Remembering Spencer Rowe Titley

Aug. 29, 2019
Spencer Rowe Titley
September 27, 1928 – August 18, 2019

He Mapped the Moon

University of Arizona Professor, member of the National Academy of  Engineering and leader in the field of geology for more than half a century, Spencer (“Spence”) Rowe Titley passed away at the age of 90
Early Life and Education
Spence Titley was born September 27, 1928, in Denver, Colorado. Too young to serve during World War II, he filled in for the men who had been called up by working as a farm hand during high school. He graduated from East High School in 1946 and went to college on an ROTC scholarship. In 1948, while still in college at the Colorado School of Mines, he enlisted in the National Guard as a combat engineer. He worked summers as an underground miner at Cripple Creek and Idaho Springs to help pay his tuition, and to get first-hand experiences in his chosen field of geology. In 1951, he earned his degree in geological engineering.
Spence and Canadian-born Helen Ruxton met on a blind date in Denver, where she was working as a nurse. They were married in 1951. He liked to tell the story about going camping in the mountains for their honeymoon. The first night was so cold they nearly froze to death. “Rux,” as he called her, hiked down off the mountain the next morning. Spence thought she was going to leave him then and there, but they spent the next 68 years together, raising three children: Ronald, Jane, and Jennifer, and being involved grandparents to Alex and Isabelle.
Korean War Service
In 1952, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army and was sent to Sasebo Naval Base, and from there to Busan, South Korea to serve for a year as a combat engineer. He led a platoon that maintained roads and other infrastructure and built bridges across terrain in combat zones. In an interview about his wartime experience, he said, “What I did was plain-old, straightforward civil engineering. The difference was they were shooting at us …. We worked in plain sight of the enemy. When interviewed  about his experience for the PBS documentary Unforgettable: The Korean War, he said, “I know no great novel written about it. And there is no poetry written. No songs. Nothing on the culture side marks the passage of Korea. It was basically over and done with and forgotten.” But for the rest of his life he was very proud of having been awarded the Bronze Star for his service. He would often say, “Freedom is not free.”
Distinguished Career
According to family, colleagues, and friends, Spence Titley’s first love and enduring passion was geology. He launched what was to become an illustrious career as a Staff Geologist for the New Jersey Zinc Company from 1952 - 1955. He did his graduate work at the University of Arizona on the GI Bill, earning his Ph.D. in Geology and Chemistry in 1958. He spent the next two years working as Regional Exploration Geologist for New Jersey Zinc in Arizona and New Mexico.
          The University of Arizona
Spence joined the faculty of the University of Arizona as an assistant professor in 1960 and rose through the ranks to professor. He was also the curator of the UA’s Mineral Museum. One of his favorite classes was called “Conversations with Rocks.”
At a 2009 event honoring Spence for his then-50 years of teaching at the University of Arizona, Karl Flessa, head of UA's department of geosciences, said of his colleague, "Spence Titley is as solid a foundation as you can get in the geosciences. He's the foundation of the department and shaped its development to its top-10 status today – and his legions of former students have gone on to shape the whole discipline. Field geology, planetary geology, economic geology, geochemistry – Spence has done it all. And he's always had a keen eye for how geological insight could benefit society."
Joaquin Ruiz, dean of UA's College of Science and a UA professor of geosciences, added, "Spence Titley is truly one of the most extraordinary economic geologists in the world. He also has a legacy of educating students so that they themselves have become leaders in their fields." Titley mentored more than 130 graduate students during his career at the university.
Spence served on the Graduate Council, as a member of the Faculty Senate, on academic program review committees, and on the Committee on Remote Sensing.  He was a Graduate College Commencement Marshall since 1980 and was a senior faculty member at the university.
Although he officially retired in 2009, he continued to teach the subject he loved so much for another seven years. 
          Porphyry Copper
Spence was a world authority on porphyry copper systems, metal provinces and metallogenesis. The books he wrote and edited and the scholarly articles he published on porphyry copper deposits of southwestern North America have been read by thousands of economic geologists. According to longtime friend and UA colleague George Davis, “Spence saw porphyry copper for the first time while still a teenager moving cattle in the high country of his uncle’s ranch near Eagle, Colorado. He stopped by a prospector’s camp and picked up a rock, and the prospector told him it was porphyry. The prospector pronounced it ‘paw-free’ and called him ‘Spintz.’ He said, ‘Well, Spintz, where you find the ore, you always find the paw-free.  But where you find the paw-free, you don’t always find the ore.’ ” That ignited Spence’s life-long fascination with the mineral.
