Gratitude, Foresight and Investment in the Earth Sciences

The year was 1863. The United States was in the middle of a brutal and bloody Civil War, pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. The future of the Republic was in the balance.

President Abraham Lincoln, seeking to both win the war and preserve the union of “United” States, set aside the fourth Thursday of November that year, it was Nov. 26, as a day to reflect on the many blessings he and his fellow citizens enjoyed, even in their circumstances – to express gratitude, even in hard times.

I was reflecting on this story this past week as my wife, kids and I visited extended family, spending time with loved ones, resting, relaxing and strengthening the bonds that connect us.

Thankfully, the United States is not experiencing the same level of strife and discord today as it was 155 years ago. And yet, we face challenges – significant challenges – in this country and around the globe. For many, including many current and aspiring AAPG members, these are hard times.

Foundation and Foresight

Back in 1967, AAPG legend Michel T. Halbouty and others anticipated hard times – foresight that comes from working in an industry subject to commodity cycles, where bust follows boom.

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The year was 1863. The United States was in the middle of a brutal and bloody Civil War, pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. The future of the Republic was in the balance.

President Abraham Lincoln, seeking to both win the war and preserve the union of “United” States, set aside the fourth Thursday of November that year, it was Nov. 26, as a day to reflect on the many blessings he and his fellow citizens enjoyed, even in their circumstances – to express gratitude, even in hard times.

I was reflecting on this story this past week as my wife, kids and I visited extended family, spending time with loved ones, resting, relaxing and strengthening the bonds that connect us.

Thankfully, the United States is not experiencing the same level of strife and discord today as it was 155 years ago. And yet, we face challenges – significant challenges – in this country and around the globe. For many, including many current and aspiring AAPG members, these are hard times.

Foundation and Foresight

Back in 1967, AAPG legend Michel T. Halbouty and others anticipated hard times – foresight that comes from working in an industry subject to commodity cycles, where bust follows boom.

In response to the uncertainty inherent in our industry they formed the AAPG Foundation, first as a trust, and then in 1986 as a non-profit corporation, to prepare in times of plenty for the inevitable times of lean. And for more than 50 years that’s precisely what the Foundation has done.

Unlike the AAPG, which as an individual member-based professional association is focused principally on Members, the AAPG Foundation takes a wider view. As a charitable organization its focus has to create a public benefit and not simply benefit AAPG members. That’s why contributions are tax deductible under U.S. law.

With that, the AAPG Foundation, led by Chairman Jim Gibbs, Vice-Chairman M. Ray Thomassen, Treasurer Lee Backsen, Secretary Mike Wisda, and Trustees Larry Jones and Jim McGhay, reflects the values and interests of AAPG members and the geoscience community. AAPG Foundation contributions come (mostly) from petroleum geoscientists and the AAPG Foundation is evaluating and funding projects and programs from these perspectives.

One of the values the Foundation emphasizes is support for science education, especially the Earth sciences, and scientific scholarship to advance the science and ensure a steady and qualified stream of incoming geoscience professionals.

The Foundation has several programs dedicated to this effort, including the L. Austin Weeks undergraduate grants, the Grants-in-Aid program, which supports graduate-level research, and the Deana and Paul Strunk Military Veterans Scholarship Program, which provides financial support for U.S. military veterans pursuing geoscience degrees and with an interest in a career in the petroleum industry. Each of these programs is supported by a dedicated endowment fund, which continues to grow through individual contributions.

A second value is identifying and highlighting excellence in the Earth sciences, honoring those whose professional contributions in science, the workplace and the classroom support the underlying scientific and educational missions of the Foundation. This is accomplished by recognizing the Teacher of the Year in primary and secondary school and Distinguished Educators at the university level.

A third value is cooperation, and it’s an important part of how the Foundation accomplishes its mission. One significant partner is AAPG itself, as the Distinguished Lecturer program, the Imperial Barrel Award competition, the Visiting Geoscientists program, and direct support for the AAPG Bulletin are all joint programs between the Association and Foundation. These programs support the objectives of both organizations.

The AAPG Foundation also supports the American Geosciences Institute’s efforts to strengthen Earth science education in primary and secondary schools. It does that by supporting the global Earth Sciences Week program – a week each October dedicated to highlighting the Earth sciences and equipping teachers, both in the United States and abroad, with teaching elements to use in the classroom.

The Foundation has also supported AGI’s development of an Earth sciences curriculum for use in schools.

Most recently, the Foundation has joined the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Foundation in its support of the Geoscientists Without Borders program, which provides grants to geoscience faculty members to apply their scientific skills to humanitarian projects in the developing world.

The Trustees also join other organizations in launching new projects, providing seed funding to help them launch new initiatives that advance the gesociences.

Investment in the Future

Where does the money come from?

This support for programs is the result of contributions of people like you and me, typically AAPG members who want to contribute to building a strong foundation for the geosciences, particularly the petroleum geosciences. These are folks who, like Michel Halbouty, want to take a portion of what they’ve gained as petroleum professionals and invest for the future. Invest it for the future of our science. Invest it for the future of our profession.

These investments, no matter how big or small, help to knit us together, to strengthen our community, to enable us to provide support for the next generation of geoscientists, and to help us collectively survive hard times.

As 2018 draws to a close, I invite you to consider how you can be a part of this important mission.

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