May 20, 2016 at 4:16 pm

University Community Mourns Elizabeth Gierlowski Kordesch

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski Kordesch, age 59 of The Plains, died unexpectedly Tuesday evening, May 17, 2016, at Ohio Health O’Bleness Hospital, Athens.

Gierlowski Kordesch was a Professor of Geological Sciences at Ohio University since 1989. She was a member of several professional societies, including the Geological Society of America, and a founding member of the Limnogeology Division. She was President and Bradley Fellow of the International Association of Limnogeology.

“I can only say that I have never known somebody with more love for science and knowledge than Beth. She lived for that, and was the most unselfish person with her time,” said Dr. Dina López, Professor and Chair of Geological Sciences.

“She collaborated with people all over the world: China, India, Spain, Argentina, Romania…. She is the person that was willing to help non-English speaking researchers to produce good papers if the data was good. She invested thousands of hours of her time in that task. I really admired her for that.

“If we add her time devoted to the kids and the science fair, and the Limnogeology Division in GSA, we have a remarkable person that has left a deep mark in this planet,” added López.

“She helped many of our graduate students with the editing of their thesis, even when she was not the advisor but only a member of the thesis committee. She was a demanding teacher because she wanted students really to learn, even if that meant for her to work harder. Best of all: she was a great friend, always ready to help and unselfish,” López said.

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch on Buenos Aires Bus

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch on Buenos Aires Bus in 2014

In keeping with her commitment to helping other researchers around the world, Gierlowski Kordesch received a Fulbright Specialist Program grant to work with colleagues in Argentina for six weeks during Fall Semester 2014. Read her blog posts about teaching limnogeology, touring Buenos Aires, and researching Triassic lakes in western Argentina with colleagues at CONICET (National Research and Technology Council of Argentina).

“Beth was a vibrant, funny, hard-working person who was a devoted wife and a loving mother to her only daughter. She was matter-of-fact person who loved to chat with her colleagues and friends and loved to challenge her students to rise to a higher level of expectations. She loved to travel around the world and interact with fellow researchers on multiple continents. Beth’s presence will be deeply missed in the halls of Clippinger Laboratories,” wrote Dr. Keith Milam, Associate Professor of Geological Sciences.

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch discussing the nature of lake deposits with workshop participants in Argentina.

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch discussing the nature of lake deposits with workshop participants in Argentina.

Beloved by Students

“She was an inspiration as a professor, I don’t think I’ve had a class like Sed Strat ( GEOL 3500 Stratigraphy-Sedimentology) where the teacher was so clearly having fun and so excited about the material,” said Dr. Natalie Kruse Daniels of the Environmental Studies Program. “She took extra time each week to allow me to make up material I missed because I had a class conflict. The time and energy that she poured into the science fair touched so many lives in our community, including mine.”

“I share a similar experience,” said Jennifer Bowman ’97, ’00M, who earned two geology degrees at OHIO. “I was one of those wandering freshmen wanting to learn environmental science and not sure where I fit in…. I took Geology 101 with Beth and was hooked for good. She shared so much excitement and enthusiasm for geology it was infectious. I knew after her class I was changing my major to environmental geology. With Beth’s guidance, I have always known I made the right decision. I will miss her.”

A Science Cafe video provides a glimpse of Gierlowski Kordesch’s love for science and teaching:

Director of Athens Science Fair

Gierlowski Kordesch also was very active in organizing science fairs for middle schools and high schools in Athens County.

“As the director of the District Science Day here at Ohio University, Beth poured an amazing amount of energy into mentoring teachers and kids as well as navigating all the hidden (and not-so-hidden) hurdles of running a science fair,” said Dr. Mark Lucas, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy. “She will be missed as a colleague, a friend and a passionate leader for science outreach in the region.”

“Her love for science had no limits, and she wanted the kids to experience and love science and math,” López added. “She was the one to go to schools in the area with her rocks and explain to the kids about geology. Teachers really liked her not only for the science fair but also for her collaboration and support.”

