It’s always fortunate when an organization has a recognized go-to person it can rely on to assume a position of leadership to rally the membership to accomplish its target goals.
Independent geologist John Amoruso -- past AAPG president, AAPG honorary member and AAPG Foundation Corporation member -- is that kind of guy.
Besides his considerable AAPG involvement, Amoruso has served as president of several other prestigious geoscience organizations, including GCAGS, SIPES, HGS and AGI. Along with taking on this array of presidential responsibilities, his additional positions of service in these and other professional groups comprises a list that fills pages of single-spaced text.
It comes as no surprise to his colleagues that Amoruso was selected to receive the inaugural Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award, which honors those individuals who have shown excellence in Association leadership.
The award did, however, take the recipient by surprise.
“I was flabbergasted,” Amoruso said, “and very, very pleased. Mike and I were friends who respected and liked each other, and I consider this award a great privilege.”
Amoruso’s career in geology almost didn’t happen.
“When I got to Tufts for undergraduate work, I was enrolled in engineering,” he recalled, “but I wasn’t interested or adept at it, so I looked around to see what I liked.
“I took my first course in geology and had the most dynamic professor I ever had,” Amoruso said. “He was a fantastic lecturer, and I took to it right away and have liked it ever since.
“I think of it as a real blessing,” he added, “because if you like your job you never have to work -- and I love what I do.”
The affable Amoruso noted he has always liked to participate in whatever group he joined. But he points to his service in the U.S. Navy as the probable training ground for the many leadership roles that ensued.
“We were on a destroyer -- the USS English -- and we had a lot of responsibilities, because a destroyer is a small ship and there weren’t a lot of officers,” he said. “When something was your responsibility, you got it done -- we all had to pitch in and show leadership.”
Amoruso noted he has held some job or other with AAPG since the mid-1960s, when the annual meeting was held in Houston. As a newcomer to Houston in 1965, he joined the HGS and began his long record of service with that organization.
When queried as to how one succeeds as a leader, Amoruso emphasized it’s very different in a professional society than in a company where someone in a position of authority tells you what to do, and you must do whatever you’re told.
“In a professional society, you’re all volunteers,” he noted. “Fortunately, with geologists you’re dealing with a lot of people who want to help the science and the profession. In fact, the vast majority of geologists get involved for the betterment of everybody.
“Everyone’s a volunteer, and you’re a worker at one time and a leader at another time,” Amoruso said. “Volunteers usually are dedicated to helping, and most of the time you have people willing to work together to advance the goal that particular society has.
“You lead by instilling the desire to foster the already driven purpose of helping -- they want to do the work, and you want to help them to reach the mutual goal.”
Enter the Young
The new Halbouty award is ranked as AAPG’s second most distinguished honor, second to the Sidney Powers Memorial Award. Only one award is given during any one calendar year.
The Halbouty Award previously was known as the Michel T. Halbouty Memorial Human Needs Award, but the award’s intention and name were changed last year by the Executive Committee to honor outstanding leadership.
This award and the Sidney Powers Memorial Award shall be mutually exclusive. Amoruso will receive his honor during the opening session of the Annual Convention in Long Beach, Calif.
He noted it’s been a joy to be involved in all levels in the professional societies -- emphasizing the friendships developed and the network that goes hand-in-hand with membership and hands-on participation.
As might be expected, this high-profile leader has a keen vision of what must come next.
“The one thing you have to get used to is that for the success, growth and continuation of any organization, the younger members have to step up and fill those spots themselves,” Amoruso said. “If everything is right with the organization, they will want to do the same thing -- to help the profession and the science as much as you do.
“You can’t be a hanger-on and keep some position that others could take,” he noted.
“The only way to keep it viable is to involve the younger people -- and there are a lot of the young ones who are very dedicated.”