Edgar Winston Spencer
Edgar Winston Spencer, professor of geology emeritus at Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Va., died peacefully at his home on Poorhouse Mountain on Jan. 8, 2020. He was 88 years old.
A native of Monticello, he grew up the second son of Terrel and Allie Belle Spencer with his brother, Terrel Spencer, Jr. His days in Monticello were happy ones, spent amid family and friends, often visiting his grandfather’s farm near Lacey, camping and exploring as a member of his Boy Scout troop, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout, learning photography and sharing many adventures with his friends.
Ed graduated from Washington & Lee in 1953 with a B.S. in physics and attended Columbia University, where he earned a Ph.D. in structural geology in 1957. He spent many summers in the field during this time, studying the structure of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana. After finishing his Ph.D. he returned to W&L for a two-year stint in the geology department, but ended up making Lexington and W&L his permanent home.
Soon after returning to W&L, he met local artist Betty Humphris. They shared a love of natural beauty and creative projects and were wed in 1958. Together they soon produced several geology textbooks. Betty created the beautiful, detailed illustrations and proofread Ed’s text. They also produced and raised two daughters, Shawn and Shannon. Ed treasured his relationships with his friends in Lexington and elsewhere, as well as his W&L colleagues, students, and alumni.
Ed taught at W&L for 42 years, chairing the geology department for many of them. He received awards for teaching, research, and community contributions. One of the highlights of every academic year for him was the spring term field course when, along with other faculty members, he would travel with students to locations around the country. His legendary walking speed on these field trips earned him the nickname “Fast Ed.” He spent many decades hiking the Blue Ridge, eventually publishing intricate geologic maps of the Appalachian region. A well-known fixture within the W&L alumni travel programs between 1989 and 2013, he led trips to far flung parts of the country and all over the world to educate folks about the role geology plays in our world.
After retirement Ed maintained an office at W&L, where he continued working on countless projects, among them, maps and guidebooks, including the much labored over “Guide to the Geology and Natural History of the Blue Ridge Mountains”.
Ed was a founding member of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council in 1976, and in that role sought to preserve the quality of Rockbridge County through research, publications and outreach. He was a founding member of the That Club, and a longtime member of the Fortnightly Club. His pastimes included his beloved barbershop quartet, "The High Rollers," and taking photographs of natural beauty wherever he found it.
Ed is survived by his wife, Liz (Betty), daughters, Shawn Spencer (Steven Levine ) Boston, Mass., and Shannon Spencer (Richard Wallace ) Collegeville, Pa., two grandsons, Tucker and Jonah Spencer-Wallace. He also leaves behind Sarah Alice Spencer, Karen Kolb-Spencer, and Matthew Spencer of Arkansas, Mary Ann Spencer, Susan Spencer, and Rebecca Schultz (Chris,) children Lily and Zack of Wisconsin, cousins Mildred Pendergrass, Paula Pendergrass Allen and Steve Pendergrass of Arkansas and Billy Pendergrass (Mimi Atkinson) of Tennessee. Spencer is also survived by brother-in-law Curtis Humphris (Caroline,) nieces and nephews Margaret Ann Humphris (Jim Shaver), David Duke Humphris (Alison), Patsy Humphris Ledford (Joel), and Robert R. Humphris Jr.
He was predeceased by his brother and sister-in-law Terrel and Rubye Spencer, nephew Terrel Spencer III, brother-in-law Robert R. Humphris and wife Charlotte, and nephew Curtis C. Humphris III.
The Spencer family gives its most sincere and heartfelt thanks to the wonderful people at Rockbridge Area Hospice. The depth of our gratitude for their superb support during this difficult time knows no bounds. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Rockbridge Area Hospice, 315 Myers St., Lexington, VA 24450; or Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, P.O. Box 564, Lexington, VA 24450.