Professional societies in general depend heavily on the volunteer efforts of their members to implement the goals of the organization.
Despite the good intentions of all involved, there’s always a need for various individuals to assume positions of leadership to guide the array of volunteers to work cohesively and effectively to attain the objectives of the various committees, projects and more.
Independent geologist James A. Gibbs – secretary for the AAPG Foundation Trustees, past AAPG president and an AAPG Honorary Member – is an individual who wears the mantle of leadership quite comfortably.
In recognition of his skills as a leader, Gibbs was chosen to receive this year’s Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award. The award honors individuals who have provided excellence in Association leadership.
In addition to AAPG, Gibbs’ active participation in other professional geoscience organizations has resulted in myriad awards, including honorary membership in the Dallas Geological Society and SIPES. The AGI selected Gibbs to receive the William B. Heroy Outstanding Service Award in 1994.
Gibbs, who serves as chairman of Five States Energy – which he founded in 1984 – is a third generation prospector-geologist who hails from Wichita Falls, Texas.
“I grew up in a very active petroleum community,” Gibbs said, “and from my earliest days, Dad took me with him when he went to watch wells around Wichita Falls.
“Drilling a well was always like opening a Christmas package,” he said. “You don’t know what you have until you get down to the bottom.
“I’ve always been fascinated with being at a well site when we reached TD and saw the log and found out if it was a success or not.”
Years after his early indoctrination into the oil patch, Gibbs found himself contemplating where he wished to attend college.
“Dad went to Oklahoma University, and he said I could go anywhere, but if I went to Oklahoma he would help me,” he said. “So that was exactly where I wanted to go.”
Following completion of his undergraduate work, Gibbs served two years in the U.S. Naval Reserves as a lieutenant and communications officer aboard the carrier USS Intrepid. He later returned to OU where he received a master’s degree in geology.
Gibbs’ thoughts on the qualities entailed in leadership ability are straightforward.
“Enthusiasm is the most important thing,” he said. “If someone is really interested in something, they’ll find ways to participate in it, and if they have enough desire and interest in it, somehow they become a leader.
“Few things are done by an individual alone,” Gibbs noted. “It involves bringing in other people and enlisting their help and trying to get them enthusiastic about the same idea or the same goal.”
When queried about any one accomplishment that brings him the most pride, Gibbs emphasized it has more to do with the profession than his own career.
“I’m always interested in seeing people able to succeed at what they do,” he said. “I’m fortunate in that I’ve been happy in what I’ve been doing, so I’m able to talk to people about finding a track for their own careers.
“Working with students or young people or geologists who are seeking a career change or seeking to enhance their career in some way and trying to help them think through that decision and find something they become passionate about and then succeed in are things I’m most interested in,” Gibbs said.
One of Gibbs’ contributions to the Association and profession includes the publishing of “Finding Work As a Petroleum Geologist: Hints for the Jobseeker,” which he voluntarily wrote in 1985 at the beginning of a depression in the industry. The booklet has been kept current and is still available on the AAPG Web site.
“Working with others and students to help them find a career in the geosciences or find their niche in business is the thing I get the most satisfaction about.”
Spreading the Word
Over the course of Gibbs’ 50-plus years of membership in AAPG, he has served on a host of the organization’s councils and committees, chairing several of these.
In fact, his interest in assisting and encouraging students is evidenced by his 10-year stint as a member of the AAPG Visiting Geologists Program, which entailed speaking to students at various universities about employment opportunities in the geosciences both within and outside the petroleum industry.
Gibbs’ enthusiasm for the profession no doubt has inspired innumerable students.
“To me, geology – and petroleum geology especially – has always offered excitement because, for one thing, there’s instant gratification,” he said. “You know if your logic and experience and what you’re doing is successful or not, and there’s an immediacy to the work that I have found exciting.
“I also think the field is broad enough, there are a lot of avenues of pursuit in it,” he added. “It’s a very broad area in which to play, with fewer boundaries on it than in a lot of fields you see people working in.
“It’s a challenging field, one in which people can find ways to get a lot of satisfaction.”