The Prairie News
CANYON, Texas — A West Texas A&M University alumnus will take audiences back in time to when dinosaurs still roamed the Llano Estacado in an upcoming discussion for Friends of the Cornette Library.
Dr. James L. Cornette, son of the library’s namesakes and a 1955 WT graduate, will present “The Late Triassic Period of Palo Duro Canyon” at 10 a.m. Nov. 13 in the Hazlewood Room at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, 2503 Fourth Ave. in Canyon. The discussion will be held virtually, as well; to register, visit wtamu.libcal.com/event/8469600.
Cornette is a professor emeritus of mathematics at Iowa State University who became fascinated with dinosaurs when, in 1980, he was walking in a portion of Palo Duro Canyon that’s part of the Figure 3 Ranch, owned by the family of his late wife, Carolyn Christian Cornette.
“I came across a phytosaur tooth,” Cornette said. “It was a very insignificant fossil, a broken tooth that was only about three-fourths of an inch in size, but learning about it and about the Triassic period put me very much on the path of paleontology.”
After retiring from Iowa State and the National Institutes of Health in 2000, he earned a master’s degree in paleontology in 2002 from the University of Kansas. Since then, he has volunteered at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and worked with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in researching plant life from approximately 56 million years ago.
“I sort of knew what paleontology was before finding that tooth, but when I learned it was about 204 million years old, that grabbed me,” Cornette said.
“I first met Jim and Carolyn Cornette 12 years ago and found them to be charming, interesting and gracious people,” said Shawna Kennedy-Witthar, Cornette Library director. “Over the years I have enjoyed hearing Jim talk about the paleontology digs that he has participated in, and I know our audience will learn immensely from this presentation.”
Founded in 1975, The Friends of the Cornette Library is made up of members whose mission is to support the intellectual pursuits of WT faculty, staff, students and the people of the Panhandle region. To that end, they do such things as helping to build the collection by donating books and other library materials in addition to sponsoring programs such as this presentation.
James L. Cornette said he is delighted to speak to the library’s supporters.
“Oh, it’s a very special library,” he said. “It’s named for my parents, and WT and Canyon are home for me.”