Dean's Advisory Council

Strategic partners in pursuit of excellence

Dean's Advisory Council 2019

The Dean’s Advisory Council consists of national industry leaders and influential individuals who share a passionate commitment to the value of the fields and endeavors of the geoscientific disciplines.  These selected members are committed to the College’s pursuit of excellence in research, scholarship and academic programs, ensuring personal and professional growth for future generations of geoscientists who will take the lead in providing solutions to societal challenges and elevate the greater good for the state, the nation and the world…

Today, the members of the Council are actively engaged in the College’s Strategic Planning Processes and are participating in college-wide planning summits with all faculty, staff and administrators. 

Members of the Council meet twice annually and serve on subcommittees with specific charges in Student Recruitment and Success, External Engagement, Engagement of Former Students, and Philanthropy. 

Dean's Advisory Council Members

Mrs. Jill Urban-Karr ’86

Jill Urban-Karr

Chair, College of Geosciences Advisory Council

Jill Urban-Karr is the executive director of the Consulting Services/landfolio Solutions team for the Land Administration Solutions Group of Trimble Navigation, Ltd. She works with entities around the world to establish comprehensive, sustainable and effective land tenure solutions which leverage technology, international best practices and local requirements for the furtherance of secure land rights, transparent land transactions and reliable information systems.

Mrs. Urban-Karr began her career in the development and implementation of GIS and geospatial solutions in the public sector and is a senior manager with over 17 years of experience in land registration, cadastre and real estate market modernization in both the public and private business sectors. She has pursued and implemented multi-participant e-Government and land tenure/land administration projects for both the public and private sectors throughout the world, including: Costa Rica, Romania, Egypt, Madagascar, Benin, Burkina Faso, Bulgaria, Croatia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Belize, Bermuda, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and many others. She is currently working with the University of Melbourne (Australia) in the practical application of the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) into the solution architecture of land registration and cadastre management and with Texas A&M University on identifying successful approaches to food security and land tenure in post-conflict and pre-conflict countries.

Mrs. Urban-Karr graduated in 1986 with a degree in geography from the College of Geosciences from Texas A&M University. Additionally, she has participated in graduate studies in international business at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Dr. Bruce Appelbaum ’71

Bruce Appelbaum

Dr. Bruce Appelbaum has enjoyed a successful career in the industry, including work with majors such as Chevron/Texaco and serving on the Board of Directors of CQS Rig Finance Fund and Input Output Inc.  In addition, he is a Distinguished Trustee of the American Geosciences Institute Foundation, and has been an advisor to the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University and the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University. He is a Trustee Associate of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and a Certified Petroleum Geologist. He also serves on the Dean's Advisory Counsel at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Bruce served as Chairman of Mosaic Natural Resources Ltd., an oil and gas exploration and production company focusing on opportunities in the North Sea. Prior to co-founding Mosaic Natural Resources, Dr. Appelbaum was President of Worldwide Exploration and New Ventures for Texaco, Inc. and a Vice President of Texaco. His offshore experience included leading the company’s large business in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Appelbaum joined Texaco in 1990 as Division Manager of Texaco U.S.A.'s offshore exploration division and was elected an officer of Texaco in 2000. He built highly successful programs and was promoted through several positions of increasing responsibility culminating in his election as an officer of Texaco, Inc. and designation as President of Worldwide Exploration and New Ventures. Prior to his arrival at Texaco, Dr. Appelbaum built successful exploration and producing programs at several independents, including Union Pacific Resources and SEDCO Energy.

Dr. Appelbaum served as an advisor to the Weiss Energy Hall at the Houston Museum of Science and Museum Board member.  He was also an advisor to Child Advocates of Houston, served on the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and The Business Council of New Orleans.  He was Group Executive for the Petroleum Services Sector of the United Way and the New Orleans Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.  He is currently a Roundtable member of the Baker Institute at Rice University.

Dr. Lyle Baie ’67

Lyle Baie

Dr. Lyle Baie is a former AAPG Executive Director.  He has over 30 years’ experience in the petroleum industry, including exploration, production, research, domestic and international new venture development and non-profit leadership.

Mr. Stuart P. Burbach ’77

Stuart P. Burbach

Stuart Burbach is CEO and chairman of Nautilus Energy. He has more than 20 years of executive and managerial experience in both publicly held and private equity-backed E&P companies. His career includes management or partnership positions in Beryl Oil and Gas LP, Pogo Producing Company, and Norfolk Holdings. Mr. Burbach’s experience includes exploration, exploitation, acquisitions, divestitures, operations, investor relations, and fundraising. He has technical expertise in geology and oceanography, and has successfully explored and developed hydrocarbons globally. Mr. Burbach earned his B.S. in geology from the University of Wisconsin and his M.S. in oceanography from Texas A&M. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in oceanography at Texas A&M.

