It is my sad task to inform you that Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, Wesleyan University Press author and Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus, passed away last Saturday, a month before his 82nd birthday.
Jelle received his BS and PhD from the University of Utrecht before coming to Wesleyan as a postdoctoral fellow in 1963. During his early years at Wesleyan he worked closely with Geology Professor Jim Balsley in the field of paleomagnetism. In 1977 Jelle was named the George I. Seney Professor of Geology and in 1984 he was named the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Sciences.
In the 1970s Jelle worked as a joint professor at the University of Rhode Island at the Marine Sciences Institute where he was a PhD supervisor for Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic in 1985. Ballard later invited Jelle to go diving in the submersible Alvin to collect rocks in the Cayman Trough.
Jelle was the author of four books, Volcanoes in Human History (with D.T. Sanders), Earthquakes in Human History, Stories in Stone (2009), and New Haven’s Sentinels (2013)—the latter two published by Wesleyan University Press.
Originally interested in coming to the United States to study the Appalachian Mountains, Jelle’s research focused on the geotectonics of the Appalachians, Southeast Asia, and South and Central America.
In 2015 Jelle received the Joe Webb Peoples Award, presented annually by the Geological Society of Connecticut to someone who has contributed to the field of geology in Connecticut. Wesleyan’s current Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science Joop Varekamp, Jelle’s friend and colleague, was quoted by The Wesleyan Argus at the time of this award: “[De Boer] was an outstanding teacher, who received the Binswanger prize for excellence in teaching roughly a decade ago. His classes were very well-liked by many, and he taught many intro science classes until the day that he retired. [His] great talents were in drawing in students to the field of E&ES, making people enthusiastic about Geology, and his field trips on the Geology of Connecticut aroused interest among students who never thought that they would be interested in science.”
Jelle is survived by his wife, Felicité, his son, Bjorn, daughters Byrthe and Babette, their spouses, and his four grandchildren, Cheyne, Indiana, Braedon and Marino.
The funeral services will be private. A memorial event will be planned for the fall.