Fred A. Dix Jr., executive director emeritus of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the AAPG Foundation, died May 30 at his home in Tulsa. He was 73.
During his 23 years at the helm of AAPG, Dix guided the Association through two boom and bust cycles, as the Association grew from fewer than 15,000 members to its peak of over 44,000 in 1985 to its present 30,000. He retired in 1996.
Dix also served as executive director of the AAPG Foundation, which grew 20-fold in funds available for worthy projects in support of the science of petroleum geology. Dix actively continued to serve the foundation as director emeritus after his retirement.
Also during Dix's tenure, the Association also grew in international stature, with now about 25 percent of the membership residing outside the United States in 115 countries.
Dix was working in the Houston office of Mobil Oil in 1972 when he was appointed AAPG treasurer to complete the term following the untimely death of the officeholder. At that time, a search for an executive director for AAPG was under way.
"In a short time, the Search Committee and the Executive Committee became aware that the man we were looking for was actually among us," said then-AAPG President James E. Wilson. The position was offered to Dix, who left his job at Mobil to take over the reins of AAPG headquarters activities.
Dix always considered Wilson as a mentor and they consulted frequently, as Dix also did with the succeeding presidents.
Dix was a raconteur who always had a joke or a story to tell, and his personal communication abilities led him to be first-name friends with the pioneers and giants in the profession, including Wallace Pratt. Those giants also included Lewis W. Weeks, whose donation resulted in the building of new headquarters offices in 1975. Dix also was instrumental in raising the funds for the Pratt Tower, built in 1984 -- a building that "twins" the Weeks building and provides headquarters office space as well as rental income for the Foundation.
A friend and confident of the late legendary wildcatter Michel T. Halbouty, Dix's repertoire of tales of their experiences and encounters became legendary in itself.
As executive director, Dix frequently told inquirers that he was commissioned by the Executive Committee that hired him to "run AAPG like a business," which keeps to a minimum a stream of ego-driven and non-revenue-producing activities that Dix said saps an organization of vitality and funds.
In addition to instituting a fiscally responsible headquarters staff, he also was known for his astute understanding of the needs of the individual geologist, and numerous new programs were initiated or improved. Dix's ability to navigate the sometimes rocky rapids of internecine association politics earned him a reputation as a master diplomat.
During "bust times," Dix was known to decline pay raises, preferring instead for any salary increase to be "spread around" among the headquarters staff "so that everyone could at least get something." He said his goal was to manage with compassion and common sense.
With the executive committees supporting Dix's leadership, AAPG soon went from a deficit to a surplus financial position, which allowed the association to expand its services and products to the memberships and established AAPG globally as a premier association appreciated and admired by both industry and non-industry organizations.
AAPG members who did not know him personally got a sense of his personality through his Executive Director's column in the monthly EXPLORER, of which he always signed off with a joke, which was usually a corny "groaner" he had gleaned from swapping jokes and stories with other geologists.
Dix joined AAPG in 1957. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1983, was named Honorary Member in 1986 and received AAPG's Special Award in 1998. The Fred A. Dix Memorial Grant was established by the AAPG Foundation in his honor.
Dix, a native of Connellsville, Pa., received his bachelor's degree in geology from Rutgers University and returned to Rutgers to earn a master's degree after serving with the U.S. Air Force in Japan as a communications officer.
His first oil industry experience was with Standard Oil Co. of California as a petroleum geologist in Salt Lake City.
Dix joined Mobil in 1965 as a geologist in Jackson, Miss. A year later he was transferred to Corpus Christi, Texas, and in 1972 to the Houston office. The next year, he became AAPG's executive director.
He is survived by his wife, Jean; a son, Stephen, of San Ramon, Calif., and two daughters, Cynthia Harris, of Tulsa and Jennifer Brown, of Broken Arrow, Okla.; and six grandchildren.