Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award

Few Words, Many Accomplishments

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Scott W. Tinker, a man who has given lectures all over the world, in front of thousands, was remarkably taciturn when asked about being named the 2016 recipient of the Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award.

“I was stunned,” he said.

And that was about all he said.

Yes, the Scott Tinker who was past president of this very organization, the Scott Tinker who has been invited to more than 50 countries to discuss energy concerns, the Scott Tinker who is director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin was stunned about receiving an award he richly deserves and most probably thought he already had.

“Yeah, I’m really not comfortable talking about myself. Can we talk about something else?”

In a word, no.

He then relents a little when asked to amplify his remarks.

“It is the highest honor of my career.”

If he’s surprised at this honor, which he truly seems to be, he is in the company of absolutely nobody, as he seems as tailor-made for the Halbouty as it does for him.

The Halbouty Award

The Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award, as many already know, is given in recognition of outstanding and exceptional leadership in the petroleum geosciences.

It is AAPG’s second most distinguished award, second to the Sidney Powers Memorial Award, and it is only given to one recipient per year.

Past recipients include a list of all-stars in the profession, including Alfredo Eduardo Guzman (2015), Peter Robert Rose (2014), Stephen A. Sonnenberg (2013), Robbie Rice Gries (2012), Daniel Lester Smith (2011) and Patrick John F. Gratton (2010).

Look at those names, look at their individual accomplishments, look at the body of work of those who have it on their mantle and one wonders: who deserves to be in their company more than Tinker?

Well, if you ask him, he’ll tell you.

“I think of those who have accomplished more than I have.”

Easier said than done.

His bio and credentials, which run on for pages, touch on every facet of the profession.

Tinker is, in addition to being the director of BEG, the official state geologist, as well as a professor and acting associate dean of research in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, Austin.

Under his leadership at BEG – along with, he is quick to point out, “a remarkable and dedicated staff” – the school has grown into a premier research organization with programs in energy, the environment and economics. Since 2000, the Bureau has tripled in size from a $10 million to a $30 million annual grant organization. Its staff has grown from 90 to 250 and its annual operating budget has grown from $8 million to $25 million.

Before becoming BEG’s eighth director in 2000, Tinker worked in the oil and gas industry for 17 years in research, exploration and development before coming to the university. He has been a licensed professional geoscientist in Texas since 2003, and is the past president of AAPG, the Association of American State Geologists and the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies.

He holds appointments on the National Petroleum Council, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, the Geology Foundation at Sandia National Lab, is a trustee associate at Southwest Research Institute and serves on several university, private and professional boards.

Voice of Reason

Tinker, who can be the smartest guy in almost every room he’s in – and he’s been in a lot of them throughout the globe – was also the guiding light in “Switch”, directed by Harry Lynch. Together, they made a documentary about worldwide energy issues, which was palatable even to those without an appetite for the subject, while also disarming critics who expected an industry puff piece.

The Washington Post said, “‘Switch’ is refreshingly free of hot air. It’s almost shocking in the way it sidesteps the kind of issue advocacy made commonplace by filmmakers Michael Moore, Davis Guggenheim and the like.” Variety said the movie worked for “Sidestepping the usual eco-docu strategy, ‘Switch’ takes a far less hysterical route,” and the Boston Globe said, specifically, about this year’s Halbouty Award winner, “Tinker comes across as affable, reasonable, and unfailingly curious.”

For a man so accomplished, Tinker genuinely seems uncomfortable putting himself above the profession or the industry – or even talking about himself. But he’s not shy about the work he does, the gratitude toward those who have let him do it or the future work that needs to be done.

“I guess maybe leaders don’t talk about leadership much,” he said. “Too busy doing things!”

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