Shimmering sphalerite and flashy fluorite are just some of the new faces lining the halls of The University of the Pacific’s geosciences building after collectors and philanthropists (not to mention our owners) John and Gail ’58 Kautz gifted their collection of rocks, gems, minerals and meteorites to the university.
The priceless collection, which was highly sought after by UC Berkeley before taking up permanent residence at Pacific, contains more than 4,900 specimens, making it the largest collection on display in Northern California.
“Gail is an alumna and I’ve been very close to the university for a long time,” said John Kautz, a former regent at Pacific. “We believe in the immeasurably significant value of higher education and, as Gail has been heavily involved with the geological and environmental sciences department at Pacific, we felt that the students and university alike would benefit tremendously from a world-class exhibit.”
The couple amassed the collection over several decades by acquiring large collections from around the world with the largest portion coming from the personal collection of Elva and Orrie Gruwell of Sutter Creek. The Kautz’s continued to expand the collection over the years until formally gifting it to the university at the end of 2018, along with new LED lighted display cases.
The collection houses some of the oldest and rarest known rocks, fossils and petrified wood found on Earth, ranging from 3.3 to 4.4 billion years old. One large meteorite slab contains one of the only known natural occurrences of the mineral tranquillityite, first discovered during the lunar explorations of the moon. The collection also houses large museum-grade specimens, such as Seymchan meteorites, that are considered extremely rare and one of a kind. Samples of benitoite, the California state gemstone; gold, the state mineral; and serpentine, the state rock; are also represented.
This extensive collection is an important scientific and educational tool, appropriately reflecting the University of the Pacific’s connection to the California megaregion. “The opportunity to inspect and study the physical attributes of each specimen makes it an invaluable resource for our students studying the geological and environmental sciences,” said Lydia Fox, associate professor of geological and environmental sciences and director of undergraduate research at Pacific.
Thanks to John and Gail, the collection will continue to dazzle, delight and educate curious minds for years to come.
NOTE: A duplicate display case of the latest acquisitions can be viewed at the Ironstone Vineyards Heritage Museum, open daily from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (also home to our famed 44-pound crystalline gold piece).