2021 Advancing Excellence

Commitment, Drive and Vision

Scott Petty Jr. was born into geophysics.

“From the time I was really little sitting on my dad’s lap, I used to get explanations about geophysics and what a seismograph was and how it worked,” he said. “I would be sitting in his office with him, and he would draw diagrams for me and tell me how it worked. Those are my earliest memories.”

Given Petty Jr.’s background and he and his father’s love for their alma mater, it is fitting that the Petty family is such an ardent supporter of geophysics at The University of Texas at Austin. In many ways, they helped make geophysics at the Jackson School of Geosciences what it is today.

The scope of their support and generosity is longstanding and impressive, punctuated most recently by a new endowment to support the director of the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG). But it goes well beyond that. They donated the research boat, the RV Scott Petty, that is used to take students on the three-week- long Marine Geology and Geophysics field camp every summer. The boat also serves as a critical part of the Jackson School’s Rapid Response Program, which sends geoscientists to the site of natural disasters shortly after they occur to collect fleeting data. The Petty’s also started the endowment for the vessel’s upkeep and, long ago, created the O. Scott Petty Geophysical Fund, which supports the efforts of the Jackson School’s Wallace Pratt Professorship in Geophysics.

“Our primary mission at the Institute for Geophysics is to conduct — and lead — world-class expeditionary-scale research focused on societally relevant and scientifically fundamental problems,” said UTIG Director and Scott Petty Jr. Endowed Chair Demian Saffer. “The Petty family understands the importance of these endeavors, particularly for researchers to have the flexibility and resources to launch ambitious programs and expand into new areas. They have been tremendously supportive. I can’t thank them enough.”

The Petty family has been in geophysics almost as long as...

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Dean's Welcome

Dear Jackson School Friends

Mora HeadshotWe have just kicked off another academic year and everyone at the Jackson School is fully engaged in our special brand of education and research. Our spirits are profoundly buoyed by the presence of students on campus again!

Jackson School scientists were in the field this summer, including a full complement of students in our Geo 660, Hydrogeology, and Marine Geology & Geophysics field camps, and graduate students working on much-delayed thesis efforts. Earlier this summer, a team of Jackson School researchers returned from a Rapid Response mission to Calcasieu Lake, southwestern Louisiana, where they collected data on damage and impacts to the environment due to two of last summer’s hurricanes, Laura and Delta. For others, field work was more remote: Mars, Europa, even far West Texas!

Throughout the pandemic and last winter’s Big Chill, the strength and resiliency of our faculty, students, scientists and staff has been nothing short of amazing, despite the palpable stress. Your generous donations to the student emergency and provided truly critical help to students in need, and your long-term support for the Jackson School helped keep many programs running despite the extra costs driven by the pandemic. We are deeply blessed to have such supportive alumni and friends!

This edition of Advancing Excellence is filled with outstanding examples of how you have enabled the Jackson School to thrive.  I hope you enjoy learning about the unique contribution of the Petty family to the field of geophysics, and their positive impact on so many aspects of UT geophysics (page 2), from the Scott Petty Jr. Endowed Director’s Chair, which helped us attract the immensely talented Demian Saffer to be UTIG Director, to keeping the MG&G field camp students afloat— literally!— aboard the R/V Scott Petty.  Meet Kameel Kisheck, the first Jackson School Masri Fellow, supported by an extraordinary gift from the Munib and Angela Masri Foundation (page 4), and learn more about Ed and Karen Duncan and their planned gift. Enjoy an update on our bustling GeoFORCE program and an enabling new challenge match for the program. Start your reading with a brief story about our enterprising new Chief Development Officer, Andrew West, and his plans for the development team.

Our job at the Jackson School is to tackle society’s biggest issues through leading-edge research and to assure that the next generation of Longhorn geoscientists is knowledgeable, capable, and well-prepared for the future.  We can only achieve this vision hand-in-hand with all of you.  Thank you for all that you make possible!

Hook ‘em!

Claudia Mora, Dean