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Reaser remembered as friend extraordinaire

Dr. Donald Reiser
Dr. Donald Reiser

Through a career that spanned over 50 years, Donald Reaser had an unflagging love of geology, Texas and Dairy Queen, but it was his love of people that was remembered most fondly during a memorial service for the longtime UT Arlington professor February 18.

Reaser, who died December 29 at age 78, was passionate about geology and helped build UT Arlington's geology department during his 40-plus years on campus. He was even more passionate about his relationships with his students and helping instill that same passion for geology in them. Over 100 family members, friends and students who benefitted from Reaser's love of teaching attended the memorial service, held in the Planetarium at UT Arlington.

John Wickham, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences chair, began the service by highlighting Reaser's career.

"Don was the department historian and a proud Texan," Wickham said. "He had a great sense of humor and was always a down-to-earth guy."

Colleagues and friends then spoke about what Reaser meant in their lives.

"Don was a gentleman in every respect. He was an immediate friend to everyone he met," said Burke Burkart, a fellow UT Arlington geology professor emeritus who first became friends with Reaser when the two were graduate students at UT Austin in 1959. "Helping people -- that was his life, no better manifested than in the way he dealt with his students."

Reaser's deep caring for students led him to establish a scholarship for Earth and Environmental Sciences students when he retired in 2006. Actually, he continued to teach until last year, and had undertaken the lengthy process of cleaning out his office, which was full of rock samples, papers and old exams - tangible memories from a lifetime of teaching.

Lisa Moran, a geology student and Donald F. Reaser Scholarship recipient, helped Reaser sort through much of the material in his office, a job which even now remains unfinished.

"He would see an old test and see the student's name and he would have a story about that student. This happened all the time," Moran said. "He really cared about his students. I'm going to miss him."

Geology professor Merlynd Nestell recalled that Reaser drew tremendous enjoyment from taking students on field trips, and always made sure the trips included stops at his favorite fast food restaurant.

"His field trips were referred to as 'Dairy Queen trips' because he loved to stop there, and in every little town, he knew where the Dairy Queen was," Nestell said. Reaser was born in Wichita Falls on Sept. 30, 1931 and graduated from Highland Park High School. He earned a BS in geology from Southern Methodist University and served in the U.S. Air Force, returning to SMU to earn an MS in geology. He spent three years working on a Ph.D. at UT Austin before accepting an offer in 1961 to teach at UT Arlington, then called Arlington State College. He earned his Ph.D. in geology from Dr. Donald F. Reaser UT Austin in 1975. Apart from a three-year stretch in the mid-1960s, he taught continuously at UT Arlington until his retirement.

He is survived by his wife of over 30 years, Bette Forrest Reaser of Waxahachie; sister-in-law, Dell F. Andrews of Waxahachie; stepson, David Forrest Anderson of Richmond; cousins, James F. Strong of Point Venture, Robert Wales of Melissa and Marita Wagner of Midland; and nephews, John F. Andrews of New York, N.Y., Jeff Andrews of Dallas and Bill Borders of Aurora, Ill.

Roger Bowers traveled from his home in Nevada to attend the memorial. Bowers, who transferred to UT Arlington and earned BS and MS degrees in geology in the 1970s, recalled how Reaser offered to share his office space. The two would often work late into the night in the office and became good friends. Bowers said he will never forget the support Reaser offered after Bowers' wife was injured in a car accident and after Bowers' father died.

"That really made an impression on me because at my previous school, professors didn't care about students; they treated you like a number and didn't even learn your name," Bowers said. "All of us who knew Don will remember his love of teaching and his love for his students."

Kevin Coleman never took a course under Reaser while earning a BS in geology in the late 1970s, but participated in several of Reaser's field camps.

"He was a great mentor," Coleman said. "He was kind, he loved his students and he loved to teach."

Those who knew him would likely agree that those words do a good job of summing up Don Reaser's life and the legacy he leaves behind at UT Arlington.

Donations to the Reaser scholarship may be mailed to: Donald F. Reaser Scholarship Fund, University of Texas at Arlington, Box 19047, Arlington, TX 76019. Donations may be made online at https://www.uta.edu/giving/sub/giveform_reaser.php