Mr. Austin Heider ’10

Austin Heider

Austin earned a B.S. in Environmental Geosciences (ENGS) in December 2010.  He worked for two years at Arcadis as a Geologist responsible for Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) and coordinated with regulatory agencies, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC).  He then moved to W&M Environmental Group, a Texas based environmental consulting firm that helps oil/gas, real estate, and industrial clients meet environmental regulations and achieve regulatory closure.  At W&M, Austin worked as a project geologist before being promoted to project manager and then to division manager of remediation and assessment.  As division manager, he has taken on more responsibility for sales for managing a five-person team.  For the past six years, he has developed expertise in soil and groundwater remediation and has become highly knowledgeable in compliance with statutes and rules while taking on increased professional responsibilities in his firm.

Mr. Michel Halbouty Hewitt

Michel Halbouty Hewitt

Michel Halbouty Hewitt is the grandson of the world-renowned geologist and oil and gas Wildcatter, Michel T. Halbouty.  Mr. Hewitt graduated from the University of Denver and moved to London, England, where he gained extensive international business experience working for Wright Medical.  He has worked and lived in various countries and has traveled throughout Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, all the while establishing valuable business relationships. 

After his grandfather's death in 2004, Mr. Hewitt restarted Halbouty Energy, and took the company to a new level by re-focusing the company's direction to "state of the art" solutions in the oil and gas production technology. Halbouty Energy was sold, and a new company evolved - Halbouty & Bott Global Energy Partners - providing superior customer service and fuel products globally.

Michel played baseball at both Auburn University and Texas Christian University prior to graduating from University of Denver. He is married to his wife Ashley, and resides in Houston, Texas. He has a daughter Evie, and a stepson, Hudson.

Mr. Paul Janish ’89

Paul Janish

Paul Janish graduated Texas A&M University with a B.S. and M.S. in meteorology. He was granted the university award for outstanding master's research in 1992 and published his thesis work in the Journal of Applied Meteorology.  

Paul began his career with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., where he worked to enhance technology transfer between forecasters and researchers. He was also a meteorologist for the Storm Prediction Center in Norman.

Paul joined the private sector in 2002 as energy support meteorologist, and later director and manager, for Entergy-Koch Trading in Houston, where he provided forecasts and guidance on weather impacts in commodities markets including natural gas, power, and crude oil and derivative fuels to help with trade structuring and resource management.  

Paul joined JP Morgan in 2011 as executive director and senior meteorologist to provide weather support to their commodities trading group. After JP Morgan was sold to Mercuria Energy Trading in October 2014, Janish was named senior weather analyst, providing daily short, medium, and long range forecasts using observational and numerical modeling and other data sets to support natural gas, power, and other areas of relevance to energy and commodities trading.

Mrs. Susanne Leininger ’77

Susanne Leininger

Susanne Leininger is more commonly known throughout the petroleum industry by her nickname - Sam. She enjoyed an extensive career in oil and gas industry for thirty-three years with Mobil/ExxonMobil and is now retired in the mountains of Colorado. Susanne had the opportunity to move into management, but found that she missed the creativity and integration of widely varied geoscience and engineering data sets. So, she returned to reservoir development and management leading multidisciplinary teams to define reservoir architecture and 3D fluid flow characteristics. One of her highest achievements is receiving Mentor of the Year Award from ExxonMobil through mentoring younger members in science and engineering, and train them how to effectively work with multi-disciplinary/multi-national/multi-cultural team members.

Now that she is retired, she pursues many interests and volunteer opportunities - with her greatest joys being teaching. Her favorite volunteer work is teaching K-12 students just how much fun science and engineering are and showing them career paths that they may not have considered.

Susanne received her B.S. degree in Geology from Indiana University – Bloomington and her M.S. degree in Oceanography from TAMU.

Dr. Ruth Perry ’04

Ruth Perry

Ruth Perry is a Marine Scientist and Regulatory Policy Specialist at Shell Upstream Americas in Houston, TX.  She graduated with a B.S. in Biology, a Master of Science in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography, Geographical Information Systems and a Ph.D. in Oceanography all from Texas A&M University. 

Perry was hired as a Graduate Assistant Research by the GCOOS-RA, primarily to assist the Communications Team. She rapidly became an integral part of the team, engaging with Gulf of Mexico stakeholders to identify and prepare articles for the GCOOS newsletter and website, and giving the communications portion of the website a new look with her web programming and graphic design skills.

