Museum - Geosciences, UMKC

Richard L. Sutton, Jr., M.D. Museum of Geosciences

Rare Treasures

Richard J. Gentile, Ph.D., is proof that the love of teaching need not end with retirement.

Gentile’s faculty position combined two of his favorite things – students and rocks. As a Department of Geosciences emeritus professor and volunteer museum curator and docent, he continues to enjoy this rewarding mix, showing thousands of visitors through the Geosciences Museum in Flarsheim Hall, Room 271. The museum opened in 1973, when Dr. Richard L. Sutton and UMKC Professor Eldon J. Parizek – Gentile’s predecessors – assembled much of the collection and display units. Sutton, a dermatologist, was an adjunct geology instructor who gave his personal collection of cephalopods (squid-like ocean dwellers) and fluid inclusions (rocks containing liquids) to the museum. An interactive feature allows viewers to tip the clear quartz and watch the trapped primordial water move. In Gentile’s domain, hundreds of minerals, fossils and ores sit in cases ringing the walls. A source of particular pride is the museum’s Crinoid collection. Crinoids, or “starfish on a stick,” were abundant in downtown Kansas City, once ringed by a shallow sea. In 1889, excavators discovered at least 400 specimens at 10th and Grand. One hundred years later, at the urging of Missouri school kids, then-Governor John Ashcroft made the crinoid the official fossil of Missouri. Another curiosity is an enormous fulgurite, or “lightening rock.” Lightning generates tremendous heat – as much as 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. When lightning strikes the earth, it fuses the silicon dioxide in its path into tube-shaped glass. The geosciences museum has just such a specimen, found in Clay County, Mo. Most of the museum’s fossil collection was amassed by Gentile on trips to the Badlands of South Dakota. Through UMKC’s Continuing Education program, Gentile travels with student groups each summer to conduct research and to look for vertebrate fossils. Gentile, who began teaching in 1966 and was given emeritus status in 1999, continues to do field studies and write articles; understandably, many of his publications detail the geological and paleontological wonders in his own back yard. According to Gentile, things remain buried in regional sediment and lake beds for a geologist to find and get excited about. “I found and named a species of coccoliths in 1971 when they were building a stretch of I-29 near St. Joseph,” said Gentile. “They are the remains of one-celled protozoans, visible only with magnification of x 10,000. They are flat and disc-shaped and resemble tiny waffles. I call them ‘Paleococcolithus missouriensis'.

Contact Us

Department of Geosciences
University of Missouri-Kansas City

Administrative Assistant
Megan Medley
Tel: 816.235.6081

Dr. Wei Ji

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, Missouri  64110

Tel:   816.235.1334
Fax:  816.235.5535


Directions: (click here)