Obituary for Dr William Winn Hay

William Winn Hay was born in Dallas, TX on October 12, 1934, the second son of Stephen J. Hay Sr. and Avella Winn Hay. He died on 27/10/2022 at the age of 88. Bill graduated from St. Marks School of Texas class of 1951. He received a BS in Biology from Southern Methodist University (1955), an MS in Geology at the University of Illinois at Urbana (1958) and a PhD in Geology at Stanford University (1960). The focus of Bill’s research was on fossilized nannoplankton. He was a pioneer in using nannoplankton for age-dating rocks using fossil evidence (ie, a high-resolution microscope). During this period, he spent a good amount of time doing field research in Mexico. Bill also studied at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the University of Zurich. He started his academic career at the U of Illinois at Urbana (1960). Then he was a joint Professor of Geology at the University of Illinois and Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS) of the University of Miami (1968 -1974). During this period, he was an early leader in a deep sea drilling project (DSDP) on the vessel Glomar Challenger funded by the National Science Foundation. The goal of this research was to understand planetary history through ocean science. He continued this focus on marine geology as Chairman of the Division of Marine Geology and Geophysics at RSMAS for two years, and then Dean from 1976-1980. He was President of Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling, Inc. (JOIDES), in Washington, D.C. (1979 to 1982).

In 1982, he became Director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Natural History Museum, and then became a Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and joined the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES). In the 1990s, Bill was Visiting Professor at GEOMAR, part of the marine geological research institute at Christian-Albrecht’s-Universität, Kiel, Germany.

From 1991-96, Bill also held positions at the Institute for Baltic Sea Research (Warnemünde, Germany); University of Vienna’s Institut für Paläontologie; Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University’s Geologische Institut (Greifswald, Germany); and as L. C. Donders Professor at the Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Utrecht, (The Netherlands).

After retiring from the University of Colorado (1998), he became a Professor of Paleoceanology at GEOMAR, until 2002. He was most recently Professor Emeritus of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado and received an honorary doctorate from the Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel. Bill loved to teach and mentor. During his tenure, he supported and started careers for approximately 50 graduate and doctoral students.

Bill also authored or co-authored approximately 250 publications during his career. Over the past few years, Bill authored a seminal publication on climate change (Hay, William W., 2016. Experimenting on a Small Planet – A Scholarly Entertainment. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, 3rd edition). He has received numerous national and international awards in recognition of his contributions to the geological and oceanographic sciences.

While he was passionate about his students and research, Bill travelled extensively, where he developed his love of art, music and opera. His fluency in German, Swiss German, Spanish and French enabled him to travel seamlessly around Europe and Asia. He also loved being at his home in Estes Park, Colorado where he would entertain friends and neighbours with a gourmet meal, tend to his fish and rescue cats, debate current politics or just sit and watch the ever-changing climate of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bill is survived by his nephew, Stephen J Hay III (Debbie) and niece, Mary Hay (Dave Smith). Bill also played a significant role in the lives of Gustav Clarence-Rossby Wold, Nikolai William-Rossby Wold and Tegan Bryn Wold, who still consider him their Opa. In addition to his family, Bill is remembered by many friends and neighbours in Estes Park and the hundreds of students he reached over the years. One neighbour who has been very close to Bill for the past few years characterized him as a Capital “S” Scientist, a Capital “N” Neighbour, and a Capital “F” Friend.

In lieu of flowers, Bill’s family and friends ask that you please consider sending a donation to Rocky Mountain Conservancy Philanthropy, P.O. Box 3100, Estes Park, CO 80517

Written by Alan Lord and John Steinmetz