Jim McGhay was still a young geologist when he first realized there was a larger purpose to his career than achieving and maintaining personal success – and that purpose included the AAPG Foundation.
“Early in my career I knew that I had gotten to where I was, in large measure, due to the ‘investments’ that many people had made which helped me, either personally or financially,” he recently recalled, “and when I was able to pass it forward with contributions of time and money it was an honor to do so.
“And I believed in the Foundation’s mission,” he added. “I still do.”
That mission – built solidly on starting, growing and supporting educational and scientific activities in the field of geology – continues to define McGhay’s life, albeit now in a new and much more active role: He recently was elected chair of the AAPG Foundation’s Board of Trustees, replacing longtime chair James Gibbs, who retired and is now a Foundation Trustee Emeritus.
McGhay is the seventh person to be elected chair of the Foundation Trustees since the board’s creation in 1977, and as chair he will oversee the business of the Foundation as well as working with the Trustees to determine and guide the strategies that will be necessary to maintain and grow the Foundation’s impact on geoscience education and professional development.
The Long Reach of Foundation Programs
AAPG Foundation programs directly touch thousands of geoscientists around the world at both the educational and professional levels, through initiatives that help ensure continued excellence in training, expertise and in presenting the newest trends in geoscience thoughts and discoveries.
Thousands and thousands more in the general public are impacted via teachers who, with Foundation support, are able to bring quality geoscience education to their students. And thousands more people around the world are impacted via today’s university-level students who, again with Foundation support, become tomorrow’s professionals and future decision makers.
And then there are Foundation-funded programs that directly benefit the public, such as the Geoscientists Without Borders initiative, Colorado’s Dinosaur Ridge area and the Wiess Energy Hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
It’s a lot of support to a lot of programs and people – all possible thanks to those who financially support the Foundation.
“To be able to support the people in the community that are having an impact on geoscience education at all levels in extremely fulfilling,” said McGhay.
He embraces the responsibility he feels to oversee and fulfill the intentions of those who donate to the Foundation.
“(At) first I was concerned whether I could handle this job – it seemed daunting – but I was happy that the Trustees would put their trust in me.
“Next, I realized there are lots of resources here with me, including past chairs, the Trustees, the Members of the Corporation and staff,” he added. “So yes – we can do this.”
The Path Forward
McGhay, an AAPG Honorary member, is a senior geoscientist and business development adviser for Tulsa-based Mid-Con Energy Operating.
He joined AAPG in 1972 and by the early 1980s was supporting the Foundation – “in small ways,” he said, “but I got more involved when I joined the Trustee Associates in 2010.”
He served twice on the AAPG Executive Committee – once as treasurer and again as chair of the House of Delegates – and has been active on numerous AAPG committees, including most recently with leadership on the Association’s crucial Global Events Oversight Committee.
“Personally, I’ve been interested in ‘following the money’ related to AAPG for many years,” he said, noting his stints as treasurer and with the Investment Committee.
And how does he see the current state of the Foundation?
“Our Foundation is in very good financial condition due to the past generosity of our donors and the astute management by past trustees,” he said, “so we are on solid footing to continue to pursue our mission and assist programs and people who are focused on our areas of interest.”
But McGhay quickly notes the challenges ahead.
“The needs of the geoscience community are large now and for the near future,” he said, “and the larger general population has a need now more than ever to understand the role that geoscience and energy play in the community and the lives of all people. It will be a great challenge to support adequately and efficiently the people and programs that are addressing those needs.
His focus, then, is to make sure the Foundation is seen by AAPG members and the greater world as an attractive and wise investment in a path toward both geoscience excellence and public awareness of energy’s importance in our world.
“We must find ways to connect the passions of the donor community, which I believe is both large and willing, with the mission and vision of the Foundation, so we can grow the impact in the community,” he said.
The sheer variety and reach of Foundation programs often surprise people – even longtime AAPG members often fail to connect how contributions to the Foundation directly fund such valuable items as the L. Austin Weeks Undergraduate Grants, the Imperial Barrel Award program and the Distinguished Lecture program.
“The Trustees continue to search for new avenues where we can be of service,” McGhay said. “Several are being considered.”
And at the same time …
“Our Foundation is in the business of supporting the people involved with education in the geosciences, so we will continue to stay the course with those programs that are having success with that goal, even as we seek to find those new or innovative efforts that match our mission,” he said.
“Short term, I believe we need to advance our communication of what we do and how we can help those people doing the heavy lifting out there in the community,” he said. “As the future of energy and the environment change, we also need to address how to help the geo-community to be involved in solving the challenges that this represents.”
“We have a great deal of ‘communication’ to undertake.”