Fike installed as the Glassberg/Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor

On Sept. 20, David A. Fike, professor of Earth and planetary sciences and director of the Environmental Studies program and the International Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (InCEES), was installed as the Myron & Sonya Glassberg / Albert & Blanche Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor. Sonya “Sunny” Weinberg Glassberg established the endowed professorship in 2011 to support faculty who are leaders in the study and promotion of renewable energy and sustainability.

Provost Beverly Wendland presided over the installation ceremony, which took place in Holmes Lounge on the Danforth Campus. Fike's installation address, “A Geochemist’s Tale: Reconstructing Environmental Conditions over Earth History,” detailed his lab's efforts to examine evolutionary and environmental change over time. 



About David Fike

David A. Fike is a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and also directs the Environmental Studies program and the International Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (InCEES). He earned three bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – in engineering physics, astronomy, and geology. He also minored in German, math, and classic civilizations. He received a Churchill Scholarship and earned his Master of Philosophy degree in polar studies from Churchill College, Cambridge University, in 2002. He earned his doctorate in geochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007 and was the O.K. Earl postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology before joining the faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in 2009.

Professor Fike teaches undergraduate- and graduate-level Earth history courses. He oversees the four-year, cohort-based Pathfinder Fellows program where he teaches a first-year seminar, in addition to co-teaching the second-year Madagascar Sustainability Initiative course.

He leads the Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Group using geochemical analyses to understand modern and ancient biogeochemical cycling. His current research uses geochemical techniques, particularly the stable isotopic analysis of carbon and sulfur compounds, to investigate the links between biological activity and ambient environmental conditions in marine systems. These analyses are used to understand controls on the global carbon cycle. When applied to ancient marine sediments, they can be used to reconstruct environmental change over Earth history, particularly the occurrence of past ice ages and the rise of atmospheric oxygen and its relationship to animal evolution and mass extinctions. He is a leader in applying secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) techniques to improve our understanding of how environmental information becomes encoded in geochemical proxies.

His many honors and awards include a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering and the Outstanding Contribution Award in the Geobiology Division of the Geological Society of America. He has also been a Royal Society International Exchange Fellow, a Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Fellow, and a U.S. National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow.

About the Glassbergs and Greensfelders

Myron Glassberg graduated in 1927 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Washington University and went on to found General Installation Company in 1937, serving as Chairman/Chief Executive Officer from 1972 to 1980. Sunny Glassberg worked for Jaccard’s and was instrumental in founding Miriam’s Lodge Switching Post. She later formed Sellers Unlimited, a respected organizer of estate sales. Inspired by the benevolence demonstrated by her father, she developed a heart for offering her time and talents to her community. Mrs. Glassberg made higher education possible for many local students by donating the proceeds from estate sales to create scholarships through the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis.

After her husband died in 1991, after 52 years of marriage, Mrs. Glassberg carried on his philanthropic work and supported many of St. Louis’ outdoor spaces: Turtle Park, the Glassberg Shelter at Greensfelder Park, the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park, the reforestation in Tower Grove Park, the Pavilions at Shaw Nature Reserve, and a garden gracing the entrance to the St. Louis Holocaust Museum. In 2007, she was named a St. Louis Woman of Achievement for her creative philanthropy, just one of many awards and honors that acknowledge her great contributions. She was a Brookings Partner for Washington University and a life member of the Eliot Society. She was a trustee of the Missouri Historical Society and the St. Louis Zoo. She was a member of the Heritage Society for the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Leffingwell Society Conservancy Circle for Forest Park Forever. Mrs. Glassberg passed away in 2013.

The Glassberg family and the Mysun Foundation received the Land Conservancy Award from the Open Space Council in 2011 for their outstanding support of conservation, parks, outdoor education and other environmental initiatives. This award recognized the partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation and a private donation from the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family to purchase 438 acres of pristine wilderness on the Meramec River in La Barque Creek Watershed for public use.

In naming the professorship, Mrs. Glassberg also honored Mr. Glassberg’s aunt and uncle, Blanche (Younker) Greensfelder (MA ’27) and Albert P. Greensfelder (BS ’01), both of whom were alumni of Washington University. Mr. Greensfelder was an ardent conservationist, and his crusade for regional park systems inspired Mr. Glassberg’s enthusiasm for the outdoors as well. The Greensfelders also supported Washington University by establishing a professorship in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The Glassbergs have three children: Sally Glassberg Sands, PhD (AB ’69, MSW ’73, MA ’73), Tom Albert Glassberg (JD ’87), and Richard Samuel Glassberg, DVM. The Glassbergs have three grandchildren: David Sands, Emily Sands and Adam Glassberg (AB ’09, BSBA ’09).