Swenumson-Baker Geophysics Excellence Fund

May 22, 2009 | Excellence Funds & Program Support

The Swenumson-Baker Geophysics Excellence Fund was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on July 22, 2009, for the benefit of the Jackson School of Geosciences. Gift funds were provided by Mrs. Carol Sue Baker of Houston, Texas,  a 1984 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences.

Glenn Swenumson started work on a seismic crew for Conoco in 1948. He reckons that over the next 38 years, he and his growing family lived in 22 places. His son was born in Louisiana, his first daughter in Colorado and his second daughter in New Mexico. He wistfully recalls those days as a doodlebugger.

“Everybody was just out of the military and everyone was broke and had little kids and we’d hit a new town two or three times a year and we’re all looking for places to live,” he recalls.

Glenn Swenumson with his daughter, Carol Sue Swenumson Baker, July 4, 2009.

“We had a spirit, and we still do,” he adds. “I had affection for all the people and their families, the old grizzled dynamite shooters and the shothole drillers.” He worked his way up to party chief, then seismic supervisor, division geophysicist, and finally area geophysicist with responsibility for several divisions. He retired from Conoco in 1985 and lives in Houston.

On Father’s Day 2007, his daughter Carol Swenumson Baker (BS, ’84) surprised him by revealing that she had created an endowment at The University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences partly in his honor. The Swenumson-Baker Geophysics Excellence Fund is designed to “promote excellence in the geophysics program, including support for equipment, travel and other expenses associated with geophysics field trips and field courses.”

“It was a heck of a nice surprise on Father’s Day,” he says. “I asked her how did Swenumson get ahead of the Baker in the name? And she said that’s just how she wanted it.”

Glenn Swenumson (foreground, right) with Professor Scott Smithson of the University of Wyoming in Laramie, 1982, posing with students who had recorded seismic data using 2 Vibroseis trucks which had been donated by Conoco.

In 1984, Baker went to work for Exxon as a seismic data processor. Now she works in information technology supporting geoscientists and managers across the company. ExxonMobil matches certain employee educational contributions three to one. The Jackson School also matched certain contributions (including corporate matches) one to one. Together, these matches magnify her gifts eightfold. For example, a gift of $1,000 is raised to $4,000 with the corporate match and then doubled to $8,000 with the Jackson match.

“I had already been giving each year to a geophysics fund. I started very early on in my career,” she said. “My first gifts were in the $25 range. While it wasn’t a lot of money, it did put me on a path of giving to my university.”

Her father never pushed her towards petroleum geophysics. In fact, he was surprised when she told him that that’s what she wanted to study in college. But she says he did pass on his love of geology in subtle ways, for example pointing out interesting geological features on family trips to the mountains, national parks, and his South Dakota birthplace.

Baker says this fund is her way of giving back to an institution that made such an important impact on her life.

“It was a very special time in my life,” she says. “The group of friends I made in the department, we remain friends to this day. We spent weekends cramming and studying together. The whole experience was great. The caliber of the institution and the people are top notch and I’d like to see it grow even more.”

As to the impact that she hopes her endowment has on the Jackson School and UT Austin communities, Baker, who was fortunate in not having to worry about financing her higher education, is clear. “The primary driver,” she says, “is to help other students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college.”

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