This year the American Association of Petroleum Geologists recognized and celebrated a century-long commitment to advancing the science of petroleum geology and the professionalism of those of us privileged to work in this industry.
Oil and natural gas are foundational energy sources. This commodity fuels modern society and serves as feedstock for plastics, pharmaceuticals and fertilizer, among many other products. The world as we know it today would not exist without the diligent efforts of AAPG members. That’s a fact that deserves celebration.
Petroleum geologists have to be innovative and creative and “see” the unseen in order to open new plays. Our business also requires us to take a long view, to be thinking about the future as we act today. Consider George Mitchell and Mitchell Energy whose “overnight success” in the Barnett Shale was 20 years in the making. Petroleum professionals need vision.
Rewind 50 years. AAPG celebrated its golden anniversary in turbulent times, in some ways similar to today.
Then AAPG President Michel T. Halbouty, a noted petroleum geologist, oilman and entrepreneur thought about the future — the future of the profession and the future of the Association. And he challenged AAPG: “Let’s do what we can today to ensure that AAPG and the geosciences will be strong tomorrow.”
And that led to the formation of the AAPG Foundation with the signing of the Declaration of Trust on April 4, 1967.
Under the leadership of Chairman Dean A. McGee, Morgan J. Davis and W. Dow Hamm, the AAPG Foundation embarked on a mission to engage AAPG members and others to maintain and grow a permanent non-profit foundation to support educational and scientific advancement in the field of geology.
The Foundation’s Future-Looking Past
That remains the AAPG Foundation’s objective five decades later under the leadership of Chairman Jim Gibbs, a past president of AAPG, Vice Chairman M. Ray Thomasson, also a past president of AAPG, Treasurer Lee Backsen, Secretary David Worthington, and Trustees Larry Jones, a past chair of the House of Delegates, and Mike Wisda.
So, as we celebrate a century of petroleum geoscience at AAPG, we’re also celebrating a fifty-year commitment to the future of our science at the AAPG Foundation, which was incorporated as a non-profit charitable foundation in the state of Oklahoma in 1986.
And over the past 50 years the Foundation has built a remarkable legacy.
More than 19,800 donors have contributed to the AAPG Foundation since inception. And it’s been AAPG members, friends and colleagues who have generously provided 98 percent of the support.
Average annual contributions have grown from $14,000 in 1969 to about $1.6 million today, while grants awarded have grown from $21,000 in 1969 to an average of $1.5 million today, and the Foundation’s asset base has climbed from $168,000 to $47 million today.
Much of the asset growth came from a capital campaign co-chaired by past trustees Larry Funkhouser and Jack Threet from 2005 to 2010, and included several substantial gifts, including a $10 million gift from Marta Wulf-Weeks and the Weeks family.
Since 1997 alone, the AAPG Foundation has granted more than $4.5 million to students in more than 30 countries.
As these numbers attest, Mr. Halbouty’s vision of creating a strong foundation for the geosciences, both today and well into the future, is on track at the AAPG Foundation.
In addition to providing direct support to geoscience students, the AAPG Foundation is committed to supporting programs that meet its obligations to provide broad societal benefit.
For example, since 1992 it has supported an annual Teacher’s Day in conjunction with AAPG’s annual meeting, providing science teachers in the community of the venue that year with direct earth science and petroleum geoscience exposure.
The AAPG Foundation has also provided support to Friends of Dinosaur Ridge, a private charitable organization outside Denver dedicated to conserving and educating the public about the fossil record preserved in a segment of the Morrison Fossil Area Natural National Landmark. And for the past several years, the AAPG Foundation has been an associate partner of the Society of Exploration Geophysicist’s Geoscientists Without Borders program, funding projects that clearly demonstrate how the application of geoscience can benefit those living in vulnerable or developing communities.
In addition, the AAPG Foundation provides significant financial support to the AAPG Bulletin and other publications to support and ensure that cutting-edge geoscience is disseminated broadly throughout society.
Several programs that you’d recognize immediately — the Imperial Barrel Award program, the Distinguished Lecturers program, the Visiting Geoscientists program and the Grants-in-Aid scholarship program — are joint programs between AAPG and the AAPG Foundation. They meet the missions of both organizations, and the AAPG Foundation provides significant financial support to each.
Of particular note is the Deana and Paul Strunk Military Veterans Scholarship program, created to offset educational expenses for U.S. veterans returning to school to pursue undergraduate degrees in geoscience. With substantial support by Deana and Paul Strunk, a past trustee of the AAPG Foundation, this program is approaching its goal of raising $1 million to support this program well into the future.
Becoming a Trustee Associate
In 1977, the AAPG Foundation trustees authorized the creation of the Trustee Associates program to recognize sustained donors to the foundation. The requirement to join is a pledge of $15,000, which can be paid over several years. But, the Trustees launched an initiative in Houston earlier this year, lowering the pledge to $10,000 until we reach 300 Trustee Associates. There’s still room for you! Please visit the AAPG Foundation webpage (foundation.aapg.org) for more details.
We’re building a strong foundation for the geosciences here at the AAPG Foundation. That’s what we’ve been doing for 50 years, and thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed to this effort. But we’re not done yet, and as we look forward to the foundation’s next 50 years we need your support.