“In addition to being Marty’s (Kordesch) wife and a faculty member of Geological Sciences, she was a leader, organizer, advocate, and supporter of many of the science outreach activities at the university and elsewhere,” said Dr. David Ingram, Professor and Chair of Physics & Astronomy. “In particular each year she organized the regional science fair which is held at OHIO, Women In Science and Engineering, and activities with many local schools. She was also an active member of the Ohio Academy of Sciences. Over the years she has delighted and educated my department with colloquia on her geological field trips.  She will be greatly missed.”


Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch discussing Jurassic rocks at Science Cafe in 2015.

Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch discussing Jurassic rocks at Science Cafe in 2015. Photo: Jean Andrews

“Derek, Claudia, and I got to know Dr. Gierlowski-Kordesch (Dr. Beth) when Derek was in elementary school when he first participated at District Science Day,” wrote Chris Demel. “That was the first year fifth-graders could compete at State Science Day, and when Derek moved on, she became a tremendous force promoting science in his life and that of so many youngsters, including the entire group of Athens students who took part of State Science Day on May 14. Indeed, Derek was so excited to tell her about his performance as he knew she would glow of happiness to hear it. Her response, ‘I am so proud of you Derek’ meant more than any award received.

“Dr. Elizabeth Gierlowski-Kordesch put so much effort in establishing the current AHS Science Fair program and dedicated endless hours to helping students navigate the application process, participate in the school fair, and of course, putting together the OU District Science Fair,” continued Chris Demel. Her death came so suddenly in our lives, leaving us with a deep sense of loss; all students (AHS, AMS, AES, and OU students) and our community will miss her true love for science and education, and her ability to bring the best out of kids so that they can focus on what is possible leaving behind insecurities. She touched our lives deeply. Dr. Beth, THANK YOU!”

“Dr. Kordesch was more than just a mentor to me,” wrote Derek Demel. “I met her when I was in the fifth grade and participated in the science fair for the first time. Throughout the years, she encouraged me to continue getting involved in science, something which prior to then I hadn’t really been interested in. Because of her, I was able to find my passion and know what I want to do with my future. Because of her, I have had the opportunity to present my engineering research at the state science fair for seven years and serve as a role model for the younger kids standing in my shoes. Dr. Kordesch was always there to support me and help me with anything I needed. She helped me along with many other students pursue interest in science and engineering by being a driving force and giving endless hours of her time to start a high school science fair.”

“You never realize how sudden death can be when it hits you. Just a couple of days ago I had emailed her thanking her for her support after winning an award which meant the world to me. However it was seeing her response that she was so proud of me that felt a thousand times better. I really wish I would’ve been able to thank her in person for being such an inspiration, and I hope that I can carry out her legacy by attending the state fair one more year in her honor. I am so thankful to have had her guidance throughout these past seven years as she truly has helped me become the person I am today. Dr. Kordesch will be missed but forever remembered by the many people who she’d had an impact on just like myself,” Derek Demel said.

“That’s our Beth!” responded Dr. Damian Nance, Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences. “She is going to leave a big hole in the department and we are going to sorely miss her. May 17 was a very sad day for us all.”

“I am devasted by the news. I was just getting to know her well and was looking forward to building a long friendship. I had no idea her beautiful heart would not sustain her. Truly, a loss to our community,” added Athens High School science teacher Andrea Anderson.

More About Elizabeth Gierlowski Kordesch

Born Oct. 4, 1956 in Chicago, Ill., she was the daughter of the late Roman & Julia (Chorzempa) Gierlowski. A graduate of Lourdes High School and the University of Chicago, she earned a Ph.D. from Case‐Western Reserve University. She completed post doctorate work at the Freie Universitaet in Berlin, Germany.

Gierlowski Kordesch is survived by her husband of 37 years, Dr. Martin E. Kordesch, Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Ohio University; her daughter, Alina Kordesch, currently teaching and studying in Toyko, Japan; two sisters and brothers in law, Regina (Gierlowski) & Richard Lukes of Berwyn, Ill. and Theresa Gierlowski & Chris Cummins of Lemont, Ill.

A memorial service will be conducted Thursday, May 26, at 6 p.m. at Jagers and Sons Funeral Home, Athens. Friends may call one hour prior to the service at the funeral home. Please share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book at

Instead of flowers, contributions can be made to the Geological Society of America Kelts Award fund, which provides support for undergraduate or graduate student research in limnogeology.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *