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“Doc Rock” Rocks On Ed Spencer ’53 is still a cornerstone of the university.

Geology Professor Emeritus Edward Spencer ’53.

“You really get to know each other when you are all living together. Traveling with alumni, often former students, on alumni college trips has also been a special treat.”

~ Professor Emeritus Edgar Spencer ’53

In 2013 Edgar Spencer ’53, professor emeritus of geology, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for “a lifetime of achievements in academic, teaching and community contributions, and his support and impact on Washington and Lee.” After graduating from W&L, Spencer went on to do graduate work at Columbia University. He had planned to go into the oil industry, but as he was finishing up his dissertation he got a call from W&L’s head of the Geology Department, Marcellus Henry Stow.

The only other professor in the two-person department had taken another job, and Stow asked Spencer if he could fill in for a year or two. Spencer’s proposed two-year stint turned into a 42-year stretch, as Stow sadly was hospitalized with heart trouble when Spencer arrived on campus. Stow passed away during Spencer’s first semester, leaving him to shoulder all the responsibilities of the department. The rest is history: Spencer built the department, which now boasts five full-time faculty members and has graduated hundreds of majors.

Despite retiring in 2001 as Ruth Parmly professor of geology, Spencer still goes in daily to work in the Geology Department. Last year he finished a book on the Blue Ridge, and recently he completed a third edition of a book on interpreting geological maps. He is now writing a history of the geology department, as well as a history of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC), which he helped found in 1976.  He is also finishing maps for the state geological survey.

Spencer cares deeply for W&L. He especially values the experiences he had traveling with students during the Spring Term. “You really get to know each other when you are all living together. Traveling with alumni, often former students, on alumni college trips has also been a special treat.”

These trips have taken him around the world, down the Colorado River, to Patagonia and New Zealand, where he picked up the moniker “Doc Rock.” His love of teaching in the field inspired a former student to establish The Edgar W. Spencer ’53 Geology Field Research Endowment, designated to support student field research under the supervision of a Washington and Lee University geology professor.

A number of years ago prior to his retirement, Spencer wanted to provide a future retirement income for his daughters and help the university he cherished. He decided to invest in a deferred annuity that would give him an immediate charitable tax deduction and, at a later point in time, provide his daughters guaranteed fixed annuity payments to augment their retirement income. Because of the delay of payments, a deferred gift annuity offers the donor a relatively higher tax deduction and the annuitants a higher payout rate than an immediate payment gift annuity affords.

Spencer’s deferred gift annuity will ultimately support the Arkansas/H. Tyndall Dickinson Scholarship fund at W&L. “W&L used to have quite a few students from Arkansas, and that’s where I grew up,” he noted. “I’m delighted to be able to help those who hail from my region have the same wonderful experience I did.”