John Van Couvering always made people feel special. He was genuinely and totally sincere about it, and he instantly made you feel like his good friend; I believe that he thought of everyone as a friend. Nothing about it was fake. Everyone liked to talk to John at his Micropaleontology Press’s booth at the Geological Society of America (GSA) annual meetings for nearly 40 years. It was a joy that often ended up with lunch or dinner with the geologists, paleontologists, and students hanging around the booth. John treated them all alike, and that encouraged the students. Now, with great sadness, I write to report John died on May 21, 2023, in his wonderful lakeside house in upstate New York, with his wife Edith and son Benjamin at his side. Many of us have good memories of him, for he was a friend to many of us in micropaleontology as well as in other disciplines.

John Van Couvering, geologist, stratigrapher, archaeologist, editor, and publisher (Fig. 1) never studied foraminifera directly, but he was well aware of their value in his stratigraphic and paleoclimatic work, and he contributed significantly to foraminiferal research with his publishing and editing of two journals, special publications, various books, and, most importantly, the Catalog of Foraminifera, which aimed to include all species ever described. He was gifted in getting groups together to do large projects, in editing journals and special papers, and in publishing many papers and books containing information about foraminifera. John guided his and others’ work for over 40 years through good times and tough times, keeping up to date on the newest techniques in publishing. He did not start that way.

John’s family had its roots in The Netherlands. His great grandfather, Anthoni Van Koevering, immigrated to the US from Zeeland, The Netherlands, in the mid-1800s and settled in the Dutch region of Michigan not far from Lake Michigan. His grandfather, John Van Koevering, was born in Zeeland, Michigan, in 1871, and his father, Anthony Van Couvering, was also born there in 1903, later moving to Los Angeles to join his uncle Martin Van Couvering in geological work. John, Anthony’s son, was born on August 2, 1931, in Los Angeles. His father later settled in the nearby town of Downey where John grew up and attended school. At Downey Union High School, John’s propensity for organization and editing first appeared when he became a feature editor (Fig. 2) for the high school newspaper; these talents he later exploited in his professional life.

John and I were friends, in part, because we were both raised in the Los Angeles area of Southern California and were alumni of the Geology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). John graduated with a B.A. degree in 1958 about four years before me, and he also studied for his M.A. I don’t remember exactly when I met John—it seemed like we had always been friends—but it was sometime in the early 1960s, and discussion focused on geology and departmental affairs. I knew he had a special connection to UCLA Geology as well because his great uncle, Martin Van Couvering, a famed petroleum geologist and engineer, received his master’s degree in geology in 1941 at UCLA when he was 53. He also taught courses in the department (Conselman, 1978). Martin was a Fellow of GSA, active in that society and in other geological societies, publishing on California geology and earning honors along the way. John’s uncle was only part of his connection with geology. His father, Anthony Van Couvering, was also a geologist specializing in its engineering aspects, and he worked as a consultant with Martin. No wonder John majored in geology!

Times at UCLA were eventful for John. After his B.A., he set out to acquire an M.A. in the 1960s. There he met and soon married Judith A. Harris, who lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Norwalk. She earned a B.A. degree in paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley, and studied at the Museum of Paleontology there. John finished his M.A. degree in 1962 with a dissertation (Van Couvering J. A., 1962) for which he mapped intrusive igneous rocks and Tertiary fossiliferous, terrestrial formations in Plumas and Lassen Counties of northeastern California. John was a good hard rock geologist as well as a stratigrapher and paleontologist.

In the mid-1960s, Louis Leakey came to California several times to examine the so-called ancient stone tools from the Calico Early Man site in the Mohave Desert near Barstow. On one of those trips, he was invited to deliver a lecture at UCLA on early fossil humans. Leakey, a friendly and curious guy, went from office to office in the geology department to talk to the residents. We were all excited to visit with him and awaited his lecture with great anticipation. Judith immediately called John to come to the lecture. Both of them then met with Leakey to talk about his work and their interests. John took Leakey to the airport, and on that trip, he and Judith were invited to come to Africa to work on fossil deposits at Rusinga Island in the Kenyan part of Lake Victoria (Van Couvering, D., 2022). The two of them, now with three children, Anthony, Anne and David, packed up the family and ended up in tents on the island. John worked to decipher the geology of the island while Judith studied fossil cichlid fish from the deposits (Van Couvering, J. A. H., 1982). They also had another daughter, Elisabeth, in Kenya. Leakey suggested that he could arrange for them to enroll in a doctorate program at Cambridge University. With that invitation, they moved to Cambridge, England. Both of them received those PhDs, in 1972 and 1973. Judith subsequently was hired at the University of Colorado, Boulder, as a professor in the geology department and a curator in the campus museum. The family moved to Boulder, and John took various jobs including with the US Geological Survey and as a consultant in geology and archaeology for the National Archaeology Database in Colorado. He was also a researcher at the University of Colorado Museum. John and Judith separated in Boulder, and John moved to New York City in the mid-1970s.

In New York, John acquired a position in the anthropology department at the City University of New York (CUNY) emphasizing geologic aspects of archaeology. He described himself then as interested in the “principles and practices in stratigraphic geology; age and environments of Cenozoic mammal faunas of Africa and southern Eurasia; the Neogene time scale and chronostratigraphic boundaries”, a broad list of subjects he stuck with for the rest of his career. He also became associated with the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and met and later (1981) married Edith Schildkrout, a social anthropologist at the AMNH, also with a PhD from Cambridge University (1970). An outstanding scholar in her own right, she became Chair of the Anthropology Department, curator of several outstanding exhibits, and author of over 95 books and papers, chiefly on African anthropology. Together, they studied in various parts of Africa. In 2018, Edith and John donated their collection of African photographs (over 6800) to the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art.

