Richard (Dick) Baile (1920–2020) was an American geophysicist with a long and successful career in exploration geophysics. He is also remembered for his leadership of the SEG Foundation.
Dick Baile 1920–2020
Dick Baile 1920–2020
Dick Baile was a visionary leader, which was exemplified at the SEG Trustee Associates Luncheon during the 2005 SEG Annual Meeting when he stated, “The SEG Foundation plans to raise $20 million to support SEG programs.” Many attendees were skeptical. Bill Barkhouse was named chairman, and Peter Pangman led the effort that raised US$17.2 million between 2005 and 2008. This was a game changer for SEG. Additional donations over the next 10 years added another US$18 million. During the past 10 years, the Foundation provided financial support for SEG student and professional programs of more than US$2 million a year from corporate and individual donations plus the endowment earnings — a huge impact for SEG members and students.
I met Dick in the mid-1990s after joining the SEG Trustee Associates, and over time we became very good friends. During the past few years, Dick and I had lunch or dinner on a regular basis, originally at Lakeside Country Club where a martini was a tradition before dinner and at Buckingham Retirement Community during the past three years. The relationship between SEG and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) was always part of the conversation.
Dick passed away on 19 March 2020, several months after his 99th birthday and six years after his wife, Fran, died. They had five children, 10 grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.
A native of Warrensburg, Missouri, Dick graduated from Central Missouri State Teachers College, now the University of Central Missouri, in 1942 with a degree in mathematics and physics. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was flight engineer on a B-29, flying on bombing raids in the Pacific during the last year of World War II. Upon leaving the Army in January 1946, he was hired by Stanolind, a precursor of Amoco, and assigned to a seismograph crew in Texas. In July of that year, he married his college girlfriend, Frances Fricke.
In 1952, Dick and Howard Itten founded Empire Geophysical. After a couple of mergers, Dick moved to Houston as president of the combined companies, and later he was president of Teledyne until 1969. He was an executive with two other companies until his retirement in 1984.
Dick started the SEG Trustee Associates in the late 1980s with four friends who each donated US$5,000. The Foundation now has more than 200 Trustee Associates who have contributed more than US$12 million during the last 30 years, mostly for SEG scholarships, Geoscientists Without Borders®, and student support. Dick was granted Life Membership in 1991. He was chair of the SEG Foundation Board from 2002 to 2006 and remained on the board until 2008 when he was named chairman emeritus.
Dick was also a longtime supporter of AAPG and in 1980 became a Trustee Associate of its Foundation. In 2013, Dick received the AAPG Foundation Chairman's Award for extraordinary contributions to the AAPG Foundation.
Dick regularly attended SEG and AAPG conferences, even after his mobility was limited. We all remember Dick moving around the convention floor on an electric scooter. During the past 20 years, he had many discussions with SEG and AAPG leadership about his ideas for the two societies to work closer together and eventually merge.
In 2014, the SEG Foundation Board of Directors initiated the “Dick Baile Exemplary Service Award” with Dick Baile as the first awardee. Simply stated, the SEG would not have a significant Foundation today without Dick's efforts.
Memory by Jeff Springmeyer
I was 21 years old when I met Dick Baile in 1981. I was fresh out of Louisiana State University and green as could be as a new hire at Seismic Exchange Inc. (SEI). Dick's company CXC Exploration (a division of Berry Industries) had acquired a 2D group shoot in the Appalachian Overthrust and decided to assign the marketing rights of the data to SEI. Dick and some of his team came over to SEI to meet and discuss their 2D seismic survey. The Appalachian Overthrust was not exactly a honey hole at the time, but it was a very unique survey. I immediately took a liking to Mr. Baile due to his very friendly nature and his straight, honest approach to things.
