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Hal P. Bybee Memorial Fund


The Hal P. Bybee Memorial Fund was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on October 11, 1957, to benefit the Department of Geology. Gift funds were provided by Mrs. Laura T. Barrow of Houston, Texas, a 1923 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Department of Geology, Mr. Leonidas T. Barrow of Houston, Texas, a 1923 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Department of Geology, and Thomas D. Barrow, Ph.D. of Houston, Texas, a 1948 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Department of Geology.

As a teacher, geologist, and university administrator, the accomplishments of Dr. Halbert P. Bybee at the Department of Geological Sciences and The University of Texas are so substantial and unique that they continue to define both institutions to this day.

The Bybee Family on the 1922 UT Geology Western Field Trip: 1) Dr. Hal P. Bybee, 2) wife Ruth W. Bybee, 3) father W.L. Bybee, 4) mother Martha K. Bybee, and sons 5) Henry, 6) Robert, and 7) Hal P.
The Bybee Family on the 1922 UT Geology Western Field Trip: 1) Dr. Hal P. Bybee, 2) wife Ruth W. Bybee, 3) father W.L. Bybee, 4) mother Martha K. Bybee, and sons 5) Henry, 6) Robert, and 7) Hal P.

Halbert Pleasant Bybee was born on a farm near Rochester, Indiana, on January 7, 1888 and attended Shellbark Grade School and Talma High School. Upon graduation, he earned a B.S. degree from Rochester College, Indiana, in 1908. He served as the principal of the high school in Richland Center, Indiana, from 1907-09 and an Instructor in Science at Clinton College in Clinton Kentucky, for a year thereafter. After enrolling in Indiana University, he received an AB degree in 1912, an MA in 1913, and a PhD in 1915.

In January 1914, Dr. Bybee married Ruth Woolery of Bloomington, Indiana. Five children resulted from that union, sons Henry, Halbert, Robert, Wilbur, and daughter Martha. Hal, Bob, and Martha graduated from UT Austin; Hal and Bob with bachelor degrees in geology in 1941 and Martha with a BA in geology in 1949. All three followed their father with careers in geology; in a somewhat-related way, so did Wilbur, who managed the family’s Indiana limsestone business. Martha admits that “we children were exposed to geology growing up. I’m sure that it had an influence on my brothers as well as on me.” She remembers summer vacation drives during which her father, ever the teacher, would tell them about the geology of the areas they visited. “It was just part of life,” says Martha, who remembers being one of five women in her geology classes at UT.

In 1915, Dr. Bybee became an Instructor in the Department of Geology at UT for the spring semester. The department had one professor and three instructors at the time. In the fall, he also began teaching at Washington University in St. Louis in order to be closer to his home and that of his bride. Owing to a heavy increase in enrollment at UT, departmental Chairman F.W. Simonds induced him to return to UT in mid-semester with approval of the administration at Washington University. Dr. Bybee was promoted to Adjunct Professor in 1916 and Associate Professor in 1920.

Dr. Bybee taught introductory geology, mineralogy, and other basic courses. Two of his teaching innovations have secured UT geology’s place as the first among equals. The first was a summer field camp in geology that he created in 1917 due to his strong belief in the value of applied geology. The second was a course in petroleum geology, one of the first such courses to be offered in the United States, that he added to the curriculum which resulted in a demand for UT graduates by the petroleum industry. Today, the field course is a unique mainstay of the Department of Geological Sciences and Jackson School graduates continue to be highly sought-after by oil and gas companies.

During the summers of 1915 and 1916, Dr. Bybee worked for the Bureau of Economic Geology on the Thrall Oil Field; in the summer of 1925, he worked on the Lytton Spring Oil Field; and in 1918 and 1920 he worked for the Oklahoma Geological Survey on oil fields in that state.

Financial considerations and the drowning death of Henry, led Dr. Bybee to resign from UT and join the Dixie Oil company in San Angelo, Texas, in 1925. He became a leading petroleum geologist in West Texas and helped organize the West Texas Geological Society, serving as its president in 1927. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the development of the petroleum industry, Dr. Bybee was inducted into The Petroleum Hall of Fame in Midland, Texas, in 1991.

In 1929, the Regents of the UT System chose him to serve as the first Geologist-in-Charge of University Lands-Geology, the entity which had exclusive management and control of the natural resources of over two million acres of West Texas land which the State had granted to the University. Under his stewardship, which would last for more than 20 years, these resources produced a permanent fund (valued at $250,000,000 at the time of his passing in 1957) which was the chief endowment not only of the main university but of Texas A. & M., Texas Western, and the medical schools. In March 1968, the Regents designated a new office building for UT Lands in Midland, Texas as the Hal P. Bybee Building. This honor was given for the success he achieved during the formative years of petroleum exploration and production on those University lands in West Texas. So wise was his management that some of its practices live on; for example, many of today’s leasing procedures of the state were formulated as a direct outgrowth of his philosophy for optimum land development.

Dr. Bybee returned to the faculty at UT as Professor in 1936, serving as Chairman of the Department of Geology from 1937 to 1941, while continuing to direct the work of the University Lands. From 1936-57, the department’s staff doubled and its total enrollment became the largest in the country. In 1953, Dr. Bybee helped to establish the Geology Foundation (reflecting on the fortunes of the department over the years, Martha feels that her father “would be very pleased at what the Jackson School has become and amazed by it all”). His service to both the department and University Lands continued until 1954 when ill health forced him to relinquish the latter position, although he continued to serve as a consultant until his death on March 30, 1957. During his UT career, Dr. Bybee supervised 52 MA students and one PhD student, and published more than a dozen scientific papers.

Dr. Bybee became a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 1919 and presented with a Life Membership in 1952. He was a Fellow of the Texas Academy of Science and elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 1926. In addition, Dr. Bybee was active in many non-geologic organizations, including the Kiwanis, University Club, Boy Scouts of America, and Baptist Church.

Created seven months after his passing by the late Mr. and Mrs. L.T. Barrow and their son, the late Dr. Thomas D. Barrow, the Hal P. Bybee Memorial Fund is dedicated to providing funds for scientific and professional advancement for the geology faculty. Mr. Barrow has written of Dr. Bybee, “Evaluation of Bybee as a geologist range from a good ‘practical’ geologist by those who had limited contacts with him to an ‘outstanding’ geologist by those who knew him best. He would have enjoyed engaging in considerable research, but he placed people ahead of geology, and he thought his most important duty lay in the development of students.”

Mr. Barrow’s sentiments are echoed by Martha. Remembering her father as “foremost an educator who was trained as a geologist and who wanted to give what he knew to students and who had great rapport with students,” Martha feels that this endowment is a fitting tribute to him. “His first interest, “she says, “was in the students and it was through the faculty that (he believed) you would reach them.” As to what she feels would be his hope for this endowment’s impact on the Jackson School, Martha is clear: “He was a very humble man and it wasn’t for any personal gratification (that he would want an endowment named after him) but he would have been happy that the faculty benefited.”

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