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AAPG Giant Marlan Downey Passes

The Association has lost one of its legends with the recent passing of Marlan W. Downey.

He died peacefully on Memorial Day, May 29, in Dallas at the age of 85, surrounded by his wife, Marea, and their six children. He was laid to rest on June 1 in Dallas and a celebration of his life was held on June 24.

He was elected president of AAPG in 2000 and received AAPG’s highest honor, the Sidney Powers Medal, in 2009.

Along with the enduring impact he made in petroleum geology and within the Association, Downey was a man who made a lasting and positive impression on everyone he encountered.

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One of the men in this photo needs no introduction. The other is Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States.

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The Association has lost one of its legends with the recent passing of Marlan W. Downey.

He died peacefully on Memorial Day, May 29, in Dallas at the age of 85, surrounded by his wife, Marea, and their six children. He was laid to rest on June 1 in Dallas and a celebration of his life was held on June 24.

He was elected president of AAPG in 2000 and received AAPG’s highest honor, the Sidney Powers Medal, in 2009.

Along with the enduring impact he made in petroleum geology and within the Association, Downey was a man who made a lasting and positive impression on everyone he encountered.

In the words of some of those who knew him best:

“AAPG has lost one of our finest. I had the great benefit of knowing Marlan since I was a toddler,” said past AAPG President Scott Tinker.

“He was a man of few words; but when he spoke, we all listened! Marlan was not free with his praise, so if it came, it really meant something. After my term as AAPG president, Marlan wrote a two-sentence email to me. It is a treasured sentiment that I will hold onto for life. I will miss him dearly,” Tinker added.

“Serving with Marlan on the AAPG Executive Committee was one of the best experiences of my volunteer life,” said Robbie Gries, who before she became AAPG’s first woman president served as president-elect during Downey’s presidency. “His management model and astuteness regarding business were things I tried to retain. Plus, he was just a very kind person.”

“Marlan, indeed, was an amazing guy; quite appropriate that he received the Powers Medal in 2009,” said past AAPG President Paul Weimer.

Andrew Hurst, AAPG Member and chair of production geoscience at the University of Aberdeen, related how he met Downey 20 years ago when he was part of a group from the University of Oklahoma visiting the University of Aberdeen on an academic mission.

“That visit and a return visit to Dallas and Norman a few months later became the seed for a lively and always enlightening professional relationship and, a close personal friendship,” said Hurst. “I have no idea what Marlan saw in me but his care and mentoring surely made me a better professional and a better man.”

“I will forever miss ‘Well pardner, you may like to think about that from another perspective …’ and ‘Why don’t you write something about exploration risk, Andy? I am confident that people will find your thinking interesting,’” he added. “Marlan and I shared thoughts and ideas freely and I suspect that it will be challenging to find a similar relationship elsewhere. What a great man and what a privilege to have his friendship.”

Downey was born in Falls City, Neb. on Oct. 2, 1931, where he grew up.

Upon graduating Peru State College with a degree in chemistry, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and served in an artillery unit during the Korean War.

After two years in the Army and an honorable discharge, Downey earned a master’s in geology from the University of Nebraska.

He joined Shell Oil in 1957, retiring in 1987 as president of Pecten International, Shell Oil’s international subsidiary. He founded Roxanna Oil in 1987, then returned to corporate life in 1990 to serve as president of Arco International, retiring in 1998. He then joined the University of Oklahoma as Bartell Professor and chief scientist of the Sarkeys Energy Center. He remained active, serving on three oil company boards, chairing Roxanna Oil and actively consulting around the world.

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