Fall 2012 | Article By Robert Morris
In the summer of 1968, freshmen recruits Bob Marshall from New Orleans and Scott Heape of Dallas walked onto the football practice field at Tulane University, becoming close friends, as they both learned to balance the rigors of football practice with a demanding geology curriculum, ultimately winning Tulane a Liberty Bowl championship in 1970 and then going on to successful careers in the energy industry.
Still close friends 40 years after graduation, they are now teaming up for another major Tulane victory: endowing a chair in geology that will train a new generation of earth scientists and engineers to tackle pressing topics from energy exploration to coastal restoration -- and that will also continue moving the School of Science and Engineering in a bold new direction.
Marshall, independent petroleum geologist of Vista Propane Company, and Heape, owner of H&S Production, Inc., have been discussing the idea for the endowment for years. Both Marshall and Heape attended Tulane on football scholarships and have been discussing ways to give back to the school ever since.
"We need to think about giving something back to the school," Heape recalls them discussing as far back as the late 1970s, when they were first starting their careers. "We started planning this a long time ago. When in 2007, we were in a position to take advantage of past successes, we decided it was time to create an endowed faculty position.
As their careers progressed, each man going on to found his own company, they meanwhile began to worry about a lack of qualified young geologists to become their industry's next generation.
"There weren't any young geologists coming up, so we said, 'Why don't we do something to help close that gap?'" Marshall said. "We see this as not just a personal issue, but it's going to be a national security issue eventually, if we don't have any energy."
As they discussed ways to address the issue, Tulane always seemed the logical place, and the two friends believed they could do more in collaboration than either one could alone.
"Early on, whenever I first started talking about it, we knew we wanted to do it together," Heape said. "We got with Kat [Engleman, senior development officer] and said, 'Can the school do this?' She said, 'Absolutely.'"
Now, Marshall and Heape have each given $750,000, and the School of Science and Engineering will pursue a match of $800,000 from the state Board of Regents, bringing the total endowment to $2.3 million. That sum will then be invested, and the proceeds from it will be targeted to the support of a distinguished faculty member in perpetuity.
There are many benefits to such a top-caliber faculty member, Engleman said. His or her own research will advance the field, and he or she will serve as a draw to both new students and other high-quality researchers, who want to collaborate with him or her.
"An endowed faculty allows you to recruit a top rock star that acts as a name pull," Engleman said. "This person will not only do incredible things, but will also attract other faculty, who want to work with this researcher, and mentor new and emerging professors."
For the new faculty member, Dean Nick Altiero plans to hire a geophysicist, who can provide a link between the science of geology and geological engineering. With an emphasis on the physical characteristics of rocks and soil, the research will be of significant interest to petroleum engineers like Heape and Marshall, but also to the work of coastal protection and restoration in Louisiana”, Altiero said.
"We would have majored in geological engineering if they had a program," Heape said, noting that it's a goal Altiero has long discussed with him. "This will propel that happening. It will be perfect for Tulane to have a curricula like that."
“The endowed chair will expand on the School of Science and Engineering's concept of parallel programs between science and engineering -- such as biology and biomedical engineering, chemistry and chemical engineering, math and computer science, and now geology and geological engineering,” Altiero said.
"If you look at the strategic vision for the school, the big picture here is the integration of science and engineering," Altiero said. "The people in the sciences are doing things that are just on the verge of engineering, and if we recruit engineers to interact with them, we get a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts."
The same could be said of Marshall and Heape, perhaps. Both are strong leaders for Tulane -- on the field 40 years ago, and in the School of Science and Engineering boardroom today-- but their teamwork leads them to success that will be remembered for decades.
"Bob and Scott are really our champions," Engleman said. "They want us to be successful, and they do a lot to make that happen."
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