Dr. John Paul Gries joined the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in 1936 in what would become a 50-year term on the faculty of the school. Even after his retirement in 1976, he continued to serve the school by continuing to provide valuable information to both faculty and students. Dr. Gries always had a knack for answering people's questions and he encouraged them to ask. But even he admitted that during his 40 years as a geologist, he saw both his ideas and the world's thinking change as knowledge increased.
The duties and honors awarded Dr. Gries have been many. He was the first director of graduate studies at SDSM&T, first Dean of the Graduate Division, and Chief Investigator in the first research grant sponsored by the U. S. Geological Survey.
Dr. Gries is responsible for the nearly complete file of samples from drilled wells in western South Dakota from water drillers and over drill holes. Students, staff and geologists seeking information on that area of South Dakota have used these samples for many years. He also did considerable consulting with Carter Oil Company, Humble Oil Co. and the Bureau of Mines and SD Geological Survey. He assisted many municipalities, farmers and ranchers in finding a suitable water supply.
Although the author of numerous articles, Dr. Gries is best known for his book <i>Roadside Geology of South Dakota</i>. Over 500,000 copies of the book have been sold to people interested in how the earth works. In his book, he gracefully ties the glaciated eastern half of the state, where artesian wells flow, with the arid western half, where sedimentary layers contain fossilized sea creatures. The book was written for the lay person and describes the rocks and land forms visible along the highways of South Dakota and explains what lies buried beneath prairie sod and hidden in caves and mines shafts.