Dr. Ray's Diamond

Photo from the Jambar

This page is dedicated to the life and legacy of

Dr. Raymond Emil Beiersdorfer

"Be kind. Be connected. Be unafraid." ~Rivera Sun

Photo from Felicia Armstrong

Dr. Ray's Connection to The Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum

As a beloved mineralogy professor at Youngstown State University, Dr. Ray and the mineral museum were very much intertwined. In fact, Dr. Ray was involved in the 2001 grand opening of the museum (read more about Our Story). He also frequented the museum with his classes, using our specimens as teaching tools. Moreover, Dr. Ray told his wife Susie that he wanted to be on display as a diamond in the museum after his death.

Sadly, Dr. Ray passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in October 2018. With his cremated remains, Susie (with the help of a local jeweler) was able to turn Dr. Ray into a diamond. 

Who was Dr. Ray?

Dr. Ray was born October 12, 1956 and in his almost 62 years, he had a “life-well lived,” as Susie says. Highlights of his life include:

  • Becoming a father to twin daughters Crystal and Rochelle (geology-inspired names, of course!)
  • Completing 13 years of college which resulted in a collection of geology degrees including a PhD from the University of California Davis. He also completed pre-doctoral research in Australia and post-doctoral research in Canada. 
  • Working in California as an exploration geologist for Gulf Oil.
  • Completing research fellowships at NASA and CIRES.
  • Founding and coordinating the Penguin Bowl from 2002 until his death.
  • Teaching 25 years at Youngstown State University as a geology professor.
  • Traveling to places like China, Tibet, Taiwan, and the Isle of Man.
  • Engaging the community with his educational presentation, Dr. Ray’s Amazing Sideshow of Science
  • Organizing the Dr. Ray’s Energy and the Environment lecture series.
  • Advocating for climate and social justice as well as community rights.

In addition to his impressive accomplishments, many of those who knew Dr. Ray remember his colorful style, distinct laugh, unique sense of humor, and fierce friendship. From head to toe, Dr. Ray was easy to spot on campus; his curly hair, Hawaiian shirts, and mismatched shoes and socks were the perfect quirky professor uniform. Every one of his students had a “Dr. Ray” story that they could share. 

"Ray was many-faceted but not polished. So, it's a diamond in the rough."

-Susie Beiersdorfer

Memorial Diamonds

Diamonds, like many other gemstones, are actually minerals! Natural diamonds start as atoms of carbon deep inside the Earth under high temperatures and pressures. Under these conditions, the carbon atoms begin to bond and crystallize and eventually form diamonds. Learn more about diamond formation by reading this Smithsonian Magazine article, Diamonds Unearthed.  

In recent decades, increasing demand for diamonds coupled with concerns about the mining and sourcing of diamonds has led to the growth of an artificial (or lab grown, man-made, etc.) diamond market. These so-called “artificial” diamonds are chemically, optically, and structurally similar to Earth-grown diamonds in practically every way. In fact, specialized equipment is usually needed to differentiate between artificial and natural diamonds. 

The trend of creating memorial diamonds to remember loved ones has also become increasingly popular. Like other artificial diamonds, memorial diamonds are grown in laboratory settings that mimic the high temperature, high pressure conditions deep inside Earth. The difference is the that the source of carbon comes from human remains. By extracting carbon from ashes, a memorial diamond can be grown!

Dr. Ray's Memorial Diamond

With one pound of cremated remains, Cirelli Jewelers was able to create a memorial diamond of Dr. Ray in about ten months. Often times, customers opt for memorial diamonds to mimic other diamonds for sale in the stores; in other words, they prefer them to be cut and polished. But as Susie said, “Ray was many-faceted but not polished. So, it’s a diamond in the rough”. Learn more: Dr Ray: A Diamond in the Rough (Jambar, 2019).

Celebrate Dr. Ray's legacy at the following campus landmarks:

Dr. Ray's Memorial Tree

On the grass between Moser Hall and Ward Beecher Hall, you can visit a scarlet oak tree planted in 2018 in Dr. Ray’s memory. The tree species is not only a favorite of Susie’s but it also represents Dr. Ray’s unique presence at YSU; among the approximately 2,000 trees on campus, it is the only scarlet oak.

Learn more:

 ‘One-of-a-Kind’ Tree Planted on Campus in Memoriam of Dr. Ray (Jambar, 2018)

Dr. Ray's Periodic Table

In a student lounge on the first floor of Ward Beecher Hall, you can visit a giant periodic table displaying samples of each chemical element. Although he never got to see the periodic table on our campus, Dr. Ray is the person who secured the generous gift from a private donor.

Learn more:

 Dr. Ray’s Newfangled Periodic Table Installed on Campus (ysu.edu) 

Periodic Table Installed in Memory of Dr. Ray (Jambar, 2019).

For more information, check out the following external links: