Her Brilliant Career: Marie Still Loves Geology

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Marie Gramann
Marie Gramann

Marie Gramann, a 65-year member of AAPG, decided at the young age of 13 that she was going to be a geologist.

The reason why, to her, isn’t important. In fact, it no longer is a part of who she is.

“I don’t know why,” she said recently about a decision that would define her career, and her life. “I just said, ‘I’m going to become a geologist.’”

What’s important, instead, is the fact that geology and her AAPG membership remain her passion – even at an age when most people think only about enjoying a life of ease.

Graduating from the University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1936, Gramann began her career as a draftsman for the Oil and Gas Division of the Texas Rail Road Commission, and then went on to work for Stanolind Oil and Gas (which decades later would merge into Pan American, which eventually through a merger became now-defunct Amoco).

Gramann, who now resides in Brownwood, Texas, recalled being one of very few women in the program at UT, and stated that most of the time she was the only female geologist in the companies where she worked.

She hardly seemed bothered by that fact.

“I never thought too much about being the only woman,” Gramann said. “I felt like I was one of the guys.”

Gramann stayed motivated and determined throughout her career by her passion for geology – and her belief that being a good geologist was not determined by gender.

“You either do what you do, or don’t,” she explained.

A Career to Remember

Though Gramann has been retired for a while and significant changes have been made, women remain a minority in petroleum geology. Still, Gramann could only recall two major times she felt this disadvantage.

Interestingly, those moments form the bookends that frame her career.

The first challenge, perhaps not surprisingly, was simply finding a job at the beginning of her career.

“It was hard to get a job as a woman in the industry,” she said. “Women just worked where we could get a job.”

And then there was the time at the end of her career when she actually left her job due to an unpleasant work environment she attributed to fellow male colleagues.

“It was not a good situation, because the men from the office resented me,” she explained. “Several people who didn’t have the seniority that I had, it didn’t sit well with those people, and after a couple of years I decided it wasn’t worth it to stay there.”

But with the exception of those two examples, Gramann found it difficult to really describe a time she felt impacted by her gender.

Finding reasons to smile about her career is a lot easier.

One of her highlights actually came shortly after she left the company described above, when she was asked by a friend to become a professor of geology at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.

The opportunity came as a complete shock, and Gramann felt crazy at first for accepting the offer.

“Teaching geology was one thing I never wanted to do,” she said with a laugh, “but I was asked, and then that next Saturday I signed the contract.”

It was to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship that lasted nearly 20 years on a daily basis, and much longer as a connection – Gramann remains Assistant Professor Emeritus of Geology at the school.

Gramann described the beginning of what would lead to nearly 20 years of teaching.

“It was hard because I didn’t have anything to start with,” Gramann recalled. “I didn’t even have a textbook until the middle of the semester.”

During this time she also enjoyed being part of many societies like the Abilene Geological Society – and loved participating in field trips. In both of these situations, again, she recalls being usually the only female, but not letting that deter her.

“It never bothered me being the only woman,” she said. “I was a geologist, and I was there to learn and meet other geologists from all over the world.”

The Connection Remains

Although not being able to actively participate in the industry due to health reasons, Gramann remains determined to maintain her connection – and her love – of geology.

Testament of that came at the recent AAPG Southwest Section annual meeting, when she tracked down AAPG personnel and wanted an update on her membership status.

“If you’re a geologist, you’re a geologist your whole life,” Gramann said. “I never want to get away from it.”

One of the ways she stays connected to the geological world is by reading the EXPLORER each month.

In fact, she was excited to reference an issue just a couple of months that really sprung her interest, as it covered geology of the hills of Texas, where she had worked a long time ago.

Even now, she still knows – just knows – that she wants to be a geologist.

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