Robert Talley

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Robert Talley
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SEG Life Membership 2017

Robert F. Talley is recognized with Life Membership for his nine years of service to the Society on the SEG Foundation Board. His calm demeanor and wise counsel were a steadying influence during a challenging time of change in Foundation management.

Biography Citation for SEG Life Membership 2017[1]

by Michael G. Loudin

“Astounded.” That was Robert’s self-described reaction to his election to Life Membership. Robert joins a small and significant group of Life Members recognized primarily for their contributions via the SEG Foundation. Robert emphatically provides a primer on being a highly effective Foundation donor, fundraiser, and director. How did it all start?

Robert holds a geophysics degree from Texas A&M University and an MBA from the University of Houston. After a career start with Gulf Oil, he joined Anadarko 35 years ago, quickly advancing to management and culminating in his appointment as director, and later, vice president of geoscience technology. Along the way, he established his trademarks: integrity (both personal and geophysical), servant leadership, loyalty, and humility.

His involvement with the Foundation began in 2006, when Gary Servos and Peter Pangman approached Anadarko to request a major investment in geophysics scholarships. Robert’s personal integrity kicked in — as a “nuts and bolts” geophysics data integrity champion who fully utilized SEG for Anadarko’s benefit. He recognized that data integrity is only sustained by new entrants to the field, and there is no better “nuts and bolts” way to encourage new entrants than by providing scholarships. Robert worked assiduously to help craft a mutually advantageous donor agreement, and the Foundation’s major gifts campaign was off to an $875,000 start.

It cannot be overemphasized how this (and Chevron’s Student Leadership Symposium gift) absolutely shattered prior expectations. The SEG Foundation’s largest gift to that point had been $30,000, and even SPE had managed only $200,000 in a single gift. Externally, the bar for Foundation donations had been reset, and corporations ended up accounting for $12 million of the $17 million raised by the campaign. Internally, the Foundation transformed from being a distraction for incoming presidents (who had to attend Foundation board meetings) into the second highest source of recent SEG funding, only behind Annual Meetings.

In typical self-effacing manner, Robert minimized his role in all of this, and in a display of servant leadership, he joined the Foundation Board in 2008, where he has distinguished himself in many ways. He became a Sustaining Trustee Associate and swayed many industry colleagues to likewise support the Foundation’s important work at that level. He has been a long-time member of the Foundation Finance and Development committees, and has chaired both the Development and Nominations committees. Even now, after stepping down after nine years as a director, Robert continues to be a member of both the Development and Finance committees.

Before closing, it must be emphasized that it is not often that we get to work with someone of Robert’s caliber, and this was confirmed by the numerous, enthusiastic comments from his colleagues as this citation was written. These included “consummate geophysicist”; “great mentor”; “role model of an ever-growing and challenging geoscientist”; and “never worked with a more morally outstanding person.” Colleagues chuckle that, although he is generally quiet, when he speaks something pretty profound often comes out. My personal observation is that Robert proves that you don’t need to be an extrovert to be a great fundraiser. All of us who have worked with him have been honored and uplifted by the experience.

This award very appropriately recognizes Robert’s outstanding and many contributions to SEG via his work for the Foundation.

All of the many SEG members who devote so much time, talent, and treasure to supporting the Foundation are pretty sure that Robert wouldn’t mind if they basked a little bit in its reflected honor too.

So, Robert, please check your trademark humility at the door for a little while. “Astounded”? You shouldn’t be.


  1. (2017). ”Honors and Awards.” The Leading Edge, 36(10), 806–819.