Richard Baile

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Richard Baile
Richard A. Baile headshot.png
Membership Life Member

Richard Baile (d. 2020) was an American geophysicist with a long and successful career in exploration geophysics. He is also remembered for his leadership of the SEG Foundation.

Obituary 24 March 2020

by Katie Burke

It is with deep sadness the SEG Foundation learned that our good friend and colleague, Dick Baile, passed away on Thursday, March 19th at the age of 99. Dick was a friend, mentor, visionary, active philanthropist, and a respected member of the SEG and SEG Foundation community, and he will be greatly missed.

Dick was a pillar for many of the strategic activities that the SEG and SEG Foundation have pursued and accomplished over the years. With his visionary leadership of the SEG Foundation Board of Directors, his unwavering generosity year after year, and his willingness to mentor our budding geoscientists and business entrepreneurs, Dick set a high standard for all of us. Undoubtedly his most significant and longest lasting mark with the SEG Foundation was his formation of the Trustee Associates in 1989, when he recruited a group of like-minded donors to support SEG’s nascent philanthropic activities.

Since first meeting Dick in 2005, I have looked forward to every opportunity to sit down with him at the SEG Annual Meetings and other events to soak up some of his wisdom and insights. Some of my favorite stories that he shared were not about geophysics at all, but rather about his time in the military and the economic changes he witnessed during his lifetime. He was a man with colorful life experiences and many a story to tell. I know that Dick will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to cross paths with him throughout the years. It seemed that he was no stranger to no one.

We are aware that his family is working on an obituary for the Houston Chronicle, as well as preparing for his burial on the family plot beside his wife, Fran. Although no details have yet been received about funeral arrangements, we would be glad to share the obituary and any service information with you when we do. Please reply to this message or email [email protected] if you would like us to keep you updated as we learn more about these announcements.

In the meantime, please join me in offering sincere condolences to Dick’s family. He will be greatly missed.

SEG Special Commendation Award 2008

Richard (Dick) Baile is cited for Special Commendation for his lifetime of contributions to the Society, especially through the SEG Foundation. Dick was the driving force behind the formation of the Trustee Associates in 1987 and chaired its Steering Committee for a number of years. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Foundation in 1994 and later was elected chairman. Under his leadership, the Foundation rethought its finances and established a long-term investment strategy. He moved the Board from a passive group to an aggressive group dedicated to the vision of the SEG Foundation and to SEG’s mission. His strong support resulted in the Foundation electing to underwrite the DISC program and annual awards in the Scholarships Program rising to well over US$400 000. Four years ago, due solely to his initiative, the SEG Foundation began a Major Gifts Campaign with a target of $15 million. His vision is now approaching reality as the campaign is well on its way to achieving that goal. Without his leadership, none of this would have happened!

Biography Citation for the 2008 SEG Special Commendation

Contributed by George Parker and Elwin Peacock

Dick Baile was born and raised on a farm in Missouri. Following graduation from high school, he attended the nearby University of Central Missouri, majoring in mathematics and minoring in physics. He obtained a BS degree in 1942.

Soon after Pearl Harbor, Dick enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Following several assignments, he became a flight engineer on a B-29 and flew bombing missions to Japan from Tinian. He separated from the Air Force as a first lieutenant in 1946.

Following his Air Force service, he was hired by Stanolind Oil and Gas Company and assigned to a seismic field party as junior computer.

Shortly thereafter, Dick married his college sweetheart, Frances Fricke. They raised five children and moved 32 times in 54 years, with most moves occurring while on a seismic crew.

Dick stayed with Stanolind, working in various capacities and rising to district supervisor in their Midland, Texas, office. In 1952, along with a fellow Stanolind employee, he founded Empire Geophysical. Empire grew to ten seismic crews and had a velocity survey service that measured formation velocities for use in seismic interpretations.

In 1962 Independent Exploration acquired Empire, and Dick moved to Houston as president of the combined companies. By 1966 Independent had grown into a major seismic contractor that provided worldwide services. Teledyne acquired Independent in 1966, and Dick continued as president of Teledyne until 1969 when he left to form Challenge Oil and Gas. Berry Industries subsequently bought Challenge and conducted extensive nonexclusive seismic surveys under Dick’s leadership.

In 1987 Dick was asked to lead an effort to strengthen the SEG Foundation in its ability to provide adequate financial support for various SEG programs, particularly in the field of education. He invited five colleagues to lunch and challenged them to join him in support of the industry that comprised their professional lives. This resulted in the formation of the SEG Foundation Trustee Associates. Today, 20 years later, the Trustee Associates has about 140 members who have given in excess of US$2 000 000 to the Foundation.

In 1994 Dick became chairman of the SEG Foundation Board of Directors and took it from a largely inactive group to a dynamic source of growth and education for the Earth sciences. Under his leadership and through his own personal contributions, the Foundation’s assets have grown to over $10 000 000. His insight has led to the current Major Gifts Campaign that is strongly supported by companies and individuals who are making significant contributions to the Foundation.

He currently serves as a member on the board of both the AAPG and SEG foundations. Dick chaired the SEG Foundation Board until 2006, and presently continues as a member and chair emeritus of the Board.

Dick is known for his honesty, sincerity, and ethical approach in business, as well as his leadership, management skills, prodigious talent, and devotion to principles. He has felt an obligation to pay back to his profession and to his college for the success he has had in his career. His leadership has enticed others to support SEG and the SEG Foundation.

SEG Life Membership 1991


Lawyer, L. (2000). ”Dick Baile.” The Leading Edge, 19(10), 1126–1133.[1]