Two longtime AAPG members whose dedication and leadership has guided and inspired the AAPG Foundation’s growth and impact on the geosciences for decades, have been named recipients of the AAPG Foundation’s top honors for 2022.
This year’s honorees are:
● James A. Gibbs, chairman of Dallas-based Five States Energy and who served as the Foundation’s chair from 2013 through late last year, is this year’s recipient of the L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal, the Foundation’s highest honor, given in recognition of extraordinary philanthropy and service directed to advance the Foundation’s mission.
● Richard “Rick” Fritz, president of Fritz Energy Partners in Tulsa and a past executive director of both AAPG and the Foundation, is this year’s recipient of the Chairman’s Award, given to recognize those who have made extraordinary contributions – monetary or service – to the Foundation.
Both awardees have previously served as AAPG president and have career-long records of active support and leadership for the Foundation, working tirelessly to solidify its present while ensuring its future.
“We couldn’t be happier to announce these outstanding people as our award recipients – they’ve both been important supporters and leaders of the Foundation, certainly for all of the current century,” said Foundation Chair Jim McGhay.
“Jim Gibbs certainly exemplifies the Weeks Memorial Medal guidelines of extraordinary philanthropy and service,” McGhay said, who noted that he’s been “an active participant in the Foundation for over 40 years as a consistent, focused leader through both good and challenging times.
“He has led growth, been a generous contributor, and he encourages others to develop their leadership skills.”
McGhay also called Fritz “a driving force in generating growth of the Foundation, especially in calling attention to the Foundation’s role and value.
“Rick is very focused on growing and expanding our strengths and outreach,” McGhay said, “and he loves to tell people about the Foundation.”
Both recipients will be recognized at events planned for the upcoming International Meeting for Applied Geoscience and Energy 2022, set Aug. 28-Sept. 1 in Houston.
Jim Gibbs: Leadership Extraordinaire
Jim Gibbs, in announcing his retirement as chair in October 2021, immediately became a Foundation Trustee Emeritus and a permanent member of the Foundation’s Members of the Corporation – appropriate roles for him based on a lifetime of service and leadership.
“It’s been an amazing experience and honor to have been part of the Foundation for so many years,” Gibbs said as he stepped away from his role as chair. “I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish during the past decade, but now I believe it’s time for someone else to have a turn with that experience.”
His accomplishments as chair included growth for the Foundation’s portfolio – sometimes in dramatic terms – and innovative changes and wide-reaching impact for Foundation-supported programs.
Support for geoscience education, particularly, benefited under Gibbs’ leadership, both in providing scientific expertise as well as in recognizing educational excellence.
Gibbs himself contributed to geoscience education and professional development over the past several decades, lecturing to groups and in 1999 writing what proved to be a seminal publication, “Becoming an Independent Geologist: Thriving in Good times and Bad.”
He received his bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Oklahoma, served a stint in the U.S. Navy and then returned to OU for his master’s degree. His career started with the California Company (now Chevron), but after two years he opened an office in Dallas as a consulting geologist and independent producer. He started Five States Energy in 1985.
Gibbs also is an AAPG past president and Honorary Member, and has served or led a plethora of AAPG committees and activities. He also is a recipient of AAPG’s Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award.
Rick Fritz: Engagement with Excellence
Rick Fritz, who has spent much of his life in leadership roles, became an AAPG student member in 1975 and was active in AAPG activities practically from the start of his professional career, which began with Exxon following graduation (bachelor’s and master’s degrees) from Oklahoma State University.
He left Exxon in 1982 to work for Masera Corp., becoming its president in 1990. Five years later he was named president of MXC Corporation, working as an independent explorationist.
But his AAPG career began to hit full stride in 1999 when he was named executive director of AAPG and the AAPG Foundation, becoming responsible for management of the Foundation’s programs and for managing funding requests from geological groups and the general public.
He also recommended and was responsible for the oversight of a $35 million development campaign.
Fritz stepped away from his AAPG jobs in 2011, first as an explorationist with SM Energy, based in Tulsa. He then started Council Oak Resources in 2015 and Fritz Energy Partners in 2019.
His involvement with AAPG as a volunteer, however, has remained active and often intense. He had important leadership roles with the Division of Professional Affairs (president), for the House of Delegates and on a host of committees, in addition to recently serving as AAPG president and as chair of the Advisory Council.
Awards and recognition for his volunteer efforts include a Certificate of Merit, the Harrison Schmitt Special Award and the AAPG Distinguished Service Award.
And, importantly for generating support for the geosciences, he was chair of the Foundation Trustee Associates from 2015-16.