John Hollister

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John Hollister
John C. Hollister headshot.jpg
President year 1963
BSc Engineer of Geology
BSc university Colorado School of Mines

John C. Hollister (1907-1995) was an American geophysicist and former chairman of the Department of Geophysics at the Colorado School of Mines and the 1963-1964 President of SEG.

Biography 1971 SEG Honorary Membership Award[1]

contributed by Cecil H. Green on the announcement of Hollister's retirement.

The forthcoming retirement of John C. Hollister, as professor and head of the Department of Geophysics at Colorado School of Mines, would be a good reason in itself for special recognition of him by our Society. But, even this important event is but a part of the reason for honoring a man who has distinguished himself as an administrator, educator, scientist-engineer and who at the same time rates so highly in his sympathetic understanding of human nature.

Early Years and Education

John was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 3, 1907. Evidently at an early age he became interested in earth sciences, which resulted in his graduating as a geological engineer, with major studies in geophysics, at Colorado School of Mines in 1933.

Professional Career

He was well prepared for his first job party chief in Western Canada for Plains Exploration Company, a real pioneer assignment in those early days!

The reflection method in particular was still very new then and there were relatively few individuals, such as John, with the important combination of specific academic training and practical skill. It was natural therefore that a new professional opportunity soon presented itself. Thus, in 1934 he resigned from Plains Exploration Company to become a co-founder of Heiland Research Corporation in Denver, now a division of Honeywell. He was its vice-president and general manager until 1949 when he decided to seek some new challenge. He sold his interest in Heiland Research Corporation and planned to spend the next year traveling in Europe with his wife, Dasa.

Colorado School of Mines

It so happened that Carl Heiland had retired in 1948 as head of the Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines, and an extensive search was already on for a suitable replacement. John was well known as a competent administrator and as an excellent scientist-engineer. So, it was quite natural that Ben Parker, then president of Colorado School of Mines, should respond favorably to the urging of key members of the Department of Geophysics by inviting him to become its next head. This proposal evidently appealed to John as promising the right kind of new challenge towards obtaining deep personal satisfaction. So, instead of going to Europe, he accepted the appointment. Incidentally, he and Dasa finally made their trip abroad in 1959 ten years later!

I first met John soon after his appointment, so I know for sure that his ultimate choice of academic work was a logical one for I can now attest to the fact that the past twenty-two years have been completely rewarding to him.

He got off to a good start as a teacher with a class of forty students mostly World War II veterans. In typical Hollister fashion he remarked at the time that these first students helped provide the best course he ever took certainly indicative of their liking him just as much as he liked them!

As in industry, John, the academician, became admired and also respected for impartiality, which included patience and understanding for all who were really trying yet at the same time he was unyielding and uncompromising with those displaying indifference and carelessness. This philosophy is well developed in his SEG Presidential address in 1963.

Evidently John soon decided that stimuli for human motivation are much the same, whether on or off campus, and that such personal ingredients as initiative, common sense, coupled with the knack for innovation, and above all, the will-to-do are universally desirable traits for getting any important job done effectively. It is therefore not surprising that his careful selection of academic staff has resulted through the years in a minimum of departmental governance which would support Thomas Jefferson's famous remark that "the government which governs least, governs best."

Thus, John developed a working climate which attracts and holds good men, and this is, of course, the basis for Colorado School of Mines not only surviving, but actually improving its vital position as an international center for education and research in the earth sciences. Strength also results from really doing something about the overworked, though important, word "relevance." By effectively bridging the gap between theory and practice, its students naturally develop a good sense of direction and purpose as an important part of their training towards solving the increasingly complex problems in mineral exploration and exploitation.


A policy of cooperation with industry gives real meaning and certainly adds significance to purpose and relevance. Thus, in John's case, off-campus activities have included consulting for Kennecott Copper; Bear Creek Mining; U.S. Army Engineers; Johnson and Mendenhall of Los Angeles. The department has contributed procedural information by having staged a series of industrial conferences on data processing plus special courses in well logging. The staff was also involved for several years in the Dallas orientation program for earth science students.

Professional Affiliations

An active interest in the professional societies has been an important part of this collaborative thinking. Thus, John is a member of the AIME, the EAEG, and the SSA. John has served the SEG for many years as Associate Editor, Secretary-Treasurer, Vice-President, and finally as President. He has also been a president of the Denver Geophysical Society. Two of his current associates will be serving the SEG next year Alfred Balch as Secretary-Treasurer and Thomas LaFehr as Editor.

"Senior Day, 1962."

Honors and Awards

Naturally, many honors have been bestowed on John already notably, the Distinguished Achievement Medal of Colorado School of Mines plus Honorary Membership in its Alumni Association. He is affiliated with several significant fraternities, such as Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Gamma Epsilon, Alpha Tau Omega, Blue Key, and Sigma Xi.

"Gamma Epsilon, 1962."
"Sigma Xi, 1966"

Personal Interests

This word picture would not be complete without mentioning that John Hollister is also a good person to know outside the classroom and laboratory. He has a great love of the out-of-doors, as exemplified by his keen interest in camping, fishing, sailing, and in photographing the wonders of nature. He is also fond of good music, reading, as well as the spectator sports. Behind every good man there is a good woman! Quite happily, Dasa shares enthusiastically in these many activities all of which adds up to John and Dasa being a wonderful pair to know. We all wish them well in John's forthcoming retirement from Colorado School of Mines!

Biography for SEG Presidential Candidacy, 1962 [2]

John C. Hollister, candidate for President, has been head of the department of Geophysical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines since September, 1949. At that time he left Heiland Research Corporation (now the Heiland Division of Minneapolis-Honeywell), where he served as Vice-President and General Manager, to return to Mines, his Alma Mater (class of 1932).

Professor Hollister attended the University of Oregon before transferring to Mines in 1929. He joined Plains Exploration Company in 1932, as a geophysical engineer, leaving in 1934 to become cofounder of the Heiland Company.

He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, SEG, AGU, AIME, and Denver Geophysical Society. He has served as First Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer and on various committees of SEG, as an Associate Editor of GEOPHYSICS, and as President of the Denver Society.


  1. Awards Citations of the SEG, Page 40
  2. Geophysics, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, April 1962.

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