John was appointed in 1978 to the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Micropaleontology Press (MP) housed at the AMNH. This, of course, was reminiscent of his job as an editor for his high school newspaper some 30 years previously. What did John get into at Micropaleontology Press? When he took charge, MP published the journal Micropaleontology and several catalogues of microfossils—foraminifera, ostracoda, and diatoms. The Catalogue of Foraminifera was started originally by Brooks F. Ellis and Angelina R. Messina during the Great Depression. Ellis had been assembling a list of all the foraminifera ever published since 1928. In 1930, he was appointed professor of geology at CUNY, and the work of listing foraminifera continued with the help of students and four men from the New York Emergency Work Bureau. At various locations in the city and with funding in part through The Civil Works Administration in 1934 and from 1935 to 1942 with sponsorship of the AMNH, The Work Progress Administration (WPA), Ellis continued to employ many people, at one time up to 200, to expand work on his list to that of a comprehensive catalogue of foraminifera and a card catalogue of references. In 1940, the AMNH created the Department of Micropaleontology to house the WPA work on the catalogue but without any financial support for Ellis or Messina who held no titles in the museum. WPA support was terminated in 1942. At the end of World War II, an advisory committee was formed, and donations were solicited to keep the Department of Micropaleontology and the Catalogue of Foraminifera functional. At this time, the Catalogue was issued in 29 volumes to more than 100 subscribers. By 1947, Ellis had attracted the international foraminifera community and began publishing a newsletter, The Micropaleontologist, to carry news, reports from countries around the world, and techniques. Research papers were not accepted, and for many authors in the United States at least, those were published in the Journal of Paleontology established in 1927 by the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists (SEPM). In 1954, Ellis recognized the need for a research journal for any kind of microfossil research. The following year, Micropaleontology was published and volumes sold for $5.00/year for four issues. By the 3rd issue in July, Ellis realized subscriptions had to increase to $8.00 in 1956 to continue publishing. Funding was critical because not only did it have to pay for the journal but also for the catalogues, which also contributed, and the AMNH. The journal was built on the newsletter even including the cover illustrations. Within 20 years, John Van Couvering would also worry about similar problems.

In 1968 Brooks Ellis died, and Angelina Messina passed away suddenly in 1970. The operation of the Department of Micropaleontology and its publications were taken over by the AMNH and renamed the Micropaleontology Press. The museum appointed Tsunemasa Saito, of Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory at Columbia University, as part-time editor of Micropaleontology. This arrangement worked well until Saito resigned to return to Japan. John Van Couvering was then appointed to run Micropaleontology Press. Volume 24 (1978) of Micropaleontology was edited by Van Couvering. The journal looked as it always had with covers showing line illustrations of different kinds of microfossils and content of research papers and intermittent news, reviews, and memorials, and its cost increased to $55.00 for nearly 500 pages in four issues. The format was well developed by Brooks Ellis, but changes were coming under John Van Couvering. John introduced slick covers with images of microfossils on the front cover and a table of contents on the back—this was more attractive and interesting on the front and more useful on the back. He made efforts to find and publish outstanding papers and to improve circulation by putting the journal and catalogues online. The AMNH ended Micropaleontology Press in 2003, forcing Van Couvering to rename it the Micropaleontology Project (MPj), and he moved it to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. A Board of Directors (Fig. 3) was appointed by John with me as Chair in 2004 to assist with the new problems and projects, including the need for new space and offices, funding, possible association with other publishing societies, and the publication of a new journal Stratigraphy he started in 2004. The space and financing issues were sorted out by 2009, and MPj was established in Queens College of CUNY. The Catalogue of Foraminifera was made available online. John retired in 2015 at age 84, with Tom Dignes as the new president. In 2017, Editor-in-Chief positions were filled by Michael A. Kaminski in Krakow, Poland, for Micropaleontology, and by Jean Self-Trail of the USGS, for Stratigraphy. Tom Dignes retired in 2020, and Stephen Pekar (Queens College, CUNY) was elected President.

John did not take retirement easily. No, he continued to work on the Catalogue of Foraminifera, bringing its total species descriptions to over 47,000, and on research papers. His lifetime productivity included over 65 research books and papers in all the fields he treasured (see the Selected References for a sampling), starting in 1974 with a book on the Neogene with his career-long collaborator Bill Berggren (Berggren and Van Couvering, 1974). The MPj and his research had become a lifestyle that he could not easily leave. Just a few months before his death, he contacted me to discuss his future projects, the old geology department at UCLA, and a zoology professor, a paleontologist, who had lived to nearly 100 and never stopped publishing. He seemed a good model for both of us. All had changed, of course, except for John’s enthusiasm for the broad field of earth science that he had experienced throughout his entire life. John contributed widely, and some of that energy and wisdom was focused on foraminifera as well. John, indeed, was a remarkable person who good-naturedly contributed in many ways not just to a wide variety of fields, but also to friendships that lasted a lifetime. He will be missed by many across anthropology and geology including those of us in foraminifera.

I thank Susie Lipps for genealogical information, Lucy Edwards, USGS, for information about her extensive interactions with John and images, Mike Kaminski, Editor-in-Chief of Micropaleontology, for information, and Dorothy Combs, American Institute of Professional Geologists, for the use of John’s image from the 2014 AIPG meeting.