His research focused “on the aspects of regional geology, geochemistry and isotope studies that lead to an enhanced understanding of the time and place of metal concentrations,” as he wrote in his bio on the UA Geosciences website. He also studied and reported on the geology of different ores across the hydrothermal spectrum. “My principal focus of activities in these fields is generating scientific information that may be applied to the actual problems of discovery of ores and their development as mines,” he wrote. His work took him around the world, including to Chile, Peru, Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, Africa and more. 
          Mapping the Moon and the Apollo Program
Spence had a commercial pilot’s license, and in a 2017 Arizona Daily Star article, he said, “I liked nothing else but to bore a hole in the sky.  I liked to fly around with my students to view geologic formations [and hydrothermal alteration] from above.”  According to George Davis, “Spence was a mapper, and he didn’t confine himself to Earth.”
In 1964, Spence was tapped by the US Geological Survey to use the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak Observatory to map the moon. “Go to Geographicus website on Rare Antique Maps and you can purchase for $350 Spence’s 1967 USGS Geologic Map of the Moon: Mare Humorum Region, in full color,” says colleague George Davis. In all, Spence published six quadrangle maps of the moon.
Spence was also invited to participate in NASA’s Apollo Program. Before humans landed on the moon, he trained astronauts Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra , Gordon Cooper, Ed White, and Thomas Stafford in the geology they would need on that historic expedition. “Before Apollo crews were chosen, many astronauts underwent instruction in geology, both in class and in the field,” recalls Davis. “The astronauts went to Kitt Peak to use the solar telescope, at night, to project images of the lunar surface and engage in discussions led by Spence Titley and Hal Masursky.  Spence was a member of NASA’s Lunar Orbiter program as well as the Apollo Field Geology Investigation Team – also known as AFGIT.” 
Spence was an esteemed leader in the fields of economic geology, engineering, and science. For his outstanding work in Engineering, Spence was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He was awarded the Medal of Merit from the American Mining Hall of Fame; the D.C. Jackling Award from the Society of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration, and the Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Mineral Engineering from his alma mater, the Colorado School of Mines.  For his groundbreaking work in science, he was awarded the Penrose Gold Medal from the Society of Economic Geologists, and the Medal of the Geological Society of China. For his excellence in teaching, he was recognized with the Career Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Arizona, College of Science, as well as the Creative Teaching Award, and was honored as the Thayer Lindsley Distinguished Lecturer in Economic Geology from the Society of Economic Geologists.
Spence was a Fellow of the Society of Economic Geologists, Geological Society of America, Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, and the Mineralogical Society of America. He was a member of the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits, American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, American Geophysical Union, and International Association for the Genesis of Ore Deposits. He served as president of the Arizona Geological Society, served on editorial boards of several journals, as well as National Science Foundation committees and panels.
Personal Life
A devoted family man, beloved teacher, respected scholar, sought-after consultant, and dedicated mentor, Spence also managed to find time to pursue his many passions. He and wife Helen were dog lovers, and Spence served as the treasurer of the Old Pueblo Dog Training Club and stewarded dog matches. He flew airplanes, delighting his children with rides in Cessnas. He was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. He was also a staunch Arizona Wildcats fan – a season ticket holder for the better part of his life – and loved to take his children and grandchildren to football and basketball games. He was also an enthusiastic fan at his grandchildren’s soccer games and piano and dance performances. He was very proud that his grandchildren graduated from the University of Arizona. Music and literature were some of his pleasures. He listened to all kinds of music, from cowboy ballads to folk and classical. And he was known to lose himself in a good mystery novel.
Spence liked to recite to his children a poem by Robert Service, Cremation of Sam McGee, which he’d memorized as a boy. It begins:
“There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.”
Remembering Spence Titley
Spence will be greatly missed by the many people whose lives he touched. He is survived by wife Helen, son Ronald (Jane Broadbere) of Sydney, Australia, and daughters Jane Titley of Tucson, and Jennifer Titley-Rubio (Martin Rubio) of Tucson, and grandchildren Alex Rubio and Isabelle Rubio, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of his life will be held Monday, September 16, between 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Angel Valley Funeral Home in Tucson.