Walter H. Voskuil

1892 to 1984
Mineral Economics

Walter H. VoskuilWalter Henry Voskuil was born on a farm near Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. After serving as a radio technician in World War I, Voskuil attended the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a degree in agriculture in 1921. The following year, he received his master's degree in geography and, two years later, he received a Ph.D. in geography, with minors in geology and economics. Voskuil then taught for several years and briefly held positions with The National Industrial Conference (where he coauthored the book Competitive Position of Coal in the United States) and the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

In 1931, Chief Morris M. Leighton recruited Voskuil to become the first mineral economist at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) and the first of any state geological survey. He headed the Mineral Economics Section over the next 29 years, authoring or coauthoring 107 published reports. Included in these publications were Illinois Mineral Industry in 1932—A Preliminary Statistical Summary and Economic Review and, in the same year, Agricultural Limestone Distribution in Illinois, each of which was the first in what would become an annual ISGS series. During World War II, Voskuil's expertise earned him a split appointment with the U.S. Office of Price Administration to serve as a consultant to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He further aided the war effort by riding his bicycle to work, a practice he continued for about 30 years, logging more than 30,000 miles. After the war, he split his ISGS time with a part-time appointment in the Department of Mining and Metallurgy at the University of Illinois. His many and varied interests led him to found the Dial Club on the University of Illinois campus in 1961. This group of faculty members met each month during the academic year to hear a member give a talk that was not necessarily related to the speaker's area of academic expertise.

After Voskuil retired from the ISGS in 1960, he accepted the newly created position of Visiting Professor of Mineral Economics at the University of Nevada-Reno, a position he held for 12 years. His expertise and sense of humor made him a popular lecturer to academic and civic audiences for more than 50 years. His contributions were recognized by his peers when he was awarded the Mineral Economics Award from the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers in 1974.

Honored by: 
Morris W. Leighton
Citation Contributed by: 
Beverly Herzog