Backsen, Thomasson to Receive Top Foundation Awards

Two long-time AAPG members and ardent supporters of the AAPG Foundation have been named recipients of the Foundation’s top awards for 2020.

• Lee B. Backsen is this year’s recipient of the L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal, the AAPG Foundation’s highest honor, given in recognition of extraordinary philanthropy and service directed to advance the mission of the AAPG Foundation.

• M. Ray Thomasson has been named the winner of the Chairman’s Award, given to recognize those who have made extraordinary contributions – monetary or service – to the Foundation.

In both cases, this year’s recipients have earned their honors through decades of Foundation support and leadership that have helped ensure geoscience excellence in educational initiatives as well as programs that have benefited the public.

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Two long-time AAPG members and ardent supporters of the AAPG Foundation have been named recipients of the Foundation’s top awards for 2020.

• Lee B. Backsen is this year’s recipient of the L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal, the AAPG Foundation’s highest honor, given in recognition of extraordinary philanthropy and service directed to advance the mission of the AAPG Foundation.

• M. Ray Thomasson has been named the winner of the Chairman’s Award, given to recognize those who have made extraordinary contributions – monetary or service – to the Foundation.

In both cases, this year’s recipients have earned their honors through decades of Foundation support and leadership that have helped ensure geoscience excellence in educational initiatives as well as programs that have benefited the public.

Lee B. Backsen

Backsen, a Foundation Trustee Associate since 1998 and a Trustee since 2012, has served in various roles as a Trustee Associate officer and on several AAPG committees, including the Advisory Council and the House of Delegates.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from Iowa State University and began his exploration career in 1963 with Shell Oil in Houston, a 17-year stint that was followed by various officer and management roles with several companies, including Kerr McGee, Pelto Oil, Spectrum Oil and Gas, Burlington Resources, Grant Geophysical, UMC Petroleum and, as president of General Atlantic Gulf Coast, a subsidiary of General Atlantic Resources Inc.

From 2000-08, as an oil and gas consultant, Backsen provided prospect evaluation and exploration management to industry clients that included Ft. Apache, Andex Resources, Continental Land & Fur Inc. and Grant Geophysical.

His leadership for AAPG and the AAPG Foundation has been just as successful, including twice serving as chair of the Trustee Associates’ annual meetings, being the ACE Fundraising chair in 2004, and serving in the House of Delegates for 22 years.

He and his wife, Alice, also have been active with the Presbyterian Church in various global humanitarian outreach efforts.

M. Ray Thomasson

Thomasson has been a Foundation Trustee Associate since 1995 and a Trustee from 2011 until stepping down last year.

He has dedicated the past 40 years of a 52-year exploration career to advancing the use of multi-disciplinary teams in the integration of geology, petrophysics and geophysics, in order to explore for hydrocarbons using the “play concept.”

Thomasson grew up in Columbia, Mo., and his introduction to geology was as a junior in high school when he worked during the summer as a field hand on a mining survey crew, mapping phosphates in the Phosphoria formation in southeast Idaho. His interest in geophysics started with a job for United Geophysical as a jug hustler, assistant surveyor and computer during his freshmen year in college.

He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from the University of Missouri, then served two years as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Air Force. He then attended the University of Wisconsin, receiving his doctorate with the dissertation, “Late Paleozoic Stratigraphy and Paleotectonics of Central and Eastern Idaho.”

He declined a job teaching paleontology and stratigraphy at the University of Illinois, instead starting his career as a junior geologist with Shell Oil in Midland, Texas. He went on to hold many positions at Shell, including manager of exploration and economics, acting chief of operations, and manager of forecasting planning and economics, which led to his being named Shell’s chief geologist.

After leaving Shell he was named vice president of exploration for McCormick Oil & Gas. Eventually he formed Spectrum Oil and Gas, consulted for Texas Crude and then became president and CEO of Pend Oreille Oil Company before starting his present company, Thomasson Partner Associates Inc., in 1991.

For AAPG, Thomasson served on a host of AAPG committees in addition to being named an AAPG Distinguished Lecturer, chair of the Advisory Council and, in 1999-2000, he was AAPG president. Such leadership brought him AAPG’s Distinguished Service Award, Honorary Membership Award and, in 2009, the Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award.

He has four daughters and is married to Merrill Shields, who is an attorney and retired as chief-of-staff for Gale Norton, a former attorney general of Colorado.