A new named grant has been created by the AAPG Foundation in honor of the late Hannes Leetaru, an admired, award-winning geoscientist and longtime presence in AAPG leadership who died in May 2023.
The Hannes E. Leetaru Memorial Grant, sparked by a request and contributions from colleagues and friends Gary Weir and Reggie Spiller, is intended for a geoscience graduate student whose research concerns the origin, exploration and development of geology or petroleum geology.
The proposed fund, which is now open for donor contributions, will be active once it secures a minimum of $25,000 in contributions. The amount of the annual award will be determined by the Foundation trustees.
Donors to the fund will be recognized in the AAPG EXPLORER and in all subsequent annual reports.
“We requested a GIA (grant-in-aid) to be set up in memory of Hannes for his lifelong dedication to service for AAPG, and all the contributions he made to education and research at the University of Illinois,” Weir said, a sentiment echoed by Spiller.
“I contributed to the Foundation to make sure that Hannes’ legacy lived on at AAPG,” Spiller said about his role in its creation, “and I challenge my colleagues to do the same.”
“In his memory,” Weir added, “please contribute to this fund.”
Donor preferences regarding distribution of the scholarship will receive “first consideration” by the Foundation’s Grants-in-Aid Committee, with preference given to geoscience graduate students at U.S. universities “with focused research on reservoir characterization in particular to understanding petroleum accumulations, carbon sequestration or other applications in geoscience and energy.”
“We are always appreciative of finding new ways to help geoscience students further their education, and we’re honored to be offering a grant in the name of someone who was a friend to students and colleagues and was an important part of our profession and Association,” said Foundation Trustee Chair Jim McGhay.
“This named grant will be a wonderful way for contributors to provide financial aid to a quality student,” McGhay added, “and to help ensure the future of geoscience excellence while at the same time honoring Hannes and his legacy.”
Hannes E. Leetaru was a widely known, dedicated AAPG member who was completing his term as president of AAPG’s Division of Environmental Geosciences when he died on May 31, 2023. He was 69.
At the time of his passing, Leetaru was the head of Subsurface Energy Resources at the Illinois State Geological Survey in Champaign, Ill. He previously was the Survey’s head of Petroleum Geology, a role he started in 2016.
An AAPG member since 1976, Leetaru had served on nearly 20 committees for AAPG, the House of Delegates and on the Advisory Council, and also was a member of the Energy Minerals Division and the Division of Professional Affairs.
He held leadership positions twice for DEG – as vice president in 2007 and president in 2022-23.
In addition, from 1999-2003 he served terms as treasurer, secretary, vice president and president of the AAPG Eastern Section, which subsequently presented him with its Outstanding Educator, Distinguished Service and Nelson Memorial awards.
Leetaru received his bachelor’s degree in geology from the State University of New York at Fredonia, his master’s degree in geology from Syracuse University, and his doctorate in geology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
He started his career as an advanced exploration geologist with Getty Oil (1978), and as senior geologist for Union Pacific Resources (1984), both in Houston. Leetaru also was senior petroleum geologist for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for more than 33 years starting in 1989.
Weir fondly recalls meeting Hannes “in my first year (1971) at SUNY Fredonia,” he said. “Hannes was a close personal friend and we talked a couple times a month throughout our careers. He was always at the forefront of using computers for interpretation and mapping, (and) one of the early researchers involved with carbon capture, utilization and storage.
“Hannes was a personal friend who was always ahead of his time,” Spiller added. “When we were in undergraduate school back at SUNY Fredonia in 1974, Hannes was the only person in the class that was trying to use a rudimentary (Wang) computer to gather data and make maps. He told us all the future of geology would be done on a computer screen.
“None of us believed him back then,” Spiller said, “but how right he was.”
Leetaru twice received an AAPG Certificate of Merit, and in 2012 received the A.I. Levorsen Memorial Award.
His final column as DEG president appeared in the June 2023 AAPG EXPLORER, published exactly at the time of his passing. In it, he wrote of the critical importance of carbon capture as a dynamic for both the industry and the profession, and outlined the progress and initiatives DEG took under his leadership to address the issue.
“It’s been an exciting year at the Division of Environmental Geosciences,” he wrote. “Carbon capture, utilization and storage, along with the problems and opportunities presented by orphan wells, have both been hot topics in the industry … and will continue to be the focus of the DEG.”
The AAPG Foundation is hopeful that the $25,000 minimum funding for the Leetaru Memorial Named Grant can be secured quickly, enabling the GIA Committee to make it available to students.
To contribute to the fund, simply go the AAPG Foundation webpage, at foundation.aapg.org; email [email protected]; or call (918) 560-2644.