Peter Gretener

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Peter Gretener
Peter Gretener headshot.png
Latest company University of Calgary
PhD Geology and Geophysics
PhD university Technical University of Zurich

Peter Gretener (1926–2008) was a Swiss born geologist and geophysicist who worked in industry, and later was a long time faculty member of the University of Calgary. Peter was noted for his competence and enthusiasm as a teacher, and his forward-looking philosophy.


Butler, D., Dobecki, T., Steeples, D., Savage, J., Miller, R., Gretener, N., and Roth, J. (2008). ”Memorials.” The Leading Edge, 27(8), 1068–1071.[1]

Peter Gretener passed away peacefully at home in Calgary on 16 May 2008. Besides his one love and wife, Vreni, he is survived by his sons, Chris and Nick, his son and daughter-inlaw, Daniel and Kathy, and his three grandchildren.

Peter was born in Switzerland, where he completed his PhD studies in geology and geophysics at the Technical University of Zurich (ETH). In 1953, he emigrated to what, for a geologist, was truly a land of opportunity—the vast frontier of Canada—and completed his postdoctoral studies at the University of Toronto with Tuzo Wilson. In 1954, young Vreni, his bride-to-be, undertook the daunting journey to this unknown but intriguing country to marry her love and start a family and new life. Th e young couple, and growing family lived in various places, including Edmonton, Calgary, and Houston, before finally putting down roots in Calgary.

Peter spent the first 12 years of his career in industry, including summers spent in Canada’s rugged north—country he deeply loved—before entering the ranks of academe (the Ivory Tower) at the fledgling University of Calgary. He took to teaching with enthusiasm and worked to pass on his passion for “rocks” to his students. He sought to leave a mark on his students (“They should love me or hate me, just not be indifferent”) and for many he did just that.

Rocks were not his only passion, as he spent much time thinking about the greater fate of mankind. He held seminars on topics such as limits to growth and how mankind could co-exist on a sustainable basis with the other inhabitants of Planet Earth, long before such topics came into vogue. He was a firm believer in teaching his students to take the big picture and work to develop a broad base of knowledge rather than become too narrowly focused on their area of specialty. He believed strongly that interdisciplinary dialog (geologists talking to engineers talking to environmentalists...) was the key to advancing science in a rational manner.

An honest, fair, kind, and sometimes contrary man, he lived life on his own terms. Money was never a driver. At the end, he was fulfilled and as he would have said, the time had come to “shut her down.” We will all miss him and will try to take with us his life example.