Dr. Thomas Wayne Clark Hilde Ph.D.

thomas hilde

Dr. Thomas Wayne Clark Hilde, 82, of Bryan, Texas passed away on August 1st, 2020 in his home in Bryan surrounded by loved ones. Pastor Elaine Gomulka of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church visited the home with family gathered. Tom lived his full life well. He felt blessed and grateful for each day he was given. He was generous with his time and talents, was principled, and tried to give his best to everyone.
Thomas Hilde was born in Stanley, North Dakota to Elmer Ray (E.R.) Hilde and Lillian (Hynek) Hilde on May 4th, 1938.  He went to school and grew up in Washburn, North Dakota where he loved hunting and fishing along the Missouri River and was an Eagle Scout. In high school he was All-State in football, basketball and band, playing trumpet.  He married Dianne Louise Fundingsland on June 21st, 1959 in Parshall, North Dakota. They honeymooned by driving across the country in an MG convertible to San Diego, California where they made their new home. His son and daughter were born in San Diego.  He graduated with a B.A. degree in geology from San Diego State University in 1963. The adventure of a research expedition to the Vermilion Sea while still a student, however, led him to shift to oceanography and ultimately marine geophysics. Dr. Hilde became a marine geoscientist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California where he contributed to the international development of the theory of plate tectonics, one of the great scientific discoveries of the 20th century. During the Vietnam War, he worked as a civilian scientist doing seafloor mapping for the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office. In the early 1970s, he moved his young family to Taipei, Taiwan, having been asked by the government of Taiwan to develop the country’s oceanographic capacity by creating the Institute of Oceanography at National University of Taiwan. He led multiple international research expeditions from Taiwan to study the tectonics of the great ocean trenches in the Western Pacific. During this period, he also discovered what was at the time in 1973, the deepest point of the ocean in the Marianas Trench. He continued his work in marine geophysics and tectonophysics during his Doctor of Science work at the University of Tokyo under the guidance of Prof. Seiya Uyeda.
Following his doctorate, he continued his work as a geoscientist at the United Nations science bureau based in Bangkok, Thailand (ESCAP-CCOP). He later, in 1977, moved his family to Texas hired as a full professor at Texas A&M University where he taught and conducted research for 38 years and remained Professor Emeritus upon his retirement. At Texas A&M, Dr. Hilde created and directed the Geodynamics Research Institute, where he developed a cutting-edge side-scan sonar system for mapping the structure of the ocean floor. The Institute famously hosted a decades-long premiere international symposium of geoscientists. Dr. Hilde was a globally engaged scholar and researcher who published prolifically, traveled extensively, and had many friends and colleagues around the world who he loved and admired dearly. He loved the ocean and going out to sea on joint-nation research expeditions and inspired many students to become successful marine geophysicists. He was a teacher-mentor-researcher to his many students over the years, followed their careers closely and was proud of each and every one of them.  He traveled worldwide and through his work, had audiences with the King of Tonga, and the Empress of Japan. He also in later years was able to achieve long-held dreams of descending to the seafloor in a deep-sea submersible and, during a sabbatical with his wife in Japan, hiking to the top of Mt. Fuji.
He had a commanding presence and to many he was bigger than life.  He was kind, generous and tough when he had to be.  He had a profound appreciation and love for God’s hand in the creation of all of nature.  He loved his country and his family fiercely, his church family, and was proud to wear his Stetson and Luccheses as a Texan.  His greatest joys during his retirement were traveling with his wife and family, across the United States and internationally, his dogs, and raising plumeria in his garden.  Driving trips gave him the opportunity to teach his children and grandchildren the geology of our country.  He also loved spending time on his land in Colorado with friends and family, in the glory of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Tom was welcomed in Heaven by his parents and his sister, Donna Mae Jefferis.
Left to cherish his memory is his wife of 61 years, Dianne; son, Thomas C. Hilde and his wife Ines Hilde of Takoma Park, Maryland; daughter, Kristine Nader and her husband Richard Nader of Corinth, Texas; his treasured grandchildren and “best buddy”, Joshua, Sophie and Caroline Nader; beloved brother-in-law, Frederick Jefferis of San Diego, California; sisters-in-law, Rita Enge of Surprise, Arizona, and Marlene Hanson of Grand Forks, North Dakota; and many nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to extend special thanks to, Elizabeth C. Berigan, MD, the doctors and nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Brazos Valley Hospice, and especially David, for their loving care.
A Celebration of Life is will take place on a future date.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in College Station, Texas or to Brazos Valley Hospice.

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The family greatly appreciates donations made to these charities in Thomas Wayne Clark Hilde 's name.

Our Savior Lutheran Church

1001 Woodcreek Dr
College Station, TX

Hospice Brazos Valley

502 W 26th St.
Bryan, TX
(979) 821-2266

Memories Timeline


  1. Dr. Hilde was the kindest man. I grew up next door to the Hildes. He saved me from being attacked by a dog on the street as he came running out to help. I will never forget that day. I know Bear and all the rest of his dogs are welcoming him in heaven. God bless you Mrs. Hilde.

  2. My Dad, Dr. Melvin Friedman, had nothing but kind thoughts of Dr. Hilde during their time at Texas A & M University. I visited with Dr. Hilde on occasion, while a student at Texas A& M. Wow, a fantastic life was lead as a scientist, but also as a family oriented gentleman with caring values to family, friends, and the pooches. Mrs Hilde, Thomas and Kristine, may Dr. Hilde’s memory be a blessing to us all.

  3. Tom, your leaving the mortal world is tough on all of us. Thankfully, you have left behind plenty of memories and morals for us to live a meaningful life. You were a true ‘guru’. May eternal peace be your companion.

  4. Tom, it’s great to know you since I was a 23 years old youngman. Now, I’m 73, but feel young. This is the teaching from you! I also have many of my own students, probably more than 100. I still teach them the Plate Tectonics and the magnetic lineations. We miss you, Tom!

  5. So sorry to learn of Tom’s death. He was very kind and generous to me as a young scientist at Texas A&M University and I enjoyed our conversations about tectonics and life very much. He was indeed bigger than life!

  6. I received this extremely sad news during hot burning summer.
    I don’t know how I can express my deep condolences.

    When my first visit to abroad (more than 30 years ago!),
    Texas A&M university was in the spring break season with blue bonnets. Old wing Geodynamics building has a massive architecture full of riches and profound furnitures, and Professor Tom Hilde was sitting in the middle. I was deeply impressed when he introduced 3D computer graphics of marine magnetic anomaly of the Japan Sea. That’s my real start of marine geophysics.

    Thank you for all your kindness.
    I would like to offer my deepest sympathies.

  7. Tom, I will always remember you as my best teacher. I remember clearly your excitement when you were back from the submersible adventure. I still keep those tiny pieces of the deep seafloor rocks. Thank you for your lessons and your word of wisdom. You will always be in my heart. My deepest sympathies to Diane and family.

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