Department of Geosciences

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

News & Events

Antarctic Peak named for Robert Rutford, UT Dallas Professor, Former President

14,000-Foot Mt. Rutford Honors Contributions to Antarctic Science

RICHARDSON, Texas (March 6, 2007) – The latest honor bestowed on the former president of The University of Texas at Dallas may be the loftiest of all -- a 14,000-foot-high mountain now bears his name. The newly-christened Mt. Rutford is a peak that looms over the sparse, snow-shrouded landscape of West Antarctica. It forms the summit of Craddock Massif in the Sentinel Range of the Ellsworth Mountains, the highest mountain ranges on the southernmost continent, which are located south of the Antarctic Peninsula. Temperatures in the mountains average around -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Mt. Rutford honors Dr. Robert Rutford, a geologist and one of the world’s foremost authorities on Antarctica,” said Jerry Mullins, regional coordinator of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Antarctic, Arctic and Canadian Programs in Reston, Virginia.  “This honor recognizes his long and substantial contribution to the U.S. Antarctic Research Program and to international Antarctic research.”

Rutford served as UT Dallas president from 1982 to 1994.  He currently is Excellence in Education Foundation Professor of Geology in the Geosciences Department, where he teaches part-time.  He will officially retire from the university at the end of the current semester.

The name Mt. Rutford was approved on Monday by the U.S. national naming authority, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, part of USGS.

The Ellsworth Mountains were discovered from the air in 1935, but until last December, the summit now known as Rutford had never been ascended.  On December 9, 2006, and again the following day, members of a multi-national expedition lead by an Australian climber and researcher scaled the peak, planted a global positioning satellite device and retrieved it.  The GPS survey showed Rutford to be 4,477 meters, or 14,688 feet, high.

The mountain is not the first Antarctic feature to receive Rutford’s name.  An ice stream he discovered on the continent, which measures 130 miles by 30 to 40 miles, also bears his name.  The mile-thick, fast flowing Rutford Ice Stream drains part of the West Antarctic ice sheet into the sea.  In addition, Rutford Avenue on the UT Dallas campus recognizes the many contributions he made to the university as both president and a faculty member.

Rutford’s research interests have been in the area of glacial geology and geomorphology, primarily in Antarctica.  He first visited the continent in 1959 to conduct research for his Ph.D. dissertation while a student at the University of Minnesota, and has returned some 20 times since.

He has authored or co-authored many scientific papers about Antarctica.  His accomplishments include serving as director of the Division of Polar Programs of the National Science Foundation for NSF sponsored research in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and chairing the Polar Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. 

From 1998 to 2002, he served as president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, also known as the International Antarctic Committee, a non-government, multidisciplinary group made up of scientists from throughout the world committed to coordinating and promoting scientific research on the continent.  In addition to protecting the continent’s environment, the group lends independent technical assistance to the International Antarctic Treaty.  The committee is based at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Chief among the many honors bestowed upon Rutford over the years are a distinguished service award from the National Science Foundation and the Antarctic Service Medal.

News Contact: Steve McGregor, UTD, (972) 883-2293

  • Updated: March 12, 2007