Aaron Beltzer was near completion of his M.S when he passed away on April 27, 2016. He was 26 years old. The loss of Aaron was a terrible shock and is a continuing heartbreak in our department. When people pass on, we always talk about their best traits. All of Aaron’s traits were the best. His warmth and kindness were phenomenal. There was, we have all agreed, nobody whom Aaron did not seem to like. He was a tall, reddish haired guy with a sweet smile. Regardless of the situation—whether it was bad weather on a field trip, a tough deadline, or an intractable geologic problem, Aaron was sure it would all turn out OK and that there was a joke to be found in it somewhere. It was easy to like Aaron. While we adjust to this loss, we realize that our pain cannot compare to that of his wonderful parents and brothers. Our thoughts are with them.
I was Aaron’s advisor. He arrived at UMass in Fall 2014 to begin his graduate program. Prior to that, Aaron and I spent a day in the field in northeastern Massachusetts, shopping around for a good field-based thesis problem. From that day, Aaron was in love with the Cape Ann pluton. As he leapt from rock to rock pointing out magma interaction textures, I realized that working with him was going to be a joy, and it was. Aaron brought a combination of relentless enthusiasm and petrologic sophistication to his research. His geologic background and his raw ability were outstanding, causing him to shine in the classroom as well as in the field. I joined Aaron and his also-delightful field assistant, geology major Paul Southard, in the field in the Cape Ann pluton during the summer of 2015. Aaron and Paul had done excellent geologic mapping of shoreline exposures of the many facies of the Cape Ann pluton near Gloucester. By the time I left them, I felt that I could identify those facies for the first time ever, thanks to their work. I’m glad I told Aaron that. We stayed in the campground where Aaron and Paul had been camping all summer. The lady who ran the place seemed to regard them as her sons. The days were sunny and filled with geologic highlights, and there was a lot to laugh about. I’m grateful for the memory.
Just a few weeks before he passed away, Aaron gave an outstanding talk on his work on aspects of the Cape Ann pluton at the northeast section meeting of the Geologic Society of America in Albany. He put the talk together like a pro and showed promising ability in terms of presenting his work. His dad was present at the talk, making the occasion all the happier.
Today I’m sitting in a lab at the University of New Hampshire with another fine grad student, collecting data. There were supposed to be three of us, not two, on this trip. The day is good but we both know that it would be a whole lot better if Aaron were here with us, saying “isn’t this great?!” every few minutes. The department, and the geologic world have lost a treasure. We will never forget him.
A fund has been established in memory of Aaron’s enthusiasm and love for geology. It will be used to support student research.
Donations addressed to the Aaron Beltzer Memorial Fund can be sent to:
Department of Geosciences
627 North Pleasant Street
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Online donations can be made here.
Write “Aaron Beltzer Memorial Fund” in the “Special gift Instructions” box.
If you have questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-545-2286.