Ted Smiley was born on August 21, 1914 in Oakhill, Kansas. He attended the University of Kansas in the 1930s and moved to Tucson in 1936. Before entering the Navy in World War II, Ted worked briefly as a Tucson policeman and as a naturalist with the National Park Service from 1939 to 1941. He earned his Masters Degree from the University of Arizona in 1949. From 1958 - 1960 Ted served as the Director of the Tree Ring Laboratory, and he was Director of the Geochronology Laboratories from 1956 - 1969, when it combined with Geology to form the Department of Geosciences.
As Directory of the Geochronology Laboratory, Smiley was free to exercise his vision of interdisciplinary science. Dave Adam observes that, "The vision was his recognition that a departmental view of the world is inherently limiting, and an interdisciplinary approach is likely to be fruitful. Paradoxically, he had to found his own department to prove it. His Geochronology Department enabled many faculty and students with an interdisciplinary bent to interact in diverse and productive ways by providing them with a home in which academic diversity was welcome."
Under Ted's administration the Geochronology Laboratory achieved international stature. Ted Smiley welcomed the Swedish geomorphologist Ernst Antevs to the University of Arizona where he remained a Research Associate until his death in 1974. In 1960, Smiley recruited the German palynologist Gerhardt O. W. Kremp, who remained in the program until his retirment in 1978. During Ted's 1970 sabbatical in Cambridge, England, he established lasting relationships with Richard West, Harry Godwin, and other European Quaternarists.
Without Ted Smiley, The First International Palynology Congress (April 23 - 27, 1962) could not have taken place. Together, Ted and Gerhard Kremp planned for this meeting, and Ted provided its institutional and logistical support.
In 1964 Ted was appointed to the 21-member U.S. National Committee on the International Hydrological Decade. That group established sites and monitored water around the world. His efforts in the area of Arid Land Studies were recognized in 1973 with the "Award for Outstanding Contributions in Arid Zones Research," by CODAZR (The National Committee on Desert and Arid Zone Research).
During the 1970's and early 1980's Smiley served as the Graduate Student Advisor for Geosciences. One of his advisees, Katie Hirschboeck, remembers the following of Ted Smiley's commitment to his students, "Who else would invite graduate students into his office to chat for Friday afternoon "tea?" With the patience of Job he listened to every possible grad student conundrum and somehow helped us through the mazes. Oftentimes one would come in with a request or problem and be devastated to find out from Professor Smiley that nothing could be done -- only to be contacted by him later to be told that the situation had been solved or that he had found a way to take care of things -- no doubt after countless querying and phone calls that the student was never aware had taken place. But it is with this hindsight that we slowly became aware of what a heart of gold lay under Professor Smiley's sometimes gruff exterior, and what sincere care and respect he held for each of us."
Another former student, Dave Adam, also appreciated Ted's patience. "I recall Ted losing his tolerant approach only once. His office as head of the Geochronology Department was on Tumamoc Hill, and the buildings at that time were not entirely up to code. A ring-tailed cat had taken up residence in the attic, and a magnificent tail could occasionally be seen dangling down through a hole in the ceiling. All was well until one night the cat left a pile of negative editorial opinion atop some important paperwork on Ted's desk. Ted, always the enabler, transferred the cat to the Desert Museum, where it could do its thing in a more supportive environment."
Ted Smiley retired in 1984, and was an emeritus professor of Geosciences until his death. For nearly four decades students, faculty, and visitors to Tucson benefitted from Ted's kind ministrations. Smiley is survived by his wife, Winifred Smiley of Tucson; daughters Tery Scheele of Murieta, California, Maureen Smiley of Flagstaff, and Lynn Smiley of Tucson; son John Smiley of Big Sur, California; brother Harold Smiley of Kansas; sister Frances Miller of Phoenix; nine grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. We all miss him.