After departing SEI in 1984 and starting up Geophysical Pursuit Inc. (GPI), I had minimal contact with Dick other than SEG or AAPG conventions and the like, but I always enjoyed catching up on the seismic business with him. I also would run into Dick from time to time as a guest playing golf at Lakeside Country Club where Dick could be found playing some gin rummy and having his favorite Beefeater Gin (on the rocks). In 2009, we (GPI) made a contribution to the SEG Foundation major gifts program. Because GPI was 25 years old, Larry Galloway and I figured a gift within the industry that had treated us well would make more sense than a celebration party.
In 2010, I was nominated to join the SEG Foundation Board. Not being a geophysicist or explorationist, I was initially reluctant, but after a prodding from Dick, Peter Pangman, and Elwin Peacock I agreed — especially since the SEG Foundation is a fundraising group rather than a technical organization. This is where Dick and I were able to truly strengthen our relationship as we were like thinkers. Dick was and always will be the star of the SEG Foundation for his organization of the Trustee Associates along with his numerous contacts he reached out to on behalf of the SEG Foundation. Dick had a passion for over 20 years whereby SEG and AAPG would become one. His belief was that the dual cost of operations, conventions, publications, and the like are too great not to place these Tulsa, Oklahoma-based organizations into one thriving exploration society. He was still pursuing this passion right up to his parting, and I am sure one of his topics entering the “Pearly Gates” was the combination of these two societies. In my opinion, Dick was in a league of his own within our industry. He will surely be missed.
Memory by Bill Barkhouse
Dick was forever a geophysicist and a consummate raconteur. More importantly Dick's leadership was quixotic and legendary. One of Dick's hugely successful and “impossible dreams” was the creation of the SEG Foundation with a proper fund of which US$17.2 million was achieved in 2008. Dick, so like Don Quixote, was undeterred by the numerous setbacks that naturally occurred while pursuing this foundation dream and funding goal. When Dick glanced me with his sword, I learned the importance of thinking big and to remain undeterred when the journey was rough, for only then do those dreams come true.
Memory by Mike Loudin
by Mike Loudin
Dick Baile's long life was so full of accomplishments that the rest of us stand spellbound, and yet Dick is still not finished impressing us. His memory lives on, certainly through his family, loved ones, friends, and acquaintances, but also through the SEG Foundation, which he cofounded more than 30 years ago. Dick's “big idea” was that since the world needs applied geophysicists to see under the earth to find, develop, and manage vital natural resources, and that there were relatively few applied geophysicists, it naturally followed that these few practitioners needed support. From modest beginnings sponsoring student scholarships, Dick led and influenced the SEG Foundation for many years, attending Foundation Board meetings up until only a couple of years ago.
With Dick's leadership and inspiration, the Foundation expanded its supported programs, steadily and strongly grew its endowed assets, and attracted important financial support from numerous corporations. Most of the programs for which the SEG is known have had their origin via the Foundation. Today, tens of thousands of geoscientists and numerous communities all over the planet have been touched by these programs. The Foundation will continue to evolve and grow to meet the needs of geophysicists and of the world in which we live, and donors can be exceptionally proud to share in Dick's big idea to develop and nurture scarce applied geophysical talent all over the world. Thanks, Dick. We were lucky to know you.
Dick Baile's SEG legacy
Dick Baile was the driving force behind the formation of the SEG Foundation 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. Of the many ways one could quantify Dick's enduring SEG legacy, perhaps the best is to look at the number of students and members still benefiting every year from programs made possible through Foundation funding. As the data below show, more than 8000 participants per year worldwide are benefitting from 10 SEG programs made possible through Foundation support.
Participants per year in 10 SEG programs over the past five years
|Geoscientists Without Borders
|60 participants in 45 projects in 31 countries
|Student Leadership Symposium
|40 at the SEG Annual Meeting
|Student Education Program
|40 at the SEG Annual Meeting
|Student Chapter Support
|100 (last three years)
|20 (in finals only; many more total students)
Obituary 24 March 2020 (by email)
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
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.
- The Leading Edge Volume 39, Issue 6, p. 440-442