Berg’s Inspirations Serve as Model

This month I begin my writing to you with mixed emotions, concerning the passing of Sidney Powers medalist Robert R. Berg on June 13.

I am sad because I will really miss him; but I am very pleased to tell you about him in hopes of inspiring you, as he inspired many of us who knew him.

Bob Berg, or “R squared,” as he was known, practiced petroleum geology in the U.S. Rockies from 1951-66. He was a teacher, researcher and administrator at Texas A&M University from 1967-99. While at A&M he served as adviser to over 100 graduate students, including past AAPG president (2004) Steve Sonnenberg and me.

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This month I begin my writing to you with mixed emotions, concerning the passing of Sidney Powers medalist Robert R. Berg on June 13.

I am sad because I will really miss him; but I am very pleased to tell you about him in hopes of inspiring you, as he inspired many of us who knew him.

Bob Berg, or “R squared,” as he was known, practiced petroleum geology in the U.S. Rockies from 1951-66. He was a teacher, researcher and administrator at Texas A&M University from 1967-99. While at A&M he served as adviser to over 100 graduate students, including past AAPG president (2004) Steve Sonnenberg and me.

He received AAPG’s highest honor, the Sidney Powers Medal, in 1993. He served as a mentor to me both during my academic tenure and long after (for which he also may have deserved a medal). Many small things during my workday as a petroleum geologist still remind me of him, because he was the consummate applied petroleum geologist.

After he officially retired from teaching at A&M, he maintained his office so he could continue to pursue his passions, helping students and studying petroleum geology.


One of the most valuable lessons that students learned from Dr. Berg was to not give up on a perceived incomplete data set. In geoscience in general and petroleum geology in particular, data sets tend to be imperfect or incomplete. He taught us to make assumptions or look for other relationships so we could reach a conclusion, solve a problem or make a recommendation. (This is a valuable attribute in petroleum exploration and production.)

But as I reflect back on Dr. Berg’s most significant contribution to both his students and others who became associated with him, I think it was his sharing of infectious enthusiasm for geology, especially petroleum geology. Sure, he taught basic principles to students, taught industry short courses, published technical articles and gave oral presentations. But long after the semesters ended and the pages were turned, his enthusiasm and inspiration endured in us. He motivated hundreds of life-long learners and dedicated petroleum geologists.

My relationship with Dr. Berg is not unique among AAPG members. Most, if not all, of us have been aided or inspired by someone before us, and I hope we feel a sense of indebtedness. While a backward looking “thank you” is certainly appropriate, the real satisfaction for a mentor occurs when we “pay it forward.”

Perhaps that is why so many busy professionals donate their time, talents and treasures to organizations like AAPG.


Inspired by service to the membership,  the previous and current Executive Committees met in Tulsa on June 30 and July 1. With background from last year’s EC, your current EC approved the following three important measures:

  • Preliminary operating expense budget of $12.2 million for 2006-07.
  • Open an AAPG office in London.
  • Reorganize committees into seven thematic groups, with a “committee manager” for each group. Some committees will receive revised mission statements and some will be merged.

The EC is committed to providing clear objectives for each committee, because your volunteer time is too valuable to waste. In future columns I will cover each of our groups of committees. But for now, summer is a good time to commit to service to your profession. One idea is to go to AAPG’s Web site, review the committeeszcuaaysbsewxzyqsrubxrfzzzq and their mission statements, contact a chair and ask to be on the committee of your choice.

In the spirit of Bob Berg, commit to share your time, talent or treasure with others.

‘Til next month ...

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