Timothy Rowe, ΦBK Visiting Scholar

By Kathy Navascues

Timothy Rowe is one of thirteen prominent scholars in the liberal arts and sciences selected to serve as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar during the 2014-2015 academic year.

A paleontologist whose research focuses on the evolution and development of vertebrates, Rowe conducts fieldwork in the panoramic Mesozoic badlands of Texas and the American Southwest. He is the J. Nalle Gregory Regents Professor of Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as director of the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory, which holds one of the largest research collections of vertebrate fossils in America.

Rowe described his recent visit to the University of Arizona, as “exhilarating.” When asked about his experience as a Visiting Scholar there, he shared this description with us:

“My Trip to the University of Arizona exhilarating, interesting, and most enjoyable from start to finish. My host was Prof. Thomas Fleming, president of the local ΦBK chapter and an astronomist who gave me a grand tour of the laboratory that makes mirrors for the world’s greatest astronomical observatories. UA has the number one astronomy program in the nation, and the innovative design behind these astonishing mirrors seems certain to be headed toward a Nobel Prize. It was a thrill to see this facility in action. It was a beehive of activity that included the nation’s top researchers, as well as graduates students and select undergraduates who were testing their interests in science in one of the premiere laboratory facilities in the country.

“I also had the honor of meeting Prof. Karl Flessa, a paleontologist who had influenced my view of paleontology since I was an undergraduate, and we had a lively discussion of what happened to the dinosaurs. Dr. Flessa introduced me to several undergraduates who were considering moving on to graduate school in paleontology, and this was a very productive series of discussions that led me to see how well trained these students were, and the interests and values of this young generation. They saw clearly the crucial role of paleontology as the interface between past and future, and that ‘conservation paleontology’ offered a promising and fruitful career.

“I thoroughly enjoyed a luncheon with ΦBK students, who as undergraduates already showed a remarkable versatility in their educational backgrounds. Most spoke foreign languages, played musical instruments, and were launched toward professional careers in scientific research or medicine. As an undergraduate, I felt strongly that my own background in classical music and languages (Russian and German) was indispensable in becoming a successful scientist, and these students felt the same need for a broad background as the key to success in a specialized field.

“I met a dozen other faculty members, friends, former college classmates, and a flock of undergraduates looking eagerly toward their own future careers in scientific and academic pursuits. I haven’t had so much fun in ages!” 

To learn more about the program, visit the program homepage on the Phi Beta Kappa website.

Kathy Navascues is the director of the Visiting Scholar Program at Phi Beta Kappa. She can be reached at knavascues@pbk.org.