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“Writing a citation for someone as modest as Mike Batzle is no easy task.”
Mike Batzle, who Hamid Al-Hakeem remembers as one of ARCO's top research scientists in charge of the company's Rock Physics Laboratory, passed away Saturday January 10. Mike was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in mid December. He was scheduled for chemo in mid January. Sadly, he passed away before treatment started.
Mike’s research provided the underpinnings for ARCO's AVO research program. Al Hakeem recalls Mike was very vocal and often challenged ARCO's management, particularly during large meetings. He recalls many might remember Mike from these events.
Al Hakeem says of Mike “Mike was indeed a fine scientist and a generous man. He exemplified honesty, both intellectually and socially. He would ask the questions that no one else risk asking. He was a modest man and dressed more like a graduate student than a renowned scientist, but his questions were so insightful that they often betrayed his appearance. He was a fierce debater, often leaving his victims, myself among them, speechless. He was a challenge to manage. But his research was so fundamental and crucial to ARCO, that the effort to manage him was very worthwhile. His measurements in his sprawling laboratory influenced a number of ARCO's research programs, from Multicomponent Seismology to AVO analysis. His contribution to the science was indeed remarkable.”
In the late 1990's, ARCO donated the Rocks Physics Lab to the Colorado School Of Mines. Mike Batzle took a research position at CSM, running the Lab. Later, he was named to the Baker Hughes Chair of Borehole Geophysics. I believe this happened while Mike Wiley was CEO of Baker Hughes and Tony Fernandes a Director. Mike’s additional accolades included the Virgil Kaufmann Gold Medal by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists in 2002 - you can read the full citation of this and his other career achievements and technical contributions here: http://wiki.seg.org/wiki/Michael_L._Batzle, where the first line aptly reads “Writing a citation for someone as modest as Mike Batzle is no easy task.”
Keith Katahara, remembers that when he joined ARCO in 1983, Mike Batzle made a big impression on him with his ponytail, torn jeans and nonstop wisecracks. “I later transferred into the same group and got to know him better. Mike was one of the best experimental rock physicists in our industry, but he never took himself too seriously. Of course he never let anyone else take themselves too seriously either. He knew a lot and was very generous in sharing his knowledge. He treated the folks in his ARCO lab like his own family. He treated his students the same way later at Colorado School of Mines. Many people assumed from his appearance that he was a liberal hippie, but he was actually a jock in high school and was politically conservative. He loved show tunes and was a history buff. He was a great friend and colleague. His passing leaves a big void.”
Bob Siegfried also remembers Mike and his signature ponytail haircut. “Mike was an unmistakable presence at ARCO’s Plano lab, with his pony tail haircut (or lack thereof) and denim jeans stitched together with dental floss. He was recognized as a key technical contributor, as described in the citation referenced above, but was also known for treating everyone with the same honesty, respect and forthrightness, whether that person was cleaning the lab after hours or a corporate VP. During our time at ARCO, Mike would often go sailing with us on Lake Texoma. I am not sure how much he enjoyed the sailing, but there are worse things than drinking beer while sitting on a boat. The highlight of these trips for Mike, though, was that he would ride his bicycle the 65 or so miles from Plano to Lake Texoma while we met him there after driving the distance. One time, he rode his bike to the lake and then swam a couple of miles across the lake, along with several ARCO colleagues, while we kept pace with our sailboat to provide a rest area for those that needed it. As I recall, Mike made it across the lake without stopping. The world will be a less friendly and interesting place without Mike.”
John Castagna has some beautiful words about Mike “Mike Batzle was a great scientist and a great human being. I arrived at ARCO with a summer internship and an interest in seismic analysis for which I needed a better understanding of seismic velocities. It was suggested to me that I go talk to our prominent rock physicist, Mike Batzle, about it. I was surprised to find a mountain man who I presumed to be a technician sitting at Mike’s desk. It was Mike of course. What started out as a simple question on my part became a voyage of discovery under his gentle guidance, so gentle, that I did not even realize I was being led. His scientific curiosity was so genuine, so cheerful and egoless, so accepting and non-judgmental, that it was easy to be infected with his love for science. I never felt stupid bouncing ideas off him and that gave me the confidence to proceed. He made discovery fun. And how could anyone that has worked with him closely not love the man as well? I can’t even imagine it. I only saw him show anger in the workplace once. It was at one of the many pep talks at the UTD auditorium that we would receive just prior to a massive layoff when he asked the Corporate Vice-President of Technology during the Q&A after the presentation “Do any of you turkeys in L.A. have any idea what you are doing?” We were all thinking that of course, but only Mike had the courage to say it. Mike Batzle is one of my heroes and I can only aspire to be more like him when I grow up.”
Mike leaves behind widow Lisa Batzle. She was the ARCO librarian in Plano, and is a member on ARCO Alumni. Lisa set up a Caring Bridge web site. Sign up for free to view: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mlbmlb.
Hamid AlHakeem is happily retired and living in Laguna Beach, California. Keith Katahara is with Hess Corporation in Houston and Bob Siegfried is semi-retired and living in the Chicago area.
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ARCO Alumni have a number of memories to share about the ARCO days, and at a recent happy hour in downtown Houston, Super School was a favorite. Dave Dubois, Global Reserves Director at Hess remembers the generalist pace at ARCO. “We were responsible for a field. This full responsibility formed my career. I also remember how valuable were the super schools in Plano and the company vehicles they loaned us. We were all meeting at my apartment one night for pizza and I was out getting the food when my wife called. One of the few women in the program answered and when I arrived with the pizzas everyone was laughing and saying I better call my wife.”
