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In Memoriam: Rolland Rolly Reid

March 26, 2018

Longtime U of I geology faculty member Rolland "Rolly" Reid, 91, passed away peacefully at his home in Naples, Florida, on March 12, 2018. 

Rolly was born near Wilbur, Washington, west of Spokane and grew up on the family wheat farm. He joined the Navy in 1944, was assigned to submarine school in New London, Connecticut and later attended sonar school in San Diego. He was deployed in 1945 to the Subic Bay military base in the Philippines.

After the war, Rolly enrolled in the geology program at Washington State College (1946-1947) in Pullman. In 1947, Rolly transferred to the University of Washington at Seattle where he completed an undergraduate and graduate program in geology. In the fall of 1953 Rolly was hired as an Instructor at the Montana School of Mines in Butte, and he conducted field work in 1954 in the nearby Tobacco Root Mountains. In 1955 Rolly secured a position as an assistant professor at the University of Idaho. He would remain at the U of I for the larger part of the next 42 years of his academic service.

During this interim time, Rolly was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to earn a doctorate at the University of Washington during the 1958-1959 academic year. Peter Misch was Rolly's major professor at the University of Washington and provided direction for his doctoral research. After receiving his Ph.D. in Geology, Rolly returned to the U of I campus in the fall of 1959 and was promoted to Associate Professor and Department Head.

The U of I Geology Department had one regulation that Rolly felt was unacceptable: women were not allowed to register for degree work in geology. Rolly's first administrative decision was to rescind this rule and institute a program to encourage women to enter geological studies (and they came). He was known affectionately as "R3" by his students and colleagues and was highly revered and respected as a very knowledgeable "hands on" geologist with keen analytical skills.

Rolly also successfully petitioned the university to inaugurate a doctoral program in geology and marshalled the necessary approvals from the Board of Regents.

Rolly was hired by the Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology during the summers of 1957 and 1958 to map the geology in the Elk City area and rehired again during the summers of 1960-61 to conduct geology mapping in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho. In 1964 Rolly was hired as the Dean of the College of Mines and at 37 years of age he was the youngest Dean in the history of the institution.

He served as Dean of the College of Mines and Director of the Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology through 1974 and returned to his first love, teaching and geological research. In 1968, he was listed in "Who's Who in the World of Science". In early 1975 Rolly took leave from his U of I teaching position to work for the Bunker Hill mine on a consulting basis to research structurally hosted ore controls and guide future exploration in the district. During the same year, he was recruited by the Department of Interior (DOI) to serve in a political appointment in Washington, D.C., as Deputy Assistant Secretary - Energy and Minerals with the rank of GS-17.

Rolly soon returned to Moscow to resume a highly productive career of teaching, geological mapping and research throughout many areas of Idaho including the Selway-Bitterroot region, and consulting with various domestic and international mining companies around the world. He retired from the U of I in 1994. In 2014, he moved to Naples, Florida with his wife Johnnie Sue and their daughter Alexandra. He is survived by Johnnie Sue, and his children: Robin, Rollie, Remington and Alexandra.

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at