Former AAPG president Daniel L. Smith has been a formidable presence in the Association since he became an Active member in 1958.
He has served as chair and member of 16 standing or ad hoc committees of AAPG and has been a Foundation Trustee Associate since 1999. Numerous honors/awards have been heaped upon this talented petroleum geologist and hardworking, committed volunteer.
In addition to being an AAPG Honorary Member, Smith’s extensive list of accolades includes being a Distinguished Member of the AAPG House of Delegates, an AAPG Certificate of Merit, a DPA best paper award and the Houston Geological Society’s (HGS) Gerald A. Cooley Award for “service above and beyond the call of duty over many years.”
Smith is a past president of HGS and has also contributed his time and leadership skills to SIPES, GCAGS, AIPG, NOGS and LGS.
For all those reasons – and more – it likely surprises no one that Smith has been selected to receive the prestigious Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership award for 2011, which will be presented at the upcoming AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston.
When asked when he first became aware that he possessed leadership skills, Smith said it occurred early on.
How early? He was, for example, a dedicated member of the Boy Scouts, where he assumed a leadership role in each of his various endeavors in this organization.
Smith was raised in a close-knit family and said there was never any doubt that he would attend college.
But why geology?
He related that his best buddy from high school was an avid mineral collector who dragged him along to the geology department during freshman orientation at University of Texas so they could listen to the faculty talk up geology.
“One guy especially nailed the idea of geology for me,” Smith said. “He was with Exxon in the summer doing mineral exploration in Brazil in the Amazon jungle, where he lived for months.
“I was always an outdoor person, and I said I want to do what this guy is doing,” Smith recounted. “But I never made it to the Amazon jungle.”
Maybe not, but he’s been a highly successful oil and gas explorer – particularly in south Louisiana, where he has discovered many oil and gas fields. As executive vice president of Sandalwood Oil & Gas, Smith continues to work this area, while mentoring younger geoscientists at the company and those he encounters via professional society committees.
Smith’s views on leadership were honed over time by various experiences, including a stint in the U.S. Air Force.
“My first job was with Pan American Petroleum, which became Amoco,” he said. “I was there nine years and transferred six times and had 40 different supervisors in that nine years.
“I got a first-hand look at leadership,” he said, “how you run an organization, lead people, whatever – and I saw what didn’t work.
“I saw that those who ruled with a heavy hand, ruled through fear, had no sense of fairness, that people working for them didn’t want to come to work,” Smith said. “With other types of leaders, who exhibit qualities such as integrity and fairness, persistence and patience, their people want to do the best they can.”
Making a Difference
When asked to name a favorite among his immense array of volunteer jobs over the years, Smith chose his current role as chairman of the Geosciences Board of the AAPG office in Washington, D.C.
“We make trips twice a year and give presentations to committees and individual congressmen and women,” he said. “It’s not just fun but also fulfilling, because there’s such a great need to bring science to the policy making process – and I see we’re making some good headway.”
Smith is praised by many of his peers for his leadership of AAPG’s strategic planning effort, which is predicted to have far-reaching impact for many years to come.
Pat Gratton, himself a past AAPG president and last year’s recipient of the Halbouty Leadership Award, summed his thoughts on Smith’s ability to lead:
“Dan’s leadership has been so exemplary that the benefits have not been restricted to issues with which he dealt,” Gratton said.
“Dan’s example of how to formulate, explain, convince and rally support for necessary change led others to emulate him,” he remarked. “That’s outstanding leadership!”