Roger Slatt, a well-known and influential AAPG Honorary Member, died on Feb. 22, 2020 in Norman, Okla., after treatment for cancer. Roger had a distinguished career, both in academia and industry, and he was an important leader in the broad field of reservoir geosciences. Born and raised in San Francisco, he received his doctorate from the University of Alaska. His first foray into academia was teaching for six years at Memorial University and Arizona State. He then spent 14 years working at Cities Service and at Arco Research and Arco International. Roger returned to academia in 1992 as the Department Chair at the Colorado School of Mines. He departed in 2000, when he joined the faculty at University of Oklahoma. At OU, he held the Gungoll Family Endowed Chair; he continued to supervise students until the time of his death.
In industry and academia, Roger was an early advocate and practitioner of integrated reservoir teams, which combined geology, geophysics and reservoir engineering. Although this approach is commonplace today, it was not always the case. His work helped establish the emerging field of reservoir characterization, with a special and extensive focus on deepwater sandstone reservoirs. He was an early researcher in the study of shales in that he published a book on argillaceous rocks in 1992. Years later, he made important contributions in the development and understanding of tight-rock reservoirs. Roger did extensive service for many professional groups and received many honors and distinctions from many different groups and societies.
A longer obituary will appear in the AAPG Bulletin later this year. In the meantime, we would like to illustrate Roger’s influence through testimonials from individuals who worked with him during his career.
While working in industry, Roger was viewed as an inspiring and supportive manager:
Bob Loucks: “I will miss Roger and I owe him a lot. He was one of my strongest mentors in the early days of the 1980s. He hired me at both Cities Service and at ARCO. He provided me with many opportunities. One of my best managers ever.”
Jory Pacht: “Roger was my first and best boss. I was not his best subordinate. He was both a leader and a mentor to us. Roger had the rare gift of being able to get the absolute best out of the people he managed, and he inspired their fierce loyalty. The lessons Roger taught me about leadership have stayed with me throughout my entire career and helped me greatly in my own.”
Chuck Vavra: “I worked with/for Roger the entire time he was at ARCO. He always stood up for his people, even during the many ‘dark days’ when heads were rolling. He saw my potential and did everything he could to support me. I remember after one of the very brutal ‘reorganizations,’ I was placed into Roger’s group. In our first meeting with Roger’s new boss, that boss turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know who you are or what you do, but Roger said we really need you – we will see.’ As it turned out, I was the last research geologist turning out the lights after the BP merger. The Roger quote, which he loved to use at the end of his presentations: ‘More work is needed.’ I still use it.”
John Kaldi: “Roger hired me into his reservoir group at Arco in 1987, and he set up projects that I worked on with some amazing Arcoids in Alaska, California, Gulf Coast, North Sea and Indonesia. Roger instilled in me the benefits of working in multidisciplinary teams, a concept I used as a template in academia when setting up the Australian School of Petroleum. Roger and I co-taught several courses, including reservoir characterization, and my students still use his textbook. Another memorable contribution he made to my life was to introduce me to sushi (via Nakamoto restaurant in Plano, Texas)! Many a fine lunch consuming ‘raw bits’ with Roger and Linda! Vale Roger Slatt!”
As an academic, Roger worked closely with colleagues to develop research and teaching programs, and he mentored professors, researchers and students.
He developed many close working relationships with industry:
Neil Hurley: “Roger was a mentor to me. Years ago, he wrote an article in the AAPG EXPLORER in which he encouraged professionals to consider leaving industry to pursue academic careers. His main interest was the transfer of acquired knowledge and wisdom to help the students. Roger’s article had a big impact on me. Ultimately, I left industry to teach at the Colorado School of Mines, where Roger became my mentor and boss. We had great collaborations together.
“I will always fondly remember Roger for his friendship, and his strong focus on field geology. He was a doer, more than a talker. Sadly, the geologic community has lost a great one.”
Paul Weimer: “Roger was a close collaborator for 16 years, in co-teaching courses (both University and external), organizing research conferences and technical sessions, and ultimately co-authoring two books. More than anyone I have ever worked with, Roger was a tremendous, stimulating, creative sounding board for generating ideas, and then transforming them into action. His decision style was one of presenting facts, discussing possible solutions, finding the best one, and then moving on. No drama, histrionics, or excessive chatter. He also placed a high value on investing into his students’ careers and future. His passing has created a large void in the geo-community.”
Gabriel Borges: “Dr. Slatt has been an inspiring force for hundreds of geoscience students over decades, not only through his academic teachings and achievements but also through his intellectual curiosity and humble character. His passion for science and forward-thinking consistently pushed his work beyond the edge of knowledge.”
Henry Pettingill: “Ironically, despite all the rewarding professional collaborations I enjoyed with Roger over 30 years – from integrated reservoir geoscience to teaching to recruiting many of his students – my fondest and most vivid memories are of gastronomy. During the seminal 1998 AAPG-EAGE Research conference on deepwater reservoirs in Almeria, Spain that he and Paul Weimer co-organized, I introduced Roger to Tapas Bars and he was instantly hooked; his favorite was Iberian Ham (‘pata negra’), or as Roger subsequently would say, ‘bring me some of that blackfoot ham.’ Later, the dining was in the field in Arkansas, after a morning looking at the turbidites, where he insisted we take the group to the ‘world famous’ Pig Pit Barbecue. And finally, enjoying dinners with him in Norman, most memorably at his son’s restaurant. The pleasure he got from good geoscience was equaled or surpassed by his enjoyment of people and how he was able to interact with us.”
Roger felt a strong obligation to students and their careers, especially after Universities. He exhibited many ways, but most prominently in his work on student job expos.
Dub Peace: “Roger was one the founders of the various student expos held annually around the country by the AAPG and its AAPG Sections. In 1997, he worked with Mary Beth Hattiburg and Susan Morrice in sponsoring a gathering in Susan’s office. The event was attended by 20 students and representatives from three companies, where the students presented their geologic work and were interviewed for jobs. All in attendance thought this get-together was a good idea, so another such meeting was held the next year. This idea was then seized upon by Mary Broussard in Houston and the first AAPG Student Expo was held at Rice University in 1999.
“When he arrived at Oklahoma, he organized the first AAPG Spring Expo at OU in 2001, initially sponsored financially by the AAPG, SEG, and numerous companies. He expanded on the Gulf Coast Expo by adding short courses and field trips along with prizes for best student presentations. This ‘OU Spring Expo’ was the first one annually outside of the Houston area and is now known as the ‘MidContinent AAPG Student Expo.’”