LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSNW) — Students at the University of Kansas (KU) have “roamed the rocks” of the KU Geology Field Camp in Cañon City, Colorado, for generations. According to a news release sent out by the university, a large donation has been made to ensure that generations more will be able to experience the camp and its location.

The Harrison Family Fund at the Douglas County Community Foundation donated $2 million to the Harrison Family Geology Field Camp Operating Fund to ensure that the camp will continue its mission of providing students with a hands-on field experience. In addition, the gift also provides five scholarships of $5,000 each year to offset students’ costs to attend.

The camp is located 35 acres north of Cañon City. Here, students work in various project areas while taking a class in the field of geology, a course every KU geology major must complete to graduate. According to the news release, field geology has been taught in this area since 1922.

Beth and Phil Harrison, at right, in 1985. The photo was taken at a Chancellors Club celebration. (Courtesy: University of Kansas)

Robert “Bob” Harrison of Lawrence received a degree in geology from KU in 1938 and had great memories of his time there. His son and daughter-in-law, Phil and Beth, knew that this camp held a special place in his heart. Before his death in 2011, he expressed how he wanted part of his estate to be used to help ensure the future of the field camp.

The first significant contribution from the Harrison Family Fund was made in 2018. During this time, one of the most important project areas was up for sale. The fund enabled the KU Department of Geology to buy the property, 600 acres of land outside Cañon City, and preserve the area.

“When the students attend the geology camp, they actually get to ‘do geology’ and see the actual metamorphosis of the rocks they have been studying,” said Beth Harrison, a former music educator. “They speak about the rocks they have seen with the same passion that I speak about music.”

Doug Walker, the Union Pacific Resources Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geology, said that not only is the camp experience essential, but the fund will provide maintenance and supplemental funds for faculty and teaching assistants.

“For four to six weeks, we live there and go out and teach 10 hours a day, out with students, walking around. It’s a constant hands-on experience and a huge jumping-off point for students,” Walker said. “There probably aren’t many other capstone courses that have as many contact hours with faculty as this course. We are so grateful to Beth for helping make this happen.”