AAPG’s 100th Anniversary Celebration

On 9 February 1917, geologists gathered in Tulsa, Oklahoma to start something special and enduring, which is still relevant today as the premier organisation for petroleum geologists
This article appeared in Vol. 14, No. 3 - 2017


Guest Editorial, from Thomas Smith 

I still remember my excitement after graduating in geology and being hired by an oil company to work in Alaska, America’s ‘last frontier’. Arriving on the job in Anchorage, I tackled the normal ‘housekeeping’ chores before getting down to a lot of training in that first year. However, one task still stands out, even after 44 years: becoming sponsored and applying for membership to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists – always known as the AAPG. It still rings as a proud moment that has stayed with me throughout my career. I had arrived and was determined to be the best geologist I could be. Attending the conference celebrating the first 100 years of this organisation has the same aura of excitement that will stay with us all and point the way forward. 

The thrill I felt just signing up for AAPG must have been pale compared to the meeting which took place in Tulsa early that February day in 1917. A great war was being waged in Europe and the US was just months from joining it. The industry was relatively young but with a promising future. The geologists that gathered that momentous day were drawn to this profession eager to see around the next corner or through the next doorway; possibly not much different from what I felt in heading to Alaska. The romance of this profession is still a draw and continues to excite. 

I arrived in time to register and go upstairs to the George R. Brown Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom in Houston, Texas, to attend the opening session and awards ceremony. Some of the honorees were geologists I have worked with, learned from, and admired. To get our attention, the ceremony opened with Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, probably better known as the theme tune from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. After some introductory speeches, the honorees were introduced, given their plaques, and paraded to stage left. The last two, Edward D. Dolly, who received the Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award and Larry Meckel receiving the Sidney Powers Memorial Award, were both allowed to speak to this nearly full auditorium. 

  • Larry Meckel receiving the Sidney Powers Memorial Award.

What they said would set the stage not just for this, the 100 Year AAPG Anniversary conference, but also into the next decades for this organisation. Edward Dolly commented that the educational opportunities and professional relationships offered to members of AAPG means a lot to all of us. “Be active, attend talks, network, keep learning” is a mantra that we all should use. Larry Meckel took this theme a step further, referring to his “resource pyramid” and paying tribute to the people that helped him develop a passion for geology. We all start with the many educators and mentors near the base, with people more important to our development further up the pyramid. Of those who inspire and lend him their unconditional support, the top spot for Larry goes to his wife Barbara – a sentiment that I am sure many of us will agree with in regard to our own lives and families. 

From the opening ceremonies to my departure, the conference did not disappoint. It had something for everyone in the many themes that had been in the planning stages for about 10 years. I was encouraged to see so many excellent students and young professionals giving posters and talks, eager and ready to take the reins of AAPG and guide it into the next century. If they could see the organisation now, how it has grown and continues to expand our knowledge of this great field, I truly think those original organisers would be justifiably quite proud.


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