Thomas E. Hopps was a lifelong Californian who loved geology, loved working the Ventura Basin and other complex state structures and loved, especially, doing what he could to help others.
That help was often displayed in the way he shared his geologic knowledge and insights with teams on successful discoveries. Or in the way he advised and shared that same experience with people who wanted to make discoveries.
It was there in his helping students and young geologists as a mentor, or as a field trip leader, or as a passionate volunteer for committees throughout the Pacific Section.
Or as a philanthropist – a generous attribute that he willingly imparted with numerous charitable organizations.
And now that legacy of helping others is about to add a new chapter: A new AAPG Foundation Named Grant-in-Aid is being funded in his name.
The Thomas E. Hopps Memorial Grant, initiated by his wife, Lydia Hopps, and his sons, Benjamin and Daniel, will be a memorial tribute to Hopps intended specifically for students in the AAPG Pacific Section.
The Foundation’s Grants-in-Aid provides financial assistance to graduate students whose thesis research has application to the search for and development of petroleum and energy-mineral resources, and/or to related environmental geology issues.
Grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 are awarded annually to cover expenses directly related to the student’s thesis work, such as field work or laboratory analyses. The grants are based on merit, financial needs and, in the case of the Hopps Grant, a specific connection to the Pacific Section.
Tom Hopps was an accomplished explorationist who loved the thrill of drilling and discovering oil – and whose ties to AAPG started early in his career. He joined AAPG in 1967 as a geology student at Cal State Long Beach, during which time he worked for Signal Hill Oil and Gas.
His first job after graduation was as a field geologist for the Burlington Northern Railroad in Montana.
His life and career took a significant turn in 1971 – he married Lydia, a union that was celebrated for their entire life together, and together they moved to Ventura, Calif., where he began working for Argo Petroleum, creating the foundations for an exhilarating career in exploration.
With Argo he started building a geologic knowledge and expertise with basins throughout California, and in 1979 he launched his own consulting business – the first step toward he and Lydia forming Rancho Energy Consultants in 1982.
With Rancho Hopps became known as the “resident geological expert” of the Ventura Basin, producing maps, cross sections and interpretations that are still considered quintessential foundations for the area.
His most significant contribution then was the Ventura Basin Study, a relevant, data-rich document of historical importance.
His sharing of geologic expertise continued throughout his entire career through a prolific list of technical articles and basin studies in a variety of scientific journals.
But even as his career became increasingly successful, Hopps found time to be active in local and Section geological activities, serving in leadership roles (including president) for both the Coast Geological Society and AAPG’s Pacific Section.
In 2000 he was awarded the Pacific Section’s Honorary Life Membership award. To the end, Tom was an oil man and was planning delineation and development wells on his most recent successful discovery in the San Joaquin Basin. He was nearing completion of a co-authored publication on the Santa Barbara Channel when he passed in April 2020.
A memorial written last year for the Pacific Petroleum Geology Newsletter by AAPG Member Vaughn Thompson remembered him “kind-hearted and generous … Those whom he touched are lucky to have his bright spirit, forever running through him.
“He will be remembered by all those who will benefit from his legacy.”
Preserving His Legacy
Contributing to the AAPG Foundation’s Thomas E. Hopps Named Grant – and helping to ensure that his legacy lives on in the careers of student who share his love of geology – is an easy process.
One option: Simply go to the AAPG website, at Foundation.AAPG.org/Grants-in-Aid-Program.
Another way: Send an email to
[email protected] or to [email protected]. Or call Diane Keim, AAPG administrative coordinator, at (918) 560-2644.
Either way, your gift will help geology students far into the future with the chance to pursue their geoscience dreams in the name of one who loved to help others. And helping others is something Thomas Hopps would have liked.
Editor’s note: Vaughn G. Thompson provided material for this report.