For decades, Cal Poly Pomona accounting alumnus Roark Moudy scoured the world for precious stones, gems and minerals. He built an impressive collection that included emeralds in their natural form, uncut diamonds, gold nuggets, enormous quartz crystals, and even a petrified pine cone.
Moudy has now donated a large number of specimens, around 300 in all, to Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Geological Sciences, which will soon put a selection of them on display for the entire campus to see.
But first, they have to finish sifting through the collection.
“It’s sort of like a treasure trove. You never know what you’re going to get when you open a box,” says geology Chair Jonathan Nourse.
Some specimens are jet black bars, while others consist of hundreds of transparent spines several inches long. Some are blood red, and one even resembles a piece of watermelon, fading from green on one end to pink on the other.
“They’re a culmination of the earth’s processes,” Nourse says. “These are the beautiful things it can make when the conditions are perfect.”
As is the story with many hobbies, rock collecting, or rockhounding, as hobbyists call it, is something that Moudy says he stumbled into.
“My very close friend, Dr. Robert Feldmeth, a biology professor at the Claremont Colleges, called me up one day and says, ‘Roark, I’m going out to Boron to look for crystals. Do you want to come?’ ” Moudy says. “I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t have anything to do, so I’ll go.’”
Moudy says he and Feldmeth spent the day climbing around a pile of mining leftovers in the desert. “I absolutely knew nothing of what I was looking for.”
He was skeptical of the hobby at first, especially after watching a young couple “on their knees with an eyeglass six inches from the ground, picking up things with tweezers.”
His opinion changed, though, when he met another rockhound on the hunt that day. The man offered to share part of his haul with Moudy.
“He had found some crystals that looked like melted ice – very clear,” Moudy says.
Moudy happily took the crystals home and set them in his garage. The next day, he was surprised to see they looked completely different.
“This beautiful piece of crystal ice — it looked like someone had put whitewash on it. It was completely white — ruined,” he says.
As it turned out, the crystals were chemically unstable when removed from the environment in which they grew. The crystals were decaying, but Moudy’s interest in rock collecting was germinating.
In the years that followed, he amassed specimens from 28 countries and 20 states, attended gem and mineral shows where armed guards protected rooms in which rubies, emeralds and diamonds sat piled upon silver platters, began a venture that imported geodes from Mexico, and became heavily involved in Glendora Gems, a rock-collecting club.
When it came time this year for Moudy to make some room at home by downsizing his collection, he decided to give something back to his alma mater.
“I felt like I had an obligation. I felt that Cal Poly had given me a wonderful education” Moudy says. “I attribute my success to the education I received.”
He’s hoping that the donated specimens will add a pop of beauty to the halls of the College of Science, and will provide educational opportunities for geology students.
“I wanted to find a place where it would be used,” he says.