Communications is only one area where Perry’s talents enhanced GCOOS-RA activities. Upon completion of her doctoral degree in Oceanography from Texas A&M University (TAMU), College Station, in 2013, she split time as a Postdoctoral Research Associate between the GCOOS-RA and AMU’s Department of Oceanography. Her work using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles in the study of hypoxia on the Texas shelf positioned her to make significant contributions to raise awareness and identify collaborations to assist GCOOS Data Product development. Her work also helped support the GCOOS Gulf Glider Task Team. Prior experience as a National Science Foundation GK 12 Fellow also made her a valuable contributor to GCOOS Outreach and Education efforts.

Ruth has interests in new ocean technologies, graphic design, photography, scuba diving, international and national travel and marine mammal science.

Mr. Thomas Ratliff ’84

Thomas Ratliff

Thomas graduated from Texas A&M University in 1984 with a BS degree in Geophysics.  Thomas also received his MS degree from Texas A&M University in 1989.  Thomas worked as an Exploration Geologist/Geophysicist for Shield Energy, Plains Radio Petroleum, Tenneco Oil, and Mobil E&P before cofounding DDD Exploration, Inc. in 1991.

Thomas has served as President and Geophysicist for DDD Exploration (pronounced 3-D Exploration) for over 25 years.  DDD Exploration is an oil and gas exploration company based in Amarillo, Texas.  DDD Exploration explores, generates prospects, and operates wells in Texas & Oklahoma.

Thomas has served on multiple boards, has been a volunteer fireman, scout leader, Sunday school teacher, and has coached numerous sports including a 12 year stint as a high school head track & field coach.  Thomas and his wife Glyna have 4 children (3 Aggies and a Baylor Bear).

Mr. Bill L. Read ’71

Bill L. Read

William (Bill) L. Read, is the former deputy director and director of the National Hurricane Service, now retired.

Mr. Read served in the U.S. Navy as an on-board meteorologist with the Hurricane Hunters. He began his career with the National Weather Service in 1977, where he was a forecaster in the Fort Worth and San Antonio offices before becoming the severe thunderstorm and flash flood program leader at the National Weather Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Mr. Read was appointed to direct the Houston-Galveston weather forecast office in 1992 and led it through the National Weather Service’s modernization and restructuring program in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Read was also part of the Hurricane Liaison Team at the National Hurricane Center in Miami when Hurricane Claudette and Hurricane Isabel came ashore in July and September, respectively, in 2003.

Mr. Read received the National Hurricane Conference Public Education Award in spring 2004 for hurricane preparedness efforts. Under his leadership, the Houston-Galveston forecast office conducted an annual Hurricane Workshop, which was considered the largest meeting of its kind in the United States.

Mr. Curtis Samford ’83

Curtis Samford

Curtis Samford serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer for AFGlobal Corporation, a private equity owned Oil & Gas OEM.  The company is a leading manufacturer of specialized managed pressure drilling equipment, risers, pressure pumping equipment, and subsea connectors.  The company also manufactures a variety of flanges and fittings for use in the energy and general industrial markets.  Since joining AFGlobal in 2012, he has been instrumental in developing and implementing a new global business strategy that has allowed the company to nearly double its annual revenues while more than tripling its profitability.  He has overseen a global acquisition strategy that has included the addition of 5 new companies including two in Europe, two in the U.S., and one in Brazil.   More recently he has focused on restructuring the company to deal with the unprecedented down-turn in the global Oil & Gas market.

Prior to joining AFGlobal, Curtis served in a variety of executive management positions including Executive Vice President - Energy for Precision Castparts, President – AM Castle’s global energy distribution business, and Director – North American Sales for Shell.  He has over 30 years of experience in the energy and industrial markets.  Curtis is a graduate of Texas A&M University where he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Geophysics.  Curtis has two adult sons and currently lives in the greater Houston with his wife Traci.

Mr. Chris Samsury ’90

Chris Samsury

Chris Samsury is a senior executive and the highest ranking meteorologist at The Weather Channel (TWC) where he currently serves as its Vice President of Talent.  Chris leads more than 30 employees including TWC’s prominent on-camera television staff and meteorological experts, and he regularly contributes to strategy, human resources, finance, and legal aspects of the TWC business.  Prior to his nearly 20 years with The Weather Channel Chris was a US Government research scientist with NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division (HRD).  As part of HRD, Chris flew into hurricanes and participated in both international field experiments and domestic deployments in the study of hurricanes and tropical meteorology.  He has published research papers in peer-reviewed science journals and presented research at national meteorological conferences.

Chris earned both his degrees from Texas A&M:  B.S. (’90, Meteorology, Magna Cum Laude) and M.S. (’92; Meteorology, Fellowship recipient, Named a Distinguished Graduate Student).

