Long heralded as a pioneer in the petroleum geology industry, L. Austin Weeks made a name for himself not only in the field, but as a generous benefactor who paid his success forward. Not only is he the namesake for the AAPG Foundation’s highest honor, the L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal, but he is also the founder of one of the Foundation’s most vital programs for advancing geoscience education.
Weeks, along with his wife Marta, made a significant contribution to the Foundation in the late 1990s that went on to support thousands of students in their pursuit of geoscience education.
The gift paved the way for aspiring geologists to take field trips, attend geology conferences and apply funds toward tuition costs and the purchase of tools to use in the field, like rock hammers, compasses and more.
The program was initially earmarked for Student Chapters but expanded in 2014 to provide aid to more individual students and their student-led geoscience associations.
This expansion has garnered a great deal of interest and attention over the past couple of years and has provided a new avenue of opportunity for students who hadn’t previously been exposed to AAPG to learn about the myriad benefits of the Association.
It generated so much interest that the Foundation went on to form an official committee of judges to take on the tasks and lengthy process of reviewing, scoring and selecting top applicants each year.
When asked who among Foundation volunteers would be able to assist with coordinating the selection process amidst the growing demand for grant funds, Ron Nelson enthusiastically stepped forward to assume the leadership role as chairman.
He recruited a team of judges to assist with the process and is currently working on a formal scoring process to standardize the application assessment process, which will enable judges to score using a normalized ranking method.
Nelson is a longtime AAPG volunteer who has provided guidance in various selection processes within AAPG for many years, and whose service continues to provide a level of continuity in AAPG Foundation endeavors.
Nelson’s work in leading the committee is inspired by two driving motivations: tapping students’ talent and working with a very talented group of professional geoscientists.
“I agreed to chair this review committee because it is an important part of the AAPG Foundation donation portfolio,” Nelson said. “And because I enjoy facilitating the work of a very focused and knowledgeable group of volunteers.”
The new committee consists of a strong roster of AAPG and AAPGF supporters, including Lee Billingsley, Scott Cameron, Denise Cox, Don Clarke, Bob Countryman, Jim Funk, Jennifer Goodwin, Priscilla Grew, Terry Hollrah, Neil Hurley, John Kaldi, Joe Lambiase, Steve Laubach, Don Lewis, John E. Lucken, Jim McGhay, Peter MacKenzie, Bill Monroe, Victor Ogunmola, Kay Pitts, Borden R. Putnam III, Dave Rensink, Rusty Riese, Valary Schulz West, Charles Sternbach, Paul Weimer and K.C. Weiner.
Nelson said the quality of the top applications is remarkable, showcasing the importance of being able to provide funds.
“Over the last couple of years of reviewing the undergraduate grant applications, I have found that there is a large group of undergraduate students out there, both domestic and international, that are very dedicated to our profession and will work tirelessly to advance their knowledge and career,” Nelson said. “This deserves our combined support.”
When asked what would motivate his peers to support this effort, Nelson shared that “AAPG Foundation donors should consider donating to the AAPG Foundation L.A. Weeks Undergraduate Grant program because this support comes at an important time in the students’ career that can solidify their career choice, especially in the low price environment our industry is experiencing today.”
If you are interested in supporting undergraduate students through the L. Austin Weeks Undergraduate Grant program, contact programs coordinator, April Stuart, at (918) 560-2664 or [email protected]