Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Professor S. George Pemberton

On Saturday August 4, 2018, Professor S. George Pemberton passed away at the age of 69. George leaves his wife Teresa and their children Sarah, Erin and Joshua. George was well-loved, not only by his family who were entirely devoted to him, but also by his hundreds of former students and colleagues.


George was hired at the rank of Associate Professor in 1984. He was promoted to Professor in 1987. While at the University of Alberta, Professor Pemberton’s scientific accomplishments were numerous. In short, he established ichnological studies — the study of animal-sediment interactions as fossils — as a critical field of endeavor that is now employed globally. Pemberton’s seminal contributions are directly responsible for the presence of the world-leading ichnological community that exists today in Canada.

As profoundly influential as Professor Pemberton’s scientific achievements are, his efforts as an educator and mentor are equally notable. Since arriving at the University of Alberta in 1984, Pemberton’s impact at the University of Alberta has been enormous. He has mentored numerous undergraduate honours theses, graduated 63 MSc and 16 PhD students and mentored 7 Post-Doctoral Fellows. The number of undergraduate students and industry trainees Pemberton has influenced would be numbered between 3,000 and 4,000.

Professor Pemberton was one of those rare people who led by example, and his many protégés have been inspired, by consequence, to high levels of personal achievement. The qualities Pemberton brings to his research and training include creative identification of problems and their solutions, excellence in conducting and communicating research, applying first-principle approaches to interpretation, and approaching each day and each scientific challenge with vigor and passion. Pemberton instilled these qualities in his students at every level.

Professor Pemberton was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has received recognition for his scientific efforts, including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Distinguished Lecturer, several presentation awards, the SEPM R.C. Moore Medal for contributions in paleontology, the Geological Association of Canada Past President’s Medal (Hutchison Medal), the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ Grover E. Murray Distinguished Educator Award, the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geology Medal of Merit, the Geological Association of Canada Elkanah Billings Medal in Paleontology, and the Geological Association of Canada’s Logan Medal (the society’s highest honour). Most recently, George was to receive the SEPM Twenhofel Medal (that society’s highest honour) for contributions to sedimentary geology in 2019. He was appointed to a Canada Research Chair in Petroleum Geology in 2002, became a Distinguished University Professor in 2009, and became the Stelck Chair of Petroleum Geology in 2012. Regardless of such international recognition of his contributions, George always held point of pride in the successes of his many students, quoting Henry Adams – “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Murray Gingras and James MacEachern