Chris is a member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), WorldatWork (a Human Resources Association), and the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) Survivorship Advisory Board.  He is the former Chair of the AMS Board on Continuing Professional Development and currently serves as an Executive Board Member and Finance Chair of the Kennesaw State University Wesley Foundation (an on-campus, non-profit Christian ministry).

Chris and his wife Amy (Class of ’95) met at Texas A&M and have been married more than 22 years.  They have three (3) children and reside in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area.


Dr. Debbie Thomas, Ph.D.

Debbie Thomas

Dean, College of Geosciences

Debbie joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2004, received her bachelor of science from Brown University, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy from University of North Carolina.   She is a Distinguished Lecturer recipient of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, and recipient of both the Montague Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar Award and College’s Distinguished Achievement Teaching Award from The Association of Former Students.  Her primary research interests include paleoceanography of the Cretaceous and Cenozoic, using the deep-sea sedimentary record to investigate the role of the deep oceans in global heat transport during different overall climate states.

Mr. John Hastings ’84

John Hastings

Chair of GEODAC, Department of Geology and Geophysics

John Hastings, Executive Vice President, Exploration, of Paloma Resources, LLC, has over 34 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. Prior to Paloma Resources, Mr. Hastings worked for Edge Petroleum and Shell Oil Company.

Since joining Paloma Resources in 2005, Mr. Hastings has led the company’s geologic efforts in various projects across the United States. In these projects, Mr. Hastings managed prospect development, interpreted extensive 2-D and 3-D data sets, provided leasing consultation and guidance, facilitated well location selection, and managed subsurface operations and horizontal/deviated well geo-steering.

Mr. Hastings received a Master of Science degree in Geology from Texas A&M University in 1984, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1982


The College of Geosciences Advisory Council is rooted in 1977 by Dean Dr. Earl Cook when Michel T. Halbouty donated $150,000 to establish the Geosciences and Earth Resources Endowment Fund (GERAC).  Concurrent to the endowment, the original Advisory Council, then called the Geosciences and Earth Resources Advisory Council was born.  The renowned group of industry leaders were passionate advocates and committed former students and friends to provide support and counsel to the Dean, faculty and staff of the College towards the achievement of high priorities, strategic initiatives, and achievements along the fulfillment of the College’s mission.  

Originally Chaired by Michel T. Halbouty ’30, the distinguished list of members included:

Robert H. Allen ’50

Harry Austin ’38

David G. Eller ’59

Joe B. Foster ’56

H.J. Gruy ’37

Harold J. Haynes ’46

Dan A. Hughes ’51

John F. Imle, Jr. ’62

James R. Jackson ’36

Howard Karren ’51

George P. Mitchell ’40

Dr. Ronald A. Nelson ’72

Jack M. Oswald '75

John S. Samuels, 3rd ’54

Winston G. Sexton ’54

James R. Whatley ’47

Clayton W. Williams, Jr. ’54

The original charge was threefold:  to advise the College of Geosciences on the changing needs of industry for well-trained geoscientists, so that the curricula and courses of the College will prepare our students to become productive professionals equal to or better than those from other schools; to advise on ways of obtaining financial and equipment support for programs of the College that cannot be adequately financed by either state appropriations or research contracts; and to advise on ways of fruitful cooperation between industry and the faculty and students of the College. 

The Geosciences and Earth Resources Advisory Council was also charged with the Michel T. Halbouty Medal selection process.

In September of 2007, the then-Dean of the College of Geosciences, Bjorn Kjerfve reestablished the Geosciences Advisory Council after a nine year hiatus when it had been Chaired by the late Michel T. Halbouty until 1998. 

The 2007 members were:  Bill Black, Conroe, TX; Carlos Dengo ’78, Geology; Richard Findley 73’ Geology; Dan Allen Hughes ’51, Geology; Tom Kelly ’53, Geology; and Les Shepard ’77, Oceanography.

These strategically selected, highly achieved former students were gathered to:

  • help us build a College of Geosciences where faculty, staff and students excel through collaboration and interaction through teaching, mentoring, research and service to reach National prominence and have maximum societal impact;
  • provide our students, e.g. our clients, with up-to-date knowledge and understanding of geosciences through excellence in teaching and student mentoring;
  • focus research and scholarship on relevant issues to solve significant problems, issues which by necessity are interdisciplinary;
  • improve our service to the university community and across the globe with greater impact;
  • succeed in attracting major diversified extramural research funding as a result of our research excellence;
  • improve our connection and cooperation with the private sector and industry;
  • help us with development to create endowments for student fellowships, faculty chairs, and interdisciplinary laboratory facilities.
  • position the College to be uniquely different and set it apart from similar colleges at other universities.

The mission has evolved slightly as has the College of Geosciences.  The role of the Advisor Council is paramount to any successful endeavor for students, faculty and Texas A&M University alike.