John B. Sangree, GCSSEPM Honorary Member
John Sangree's Honorary Membership Award in the Gulf Coast Section SEPM is fitting tribute to a career that has forwarded the science of geology and influenced the patterns of hydrocarbon exploration. Although he has explored and managed exploration worldwide, his greatest contribution has been related to the development and teaching of sequence stratigraphy. He was a colleague of Peter Vail, Bob Mitchum, and others on the seismic stratigraphy team at Exxon. He also played a key role in nurturing the growing concepts of sequence stratigraphy as a manager in Exxon's overseas organizations, and later as a consultant to over forty national and multi-national companies worldwide. They say that Vail visualized sequence stratigraphy, Mitchum wrote it down, and Sangree sold it.
John's abilities as a teacher became obvious early in his career when he taught company schools at Exxon Production Research Company. These skills have been honed to a sharp edge in his later years of teaching hands-on workshops as a consultant. He has the knack of making sequence stratigraphy come alive with his colorful presentations. His vivid descriptions of the accommodation model or of the orbital eccentricities that produce Milankovich cycles keep listeners at rapt attention. In his passion to be exploration-oriented, he fills his lectures with hydrocarbon-producing examples from his wide experience and the literature. His seismic and well-log interpretations are always progressive and stimulating. When Sangree retired from Exxon in 1986, he feared that his management years might have dulled his sequence-stratigraphic skills, so, in typical fashion, he decided the best way to "retread" was to write a book on what he planned to teach. The result was the 500-page manual he uses in his courses on sequence stratigraphy. Updated versions of this book are still being used.
John started out at Rensalaer Polytechnical Institute and Rutgers University, getting his B.S. in 1951. He attended Northwestern University from 1951 to 1956 and got his PhD there in 1959. He married his wife Joan in 1951 ("the best thing that ever happened to me"), and together they raised a family during the graduate years and early company days, which was no easy task. They have six wonderful children, four girls and two boys, and, at last count, thirteen grandchildren. Joan has been a lovely wife and mother, office manager, and companion for all these years. It has been a pleasure for my wife and me to know her.
Sangree joined Exxon in 1956 for a 30-year career. For approximately two-thirds of his career he was in research, with interests ranging widely from reservoir exploitation and petrophysics to basin analysis and seismic interpretation. He rose through the ranks and ended up as a division manager in 1975. He studied reservoirs in Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Los Angeles Basin, Sacramento Basin, Michigan Basin, the Nesson Anticline, Sumatra, Venezuela, Libya, and other countries. His studies of fracture porosity in folded carbonates of Iran in 1961 involved field work that led to adventures with bandits and other local characters.
In 1975 he transferred to exploration, and occupied managerial and operational assignments worldwide. He served as geophysical manager in the J.S. Gulf Coast, Europe-Africa, and the Far East, and traveled to some of :he most remote parts of Africa and China while acquiring geophysical data. When he retired he was Chief Geophysicist and Geophysical Manager for Esso Exploration, Inc., the overseas affiliate for Exxon. During these years he developed his passion for collecting art objects such as African tribal masks and pottery.
John retired from Exxon in 1986 to form a partnership with Joe Richardson and Bob Sneider. He and Sneider helped form Greenhill Petroleum Corporation for exploration in the Gulf Coast. He resigned from this in 1990 and concentrated on teaching and consulting in partnership with me. Together we have taught short courses and consulted with most major multinational and national oil companies. In his career, John has worked in or visited over forty countries in his exploration activities, and has been involved in discoveries in Chad, Niger, Ivory Coast, offshore China, Thailand, and the North Sea.
Between consulting assignments, John has taken up a new interest, that of water color painting. Building on a natural talent for art and drawing, he pursues this latest passion with all the diligence and thoroughness with which he undertakes any of his many interests. The landscapes and coastal beauty of his new home on North Padre Island afford ample subjects for his new hobby.
John Sangree is a member of the AAPG, the Society of Economic Geophysicists, Houston Geological Society, Geophysical Society of Houston, and the Corpus Christi Geological Society. He was associate editor of Geophysics in 1992. He was a co-recipient of the AAPG President's award with P. R. Vail and R. M. Mitchum for papers on seismic Stratigraphy in the 1977 AAPG Memoir 26.
My association with John began in graduate school at Northwestern, where we were students with Peter Vail, absorbing Dr. Larry Sloss' ideas on continent-wide unconformities and the progressive ideas of Krumbein and Dapples on regional mapping. We worked and hunted together for many years at the Carter, Jersey, and Exxon Research Centers, and have kept up our partnership and friendship in our consultant years "after Exxon." It is a great privilege to be John's biographer for his Honorary Membership Award from the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM.
Robert M. Mitchum