Janeen Judah, at Chevron, remembers the Super School bar treks which started in Dallas and migrated to Houston. “Walt Bozeman was a ringleader and rented a bus, had a theme such as A to Z and we would drink at every bar.”
In town from Dallas were event sponsors Jim Johnstone and Mike Spangler, Contek Solutions and also Susan Starr, with Muse Stancil and Co., who was attending a conference.
John Pantano is at Texas A&M where he is a research professor doing basin modeling. John drove down to experience his first ARCO Alumni event. Richard Newsom was another new face. Working for Shell, he just moved from Denver.
Christy Smith who is at Linn Energy said how good it was seeing people he has not seen in years. “I have enjoyed the evening. It is fun talking and realizing you are working on fields next to one another and share stories,” he said.
Jeremy Green with Peregrine said he is still building a small company.
Becky Olsen, Southwestern Energy said she has a number of good memories.”The people were the best part. They were so good to work with. I enjoyed all the family picnic parties. We all kind of grew up together,” she recalls.
Rick Hooten, who is working as a Project Manager in information technology consulting for Deloitte Consulting travels frequently. Rick said that besides the people he remembers the unique experience of work in Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk fields for ARCO Alaska. I was in finance and we were there a couple times a quarter. Later, I worked with Joe Amador in the finance planning analysis group in Houston,” said Rick.
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Thanks to the more than 60 individuals who RSVP'd for the Anchorage event at Kinley’s. We had a great evening and now it is time to share career updates, ARCO memories and pictures. We asked ARCO Alumni to share what made ARCO special and how it shaped their lives and careers.
Joann Henry, now with the Municipality of Anchorage, recalls how progressive ARCO was. I was a consultant at KPMG after ARCO and I was surprised that "best practices" we had been doing at ARCO for years were not part of the business process elsewhere. Every idea I advised a client to implement was something I learned at ARCO. "ARCO was a very caring culture focused on training and employee empowerment," shares Joann.
Couples who met working at ARCO include Pat and Ken Thompson and Tina and Gerry Suellentrop. Pat shares that she met Ken Thompson when she was involed with AEDP. "I particularly enjoyed being involved with the college recruiting and AEDP training. We moved all over and loved ARCO and the people. Anchorage is still our home after 20 years,” said Pat Thompson.
Dave Fisher shares that technical excellence and teamwork are skills he acquired that he has valued throughout his career. Another ARCO alum said the constant change at ARCO was something he learned to value and respond to.
Other memories? " the day we moved into the Tower," says Debra Perala. And skills from the ARCO days? " the safety training, financial evaluations, computer skills".
Thomas and Chantal Walsh started PRA and Tom's first contract in 1996 was for ARCO in Anchorage. Chantal shared that she was born in Cordova, Alaska and also worked at ARCO.
Louise Osborn is currently with COP in Anchorage: “Retirement is very boring - so I am very definitely semi-retired and working in Alaska and the Middle East. A special memory of mine is while on the spill response team at Kuparuk, we were doing a summer exercise on the river. Five miles upstream, the boat engine died. On the boat with five operators and mechanics, we were stranded on a sand bar with the Otter overflying watching the Grizzlies. We sent for a part of some kind - which didn't work. Someone had a stick of gum with them. He took the foil gum wrapper and used it as a conductor to keep the engine running until we were back to the drop off point. Ingenuity at work,” recalls Louise.
Scott Digert, BP, who along with wife Barbara were at their first ARCO alumni happy hour shared his best memory: "I'd go with our four years working for ARCO British in London. I got to see two new platforms, travel and work with great people." And what Scott learned and used throughout his career? The skill and drive to figure things out and get a project done" says Scott. John Melvin, COP, shares how fortunate he was to work in such a highly skilled organization. "I didn't realize it at the time, but ARCO truly was a special company."
Ken shares that he splits his time serving on a few boards and being happily “semi-retired.” “Our family company in Alaska, Pacific Star Energy LLC, teamed with independent AVCG/Brooks Range Petroleum and had a North Slope oil discovery, the Mustang Field, adjacent to ARCO’s Kuparuk River Unit. We recently closed the sale of 90% of our interest in this field to others for cash, a development capital infusion and an overriding royalty. Pacific Star Energy will continue investments on the North Slope,” shares Ken.
Ken Thompson serves on the corporate board of directors of Alaska Air Group (Alaska Airlines & Horizon Air), Coeur Mining (silver & gold mining), Tetra Tech (environmental engineering) and Pioneer Natural Resources (oil & gas independent). Ken is also the chair of a non-profit organization called Provision Ministry Group with various ministries providing direction, leadership and support services to Christian churches and organizations in seven countries.
“With this board work not being full-time, I get to spend more days with my exceptional wife Pat (13 years with ARCO, mainly Dallas HR), our three sons, daughter and four grandchildren in Texas and California. Pat and I spend most of the year in Anchorage, but we “snowbird” in Santa Barbara during the winter,” said Ken.
Ken’s fondest memories from ARCO? “The exceptional people…employees extremely good at what they did but also people with good hearts. ARCO people often accomplished the amazing…at work and in the community. Pat and I both still miss ARCO after all these years but are thankful that the exceptional people from ARCO have made so many other companies better, improving their performance but also the core values of how others are treated and lead.”