Dale Sawyer

May 6, 1955 ~ September 15, 2020 (age 65)


On Tuesday, September 15th, 2020, Dale Sawyer, loving husband and caring father, passed away at age 65.

Dale had a quick wit, loved deeply, and was always quick to help. He was known to ask, “Do you want the long story or the short story?” Here is the short story:

Dale was born on May 6, 1955 in St. Louis, MO to William and Jane Ann Sawyer. His love of adventure was sparked as his family traveled the world as a child. He would go on to live in San Antonio, Texas, Frederick, Maryland, and Bangkok, Thailand all before his 18th birthday. Over the course of his life he was able to continue his travels and had been to all 7 continents. Every trip he took shared the same story, however. He always had to stop and get a sample of the local rocks. After graduating from the International School of Bangkok, Dale attended Purdue University where he majored in Earth Science and was later named a Distinguished Alumnus of the Purdue Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science. After graduating from Purdue, he went on to earn his Ph. D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Marine Geophysics. On August 13, 1977 Dale married the love of his life, Elise Sawyer (née Pretzinger). Together, they had three children, Laura, Kate, and Matthew.

Dale loved to teach and dedicated his entire career to teaching and mentoring young people. He was a Professor of Earth Science at Rice University for 31 years. During that time he and Elise served as a College Magisters at both Will Rice and Sid Richardson Colleges, helping support more than 1000 undergraduate students as they made their way through college. His favorite times at Rice were spent cheering the Sid Women to a Powderpuff Championship, the Will Rice Bike Team to a sweep, and helping grow student-run theatre. In addition to his work supporting the undergraduate life at Rice, Dale also mentored and advised countless graduate students and helped found the Professional Master’s Program in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.

Just as Dale loved to work with students at Rice, he was equally passionate about mentoring young people through the Boy Scouts of America program. Dale was an Eagle Scout, and a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow. He served in various roles in the Sam Houston Area council, though he was most proud to have helped lead the National Youth Leadership Training program where he mentored and coached hundreds of young men.

Dale was preceded in death by his daughter Kate and his father William. He is survived by his wife Elise, his two children Laura (wife Charnel de Villiers) and Matt (wife Kimberly Sawyer), his mother Jane Ann Sawyer, sister Carole Bolin, and numerous nieces and nephews.

If you ever want to hear the long story, any of us would be glad to pull up a chair, grab a glass of his favorite scotch, and share.

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Sawyer New Student Award at Will Rice College of Rice University or to the Houston Aphasia Recovery Center (HARC): Dale Sawyer Memorial Fund. Gifts to Rice University may be made online at or mailed to Rice University, Office of Development MS-81, 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX, 77025. Gifts to HARC may be made online at or mailed to 5005 Woodway Drive, Suite 110, Houston, TX, 77056.


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