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Noted geologist Stephan Graham named dean of Stanford Earth

Graham, an energy resources and sedimentary geologist who joined the Stanford faculty in 1980, will begin his new role Nov. 2. He succeeds Dean Pamela Matson, who led the school for 15 years.

Portrait of Stephan Graham.
Photo credit Toni Bird

Professor Stephan Graham, who has held numerous leadership positions within the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, has been named dean of the school, Provost Persis Drell announced today.

Graham, a noted energy resources and sedimentary geologist who joined the Stanford faculty in 1980, has previously served as acting dean, associate dean for academic affairs and associate dean for faculty affairs at the school. Graham will begin his new role Nov. 2 and succeeds Dean Pamela Matson, who has led the school for the past 15 years.

“Steve has a deep commitment to the work of the school, its faculty and students – a lifelong dedication that has been unwavering throughout his prolific career,” Drell said. “He has served in every leadership capacity at the school, including as acting dean. I am thrilled he has agreed to once again lead the school as the dean at this critical time in its history, when its work is so vital and relevant to the future health of our planet.”

As dean, Graham will oversee the school of 65 faculty members and more than 550 students engaged in finding solutions to challenges that include securing a sustainable energy future, food and water resources, mitigating natural disaster risks and climate solutions. The school’s faculty members focus on issues related to Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, climate, and land and freshwater systems, as well as its subsurface geologic systems. The increased scope of the school prompted a name change in 2015: The School of Earth Sciences became the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

“Stanford and the school have been at the center of my life,” Graham said. “The school is at the top of its game, and has an important place at the university and in global society. We are looking at the fundamental nature of Earth, as well as the critical issues of sustainability, energy and the environment that dictate Earth’s future. It will be an honor to continue this great work to educate the next generation to be stewards of our resources and environment.”

Graham, the Welton Joseph and Maud L’Anphere Crook Professor of Geological Sciences, first served as associate dean for academic affairs in the school from 1999 to 2007, was acting dean in 2000, chair of the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences from 2007 to 2009, and then served as associate dean for academic affairs again from 2009 to 2014. Most recently, he was senior associate dean for faculty affairs in the school from 2014 to 2016.

“As we listened to members of our school community and developed the criteria for selecting our next dean, we came to realize that that list described Steve Graham,” said Professor Rosemary Knight, chair of the search committee. “Steve is well known throughout the school as someone who is very fair, thoughtful and generous in his support of others. He can work well with all those in the school, is truly interested in and values what everyone does, and welcomes diverse opinions. Steve is highly respected by all who know him and recognized internationally as an outstanding scientist in his field of research. I am absolutely delighted that Steve has agreed to lead our school.”

An expert in sedimentary geology, tectonics and petroleum geology, Graham has authored or co-authored more than 180 articles in peer-reviewed journals or books, and has supervised the dissertations of more than 90 MS and PhD students. Among numerous academic honors, he is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, has received the Francis Pettijohn Medal of the Society for Sedimentary Geology, and is a recipient of numerous teaching awards.

Graham holds an AB in geology from Indiana University, and MS and PhD degrees from Stanford. He holds professorships in geophysics, geological sciences and energy resources engineering.

Graham said he looks forward to building upon the school’s interdisciplinary strengths, as well as its diversity. He anticipates broadening connections between the school and units throughout university. In the process, he hopes to expose increasing numbers of Stanford students to the science of the Earth, critical fields and their ramifications for society.

Over the last 15 years, the school has significantly broadened the scope of its teaching and research. The faculty has expanded from a strong bench of geologists, geophysicists and energy engineers to include a diverse corps of geobiologists, Earth systems scientists, oceanographers and sustainable land use experts.

Students and scholars are increasingly interested in studying how to sustain Earth’s resources. The number of graduate students has more than doubled and the number of undergraduate students has increased by 11 percent since 2002. The representation of women on the faculty has grown from 10 percent to 30 percent during that time. In 2015, the school opened the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm, which had more than 500 students participate in classes and activities last academic year.

Outgoing Dean Matson plans to continue teaching and will direct the new interdisciplinary Sustainability Science and Practice Program (MS/MA) as well as related executive education short courses.

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