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In Memoriam

John J. "Jack" Renton, PhD

On February 28, the world lost a preeminent geologist, teacher, leader and philanthropist. John Renton taught in the Eberly College's Department of Geology and Geography for more than 50 years.

John Renton headshot
John Renton

Dr. Renton was Professor Emeritus of Geology and before his retirement served as an Eberly Family Professor for Outstanding Teaching since 2002.

The department estimates Dr. Renton taught over 50,000 physical geology students over more than 100 semesters from 1965 to 2015. He was renowned for the Great Courses video lecture Nature of Earth: An Introduction to Geology. Dr. Renton received numerous teaching awards, including the Sigma Gamma Epsilon Outstanding Teacher Award (1994), Outstanding Educator Award from the Eastern Section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (1995), Outstanding Teacher Award from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences (2000), Outstanding Teacher Award from the WVU Foundation (2001) and West Virginia Professor of the Year from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Council for the Advancement and Support of Education Award (2001).

John Renton speaking with three others in the late 1970s
John Renton (right) speaks to the WVU News Service in the early 1970s.

In 2016 he and his wife, Eleanor, established the John and Eleanor Renton Geology Field Camp Scholarship. The fund helps students attend summer geology field camp, an experience that has a long-term impact on their education and future career.

Last year, as a culmination of his life's work studying the Earth and to encourage youth to pursue the study of earth science, Dr. Renton donated his hand-drawn illustrations to the Research Repository at WVU. The material, An Introduction to Earth Science, is freely available for K-12 earth science teachers and students in West Virginia and beyond.

Dr. Renton is beloved by his family, friends, students and colleagues. Tim Carr, Marshall Miller Professor of Energy and Chair of the Department of Geology and Geography, said, "I believe there is no one at WVU besides Jack Renton who can claim such a magnitude of educational impact across multiple generations of students."

"Professor Renton is the epitome of what it means to be a professor," said Gregory Dunaway, Dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. "Although he retired before I came to WVU, his work as a scholar and educator are legendary. The sheer impact he made on the lives our students is awe-inspiring. Professor Renton’s efforts in teaching, research and service have contributed to the excellence of our College, the Eberly College. While we are all saddened at the passing of Professor Renton, we are also very grateful for his presence in our academic community, and we celebrate his contributions and legacy. His example will continue to inspire us as educators within Eberly College and across the university."