This page is dedicated to the life and legacy of
Dr. Raymond Emil Beiersdorfer
"Be kind. Be connected. Be unafraid." ~Rivera Sun
As a beloved mineralogy professor at Youngstown State University, Dr. Ray and the Clarence R. Smith 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.
Read on to learn more about Dr. Ray and his memorial 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. Read more: From Louisville to Leetonia, Students Compete in 15th Annual Penguin Bowl at YSU (ysu.edu), 17th Penguin Bowl Brings Ocean to Youngstown, Remembers ‘Dr. Ray’ (vindyarchives.com), and The Penguin Bowl (ysu.edu).
- 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. Check out Dr. Ray’s Amazing Sideshow of Science (Jambar, 2016)
- Organizing the Dr. Ray’s Energy and the Environment lecture series. Check out YSU Lecture Series on Energy and the Environment Focuses on Global Warming (ysu.edu).
- Advocating for climate and social justice as well as community rights. Check out this article authored by Dr. Ray and Susie, Oil & Gas Industry Push Poll Aims to Manipulate Youngstown Ohio Voters
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 and colleagues had a “Dr. Ray” story that they could share.
His interests outside the world of geology included collecting vinyl records, radio DJ-ing, and hiking in Mill Creek Park!
Some of Dr. Ray’s Favorite Minerals:
"Ray had a life well-lived and a life well-loved."
After suffering a major heart attack on September 13th, 2018, Dr. Ray was hospitalized and in critical condition. His ventilator tube was removed October 2nd and on October 5th, while his heart continued beating, the Youngstown community gathered in Moser Hall to honor and celebrate him. To read more about the event, check out Hospitalized Youngstown State Professor Honored on Campus and YSU Celebrates Dr. Ray’s Life of Success, Passion. On October 11th, 2018 – one day before his 62nd birthday – Dr. Ray passed away.
"Ray was many-faceted but not polished. So, it's a diamond in the rough."
Diamonds, like many other gemstones, are actually minerals! Natural diamonds start as atoms of carbon deep inside the Earth. Under high temperatures and pressures the carbon atoms begin to bond and crystallize, eventually forming 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 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 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 conditions deep inside Earth. The difference is that the source of carbon comes from human remains. By extracting carbon from ashes, a memorial diamond can be grown! Learn more about memorial diamonds by checking out this NPR article, From Ashes to Ashes to Diamonds: A Way to Treasure the Dead.
Dr. Ray's 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”. Do you notice the bluish tint? Memorial diamonds are often blue in color as a result of trace amounts of boron in bones! Learn more by reading Chemical Disposition of Boron in Animals and Humans, and be sure to check out, Dr Ray: A Diamond in the Rough (Jambar, 2019).
Currently, Dr. Ray’s diamond resides with Susie until an official display can be created for him in the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum. However, Susie brought Dr. Ray’s diamond to visit the Clarence R. Smith Mineral Museum one year after his death. YSU’s own Jambar TV covered the event in their episode which debuted October 25th, 2019.
"The might oak was once a little nut that stood its ground."
Celebrate Dr. Ray’s legacy at three landmarks on the YSU campus!
1 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 about the event by reading: ‘One-of-a-Kind’ Tree Planted on Campus in Memoriam of Dr. Ray (Jambar, 2018)
2 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 about the donation by reading: Dr. Ray’s Newfangled Periodic Table Installed on Campus (ysu.edu) and Periodic Table Installed in Memory of Dr. Ray (Jambar, 2019).
3 Mineral Museum
Located off the first-floor atrium of Moser Hall, our unique display of minerals, fossils, meteorites, and rocks was a favorite of Dr. Ray’s. Not only did he help set up the museum for its opening in 2001 but, as the resident mineralogy professor, he also created scavenger hunts and other activities for YSU students to complete using the museum’s collection.
Dr. Ray’s memorial tree, the periodic table, and the mineral museum are all located a short walking distance from curbside metered parking on Lincoln Avenue. All locations are free to enter. The periodic table and the museum may have limited accessibility outside of the regular school year as the academic buildings they are located in may be locked. Moreover, the museum is only open to the public during specific hours – click here for our schedule!