From the President | June 2022

Can the year really have passed already?

Probably the most clichéd statements made are those that refer to amazement at the seeming rapid passage of time. Yet I can’t help myself in this case. Truly it seemed like just yesterday I was thrust into this position of HGS President, with its attendant novel responsibilities. But the year has indeed rapidly passed, and the time has come to craft a final President’s Column.

How to sum up an entire year in one short last letter? What significant events occurred during my turn at the helm? What did this Board learn that can be passed along to the next crew for the betterment of Houston Geological Society? In a nutshell it can be stated that the year was a fairly ordinary one since we were not forced to reckon with a Harvey flooding disaster, and the worst of COVID had more-or-less passed. We tested the waters for in-person meetings but the combination of high cost of the meals and an acceptance that digital meetings had some advantages. The board of directors conducted all their monthly meetings in zoom format and meeting attendance was the highest in recent memory.

We now sense that there is an appetite for in-person meetings as, you just can’t beat the face to face approach when it comes to networking. It remains to be seen how the incoming board will shuffle these into the mix of in-person or virtual.

The meeting events during the year included 8 general dinners, 4 general lunches, 7 environmental and engineering meetings, 3 North American dinners, 3 International dinners, and the Scholarship Night and Sheriff lecture meetings. Patty Walker, as Vice President, secured the speakers and logistics for the general events, while Matthew Cowan and Troy Meinen arranged the E&E presentations. The international and North American dinner meetings were handled by Steve Getz and Mark Hamzat, respectively. A very successful Scholarship Night was put on by Charles Sternbach and Fang Lin.

Our in house conference this year was the HGS-EAGE Latin America Conference in early November. It was a hybrid event and drew 80+ attendees. Thanks to Ceri Davies and his crew for a successful conference.

We had 5 short courses presented this year and would like to thank Thom Tucker and Cheryl Desforges for planning and executing these events. Educating our members through ongoing training is a primary mission of HGS.

Another large contribution this year for educating and inspiring those in our local elementary and high schools (and even venturing into local universities) came from the work of the Educational Outreach committee chaired by Steve Johansen and Letha Slagle. Through coordination of the many volunteers in this committee and interacting with other committees in this group there was a continual stream of outreach activities throughout the year. These included classroom presentations at the K-12 level and STEM support organizations and events, Scout troops, etc. The committee also works to cultivate relationships with STEM and science-savvy teachers in public and private schools, including Houston’s four magnet high schools. Some of these have been perennial HGS favorites: Earth Science Week, Houston Gem and Mineral Show, Science and Engineering Fair of Houston and others.  It takes many volunteers to engage the public community in all these events, and we thank them all. Thanks also to departing director Barbara Hill for coordinating all these outreach committees.

Most of our networking events this year were in-person events that occurred outdoors. Early in the year was a gathering put together by Patty Walker at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field to watch the minor league Skeeters. The HGS Golf Tournament resumed in October after a year’s pandemic hiatus thanks to the efforts of Elliott Wall, who has chaired this committee for a number of years. He is handing over the reins to Jimmy Bagley and Kenny Baucum, whom we hope will extend the success of this event. Finally, a very successful Shrimp Peel/Crawfish Boil was held in May with a large turnout, thanks to the efforts of Michael Salazar and others on his committee.  The Student Expo committee held two events, the Expo itself and a Trivia contest at a local ale house, with Amanda Johnston and Katie Fry guiding those efforts.

The Society runs as smoothly as it does because of the dedication of the office staff. We want to thank Andi and Alyssa for their help in providing the continuity from year to year as they often have to usher in a new crop of volunteers every July.

It’s impossible to thank personally all the volunteers who pitched in to help the Society conclude another successful year. I feel a high level of camaraderie with the Board in particular. Stepping down in 2022 are myself, Vice-President Patty Walker, Secretary Lucia Torrado, Treasurer William Gough, Editor Scott Sechrist, and Directors Barbara Hill and Casey Langdon. I imagine most of us will remain associated with HGS in some capacity, as there are lots of opportunities to still make an impact at the committee level, using the knowledge and experience we have gained. We hope to see you out there as we continue to Serve the Science!

Please welcome the members of the new Board of Directors
President: Walter Light
President-Elect: Paul Britt
Vice President: Scott Sechrist
Secretary: Amanda Johnston
Treasurer: Bruce Blake
Treasurer-Elect: Fang Lin
Editor: Ken Thies
Editor-Elect: Caroline Wachtman
Director 1: Lanette Marcha
Director 2: Bill DeMis
Director 3: Troy Meinen
Director 4: Dianna Phu


Mike Erpenbeck, President