A new international award has been established to honor the memory of Vlastimila "Vlasta” Dvořáková.
This award is given to those who have promoted growth and awareness of the AAPG organization internationally, outside the United States, and created opportunities for the Association to reach a wider audience of geoscientists worldwide. The award will help recognize the importance of AAPG volunteers dedicating themselves to promote the mission and programs of the Association, fostering cooperation with other geoscience organizations, as well as growing the organization and its cultural and ethnical diversity.
Quota and Opportunity
Dvořáková was born March 15, 1960, and grew up in Bzenec, Czechoslovakia, where her father was an agricultural agent for the central government and her mother was a village clerk. As a consequence of travels with her father, she developed a desire to study tropical biology. However, she was denied the opportunity to study biology because of a quota system that favored the children of party members. Dvořáková therefore took advantage of an opening for a student of geophysics at the University in Brno.
After two years in Brno, Dvořáková gained admission to the Charles University in Prague, Czechoslovakia's premier university, where she finished graduate studies in geophysics. Later she joined the Geofyzika Company in Brno, Czechoslovakia, where she worked with Jan Uhmann in the petrophysical laboratory and with ČestmírTomek on seismic surveys. Around the time of the fall of the "Iron Curtain,” she joined František Hrouda in the search for deeper understanding of the magnetic susceptibility of rocks at KAPPA (AGICO) Ltd. She then worked for a series of private companies, including GeoGas, Duke Engineering and Services, and Framatome, before beginning work with the Czech Geological Survey.
Part of Dvořáková's role with the survey was public outreach. When the global debate on hydraulic fracturing emerged around 2009, she became the voice of reason in central Europe, representing the middle ground between industry and fearful activists. She gave many interviews on TV and radio, speaking authoritatively about petroleum geology and oil and gas business.
Career and Legacy with AAPG
Dvořáková joined AAPG in 1996 and began an illustrious volunteer career that greatly strengthened the European connection to AAPG. Among her many important international volunteer roles were technical program chair for the 2007 Athens International Conference and Exhibition (ICE), sponsorship co-chair for the 2011 Milan ICE, member of the House of Delegates since 2006, member of the Professional Women in Earth Sciences (PROWESS) Committee since 2008, and coordinator of the Visiting Geoscientist Program.
Dvořáková also served in important roles in the Europe Region. In 2006, she joined the Europe Region Council, which led to her becoming president of the Europe Region in 2011. After serving her two-year term, she remained a strong voice and hardworking servant of the Region, taking part in a conference call during the Denver Annual Convention and Exhibition (ACE) in 2015 – only 10 days before her passing and without drawing attention to her failing health.
Dvořáková was passionate about the AAPG Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) and was a major contributor to the success of the Europe Region competition held annually in Prague. Dvořáková's last expression of pride in AAPG was to acknowledge the pleasure she took in the Europe Region team winning the 2015 Global IBA championship in Denver shortly before her death. It is fortunate, given her premature passing, that AAPG had already recognized Dvořáková's service with Certificates of Merit in 2008, 2012 and 2013, and the Distinguished Member of the House of Delegates Award in 2012, although these awards do not capture the breadth and depth of Dvořáková's contributions to AAPG and the profession of petroleum geoscience.
Dvořáková was a brave person who believed that women should have the same opportunities in life and science as men. She was brilliant with foreign languages. She grew up with parents who spoke German and Czech, and Russian was a primary language of education during the Iron Curtain days. In addition to those languages, Dvořáková could communicate in Slovak, Polish, and a few words of French. Non-European AAPG members who listened to Dvořáková's charmingly accented English pronunciations during committee meetings probably were not aware that she did not speak a word of English until after the fall of the Iron Curtain, when she was about 30 years old.
As her colleague Istvan Berzci noted, "(Vlasta) opened the door of central and eastern Europe for the AAPG … She lived the first two decades of her professional carrier in a communist country almost isolated from the west. She understood and respected the mentality of the people in the central and east European countries with their tumultuous and tragic centuries.”
Everyone who met Dvořáková remembers how she combined precise work and timeliness with emotional engagement. Her female friends admired her fashion sense and personal style. She was a successful geoscientist, volunteer and role model, and a witty and warm friend to all who knew her.
She left us all too soon on June 12, 2015, after a difficult disease and we will miss her greatly. As her dear friend Terry Engelder noted, "She gave a lot of herself and her means to participate with her friends and colleagues within AAPG. They were her world and meant everything to her and she never had a chance to say goodbye.”
As Dvořáková demonstrated with her relentless service to the Association, this new award is dedicated to a Member or Associate who has demonstrated excellence, enthusiastic participation, organizational creativity, leadership, integrity, dedication and passion the activities of theAssociation and their promotion and organization outside the United States. The individual must have served in volunteer positions within the organization for a minimum of five years, either at the regional or global level. He or she must have played a leadership role in promoting and organizing international events (ICE, Regional conferences, workshops, etc.), establishing greater connection and collaboration between the regional professional and academic societies and the Association, thus aiding the Association in expanding its outreach and opportunities.