In Memoriam - Reinoud Vissers

In the evening of November 16, our former colleague and friend professor-emeritus Reinoud Vissers passed away at the age of 73.

Reinoud Vissers studied geology at the University of Amsterdam in the 1970s. He came to Utrecht University in 1978, still working on his PhD thesis on the tectonometamorphic evolution of the Betic Cordillera in southern Spain, which he finished in 1981. This work led to his first major contributions on ductile deformation fabrics and orogenic collapse, whereby his two papers with John Platt, in ‘81 on recognizing kinematic indicators in a major shear zone, and in ’89 on convective removal of lithosphere to explain high-temperature metamorphism in the Alboran region, became his best-known works.

Reinoud's research formed an important link between structural geology and geophysics. In 1986, he was appointed associate professor and in 1999 Professor of Geology, in particular in the field of orogenesis and lithospheric extension. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Reinoud focused his attention on mantle rocks, in the Betic Cordillera but also in the Pyrenees and Northern Italy. He supervised successful PhD theses on petrology, structure, and deformation mechanisms in mantle rocks and mantle shear zones. In the mid-2000s, he returned to crustal deformation processes, working on sedimentary basins and on Central Anatolian crystalline geology. In 2011, the Geologica Belgica honoured him with the prestigious André Dumont medal for his scientific oeuvre. After his retirement, in 2012, he remained active, and he was still a regular visitor at our department. He focused his attention on Iberia again and took up the long-standing problem of reconciling plate kinematic, paleomagnetic, and geological data on the evolution of the Pyrenees, a problem he was still working on. As he himself said: ‘Now that I no longer have any obligations, I really have time to study and publish everything that I did not get around to earlier.'

Many will remember Reinoud as an inspirational (field) geologist and scientist. He had a great heart for education, and one would certainly notice this during fieldwork and excursions. He designed much of the current field curriculum in Utrecht and has taught students in structural and metamorphic geology, and in field mapping in the Pyrenees. Generations of students will remember Reinoud’s energy in the classroom and in the field, and his stories and anecdotes on evenings in the Pyrenees, while he was playing his flamenco guitar. He was passionate about providing insight into complex material, whereby, according to students, ‘you don't even notice that you are learning something complicated’.
In the late 1990s, Reinoud was Director of Education for the Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry programmes, still separate programmes at the time. With that experience, he helped in the merger of Physical Geography and Earth Sciences into a joint curriculum, soon followed by the change to the bachelors-masters model. He has been chairman of the examination board and has been active as our PhD mentor. Reinoud was elected UU’s Teacher of the Year upon recommendation by the student associations U.G.V. and Drift'66 in 2010/2011. The recommendation stated, among other things, ‘When Reinoud speaks, rocks come to life and the geological time scale accelerates to a spectacular fireworks display’.

Reinoud was a warm, enthusiastic, and inspirational man, a coach, a mentor, a teacher, and a friend. It is probably not possible to be more geologist than he was. He is survived by his wife Dolors, his two children and two grandchildren. He will be sorely missed and warmly remembered.

Douwe van Hinsbergen and Jan-Willem de Blok