David M. Hess
PA Environment Digest Blog