Geology and St Andrews: how could I resist?

Scott Deans
Friday 19 February 2021

Patrick Foster (BSc 1974) explains here why he came to study Geology at St Andrews, and why he decided to give back to the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

group photo
September 1974 – Kimberley, South Africa. Patrick (centre) with fellow graduate Mike Foster (BSc 1974) on his right

Why Geology and why St Andrews?

Believe it or not, Geology was trendy in 1969: plate tectonics was on the front page of the newspapers. How could I resist?

My family had history in St Andrews. My mother went to St Leonards School and my cousin studied Law at Dundee when it was part of St Andrews. Again, how I could resist?

I also had a look before I leapt, just in case. I came to a Chemistry Open Day, where I sat opposite my future wife. I decided that coming here was a no-brainer!

Geology at St Andrews was a life moulding experience for me. I was due to study Joint Honours Chemistry and Geology but dropped Chemistry in the first week. The department under Profs Walton and Drevor had a very hands-on method of teaching with plenty of field trips – including Barcelona, Mull and Arran – plus day trips to the surrounding area. This was combined with bench work twice a week. Petrology /Mineralogy under the watchful eye of Mr Johnson was especially instructive. The small Honours class size meant that lifetime friendships were formed.

August 1975 – outside Orapa, Botswana. Patrick (middle) with fellow graduate Mike Foster

Life after St Andrews

Geological jobs were plentiful in 1974, so after I graduated I went off to work for De Beers as an exploration geologist in Africa for three years. This included eight months in and around the Angolan Civil war, as well as spells in the Northern Cape and Botswana.

I returned to the UK in 1977 and studied for an MBA at London Business School before starting my career in the City as a mining analyst.

During the next 25 years I worked for Rothschilds, Barings, ING and ICAP before setting up my own mining consultancy. I travelled widely and lived for four years in Toronto but was never far from the mining industry.

We were the lucky generation: we had grants and our expenses for fieldtrips were all paid for. It was therefore an easy decision for me to donate to help today’s students go on field trips and update the department’s microscopes so they could have the same opportunities that we did.

July 2019 – medallist in the Stockholm aquathon

Visit SaintsFunder https://saintsfunder.st-andrews.ac.uk/p/SEESgeologymicroscopes/ to find out more about how you can support students currently studying Geology by helping to replace out of date teaching microscopes.

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