Letter from the President | May 2022
I was out and about on a Saturday several months ago on a mission to check out some interesting things to do with my six year old grandson, something beyond the usual kids’ “manufactured fun” play centers that pepper the Woodlands area. Some minor research let me to a model railroading club north of Conroe, one that opened the facilities to the public, by appointment only. After a couple hours giving me a tour of the impressive layout, their president suggested I might consider becoming a member. Part of the benefits I would reap was that in being one of a small member group and with the surprisingly high appraised value of the facilities, my member share of the assets would be in the $40,000 range (all for a $100 initiation fee). Naturally we both had a chuckle at that, knowing the asset was completely non-liquid and thus the “ownership” was nominal only.
This interchange caused me to think a little more deeply about what membership in a non-profit “corporation” really entailed. I had the occasion to review some HGS financial documents recently and came across the Statements of Financial Position from our audit firm. The summary line Total Liabilities and Net Assets indicated the value of our assets at nearly $900 thousand. Using a not-very-useful exercise similar to the model railroad club’s above that would mean each of the HGS members “own” $450 in assets.
Except we are not owners. In legal terms’ a nonprofit corporation has no owners (shareholders) whatsoever. Nonprofit corporations do not declare shares of stock when established. A nonprofit corporation is formed to carry out a non-commercial purpose, whether that be religious, educational, charitable, scientific or other qualifying purpose. It is prohibited from acting in a manner that results in private inurement (profit) to any individual.
Now that these fun facts have been established (or re-iterated), what is the asset-equivalent that HGS members have. Some, perhaps most view their membership only as a type of asset, a kind of notation that can be used on one’s resume to establish credibility as a professional geologist. To be honest this is how many of us first used this HGS asset: to jump-start our early careers. Nothing wrong with using a little resume-padding at some time in our career.
But as many of us instinctively knew early on, or learned it later in our careers, the real “asset” we owned in HGS had nothing to do with owning “stuff” but rather in the opportunities it provided. Ken Nemeth our departed colleague, the consummate volunteer in geological organizations and governance activities, stated it succinctly that geologists in Houston should make HGS part of their career development plan. This is the opportunity HGS offers you that your employer may not, or may not yet have offered to you. In your career your formalized training or narrow range of skills you use may not have given you a chance to demonstrate your ability to organize a plan on your own. Or to teach or motivate others, or share your passion for geology in a way that benefits others. Or, in general, the drive and ability to get things done. These opportunities are the assets you can “own” by fully engaging with HGS.
In my month by month observations as president I continue to see and get acquainted with volunteers and leaders who have taken advantage of these opportunities. Recently I attended a Trivia night offered in early April by the Student Expo Planning Committee. It was a pleasant evening for this largely outdoor event at the Houston Cider Company. We thank Amanda Johnston, Katie Fry, and Andrew Stearns, who organized this successful event, especially in creating the slew of questions, geologically-related, that made the contest so enjoyable and intensely competitive. Many of the attendees commented on how great it is to get out into the in-person realm again.
In April Janet Combes, with the Educational Outreach Committee had their booth at and supported the Reach for the Stars Festival for middle school girls at Rice University. See Janet’s article later in this Bulletin.
Last Friday the HGS Shrimp Peel & Crawfish Boil was held in Bear Creek Park. This event keeps getting better every year. The returns are coming in at this time, but there were at least 200 attendees, lots of sponsors (photo), and lots of shrimp and crawfish. The high striker was onsite again and the strongman winner was Mike Salazar who again out-muscled several contestants with much more bulk. Mike is also the Chair of this committee (just sayin’), and he and his volunteer crew put on quite an event. And speaking of heavy lifting we thank Andi Peoples who with her staff colleague Alyssa Cushing, were prime movers. The list of volunteers are too many to list, but we will try anyway, with the photo showing Kevin Nguyen, Michael Salazar, Andi Peoples, Ryan Jasper, Derrick Whiting, and Patrick Jordan; others not in range of the camera were Beau Langla, Justin Vandenbrink, Igor Faoro, Shannelle Ecrette, Howard Wood, Bradi Cruz, and Paul Riegler. Out in the sun and over the hot boiling pots were Keith Peoples and his father Stephen Peoples. A hearty thanks to you all.