Accolades poured in from Arizona’s governor, U.S. senators and the state House of Representatives and Senate for Mary Poulton, University Distinguished Professor in Geosciences, Mining Engineering, Law and Public Health and director of the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, as she prepares to retire from the University of Arizona following her remarkable 30-year career.
A commendation from Gov. Doug Ducey, letters of appreciation from Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, proclamations from the Arizona House and Senate and a certificate of excellence from Arizona State Mine Inspector Joe Hart were presented to Poulton on April 21 at a luncheon hosted by the Southern Arizona Business Coalition at Granite Construction in Tucson. Attendees included mining industry leaders, state lawmakers, including Rep. Vince Leach, and Poulton’s faculty colleagues and former and current students.
“Your contributions to education, mining engineering and support of businesses in these and related fields are greatly appreciated,” the governor’s commendation read in part.
Inspiration and Role Model
Similar thanks came in the form of a letter from Sen. McCain to Poulton.
“I hope that you will recall your years with The University of Arizona with many fond memories and that, as the first female to lead a department in the College of Engineering, you will take great pride in your contributions to education, mining engineering and business,” an aide read aloud.
The House of Representatives proclamation calls Poulton “an inspiration and role model for students, a respected expert to industry leaders and professionals and a trusted advisor to government officials…. [whose] depth of knowledge, breadth of experience and enormous realm of influence are unparalleled” and thanks her “for all of her contributions that have served to enhance the quality of modern living and advance the cause of learning and mining.”
After earning bachelor’s master’s and doctoral degrees in geological engineering from the UA, Poulton joined the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering faculty in 1990 and broke new ground when she became its department head in 2000. Under her leadership, enrollment in the department quadrupled and grew more diverse through her dedication to bringing more women and minorities into mining education and the mining profession.
Poulton has raised nearly $30 million from industry to expand the mining engineering department and attract student scholarships, transform the UA San Xavier Underground Mine into a modern mining research and training laboratory and, in 2009, establish the interdisciplinary Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.
Poulton developed neural network analysis techniques in earth science and engineering and co-founded multiple startups based on her research and development to help clients manage water supplies and improve safety training for mining and other professionals in high-risk occupations.
Her vast collection of honors in education, research, service to industry and service to the public include induction into the American Mining Hall of Fame in 2009; becoming University Distinguished Professor in 2011; receiving the Ivan B. Rahn Education Award from the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration in 2014; and, most recently, receiving the 2017 National Engineering Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies at a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on April 25.
Poulton is retiring from academia, but not from the mining profession. She will start a new job this summer in Washington state at the Spokane Research Laboratory of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.