L. Decker Dawson
How fitting that the SEG's 1997 Enterprise Award go to "Mr. Enduring Enterprise." Decker Dawson has been president of Dawson Geophysical since 1952 when he founded this highly respected seismic acquisition and processing company, one that has had an excellent start, judging by its recent growth. The outstanding reputation of Dawson Geophysical is clearly attributable to the uniformly high esteem in which Decker is held by all who have known him.
Decker's start in geophysics was as a geophysical helper with Magnolia Petroleum after having received a B.S. in civil engineering (1941) from Oklahoma State University. Following four years active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve, he worked for Republic Exploration from 1946 to 1952 as party chief and seismic supervisor in Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.
In 1952, at the age of 32, Decker founded Dawson Geophysical in Midland, Texas for the primary purpose of practicing exploration seismology. Starting as owner/party chief with one 24-trace crew in the Permian Basin, he was interpreter, supervisor, marketer, and investor. His wife Lou, according to Decker, "may have been the industry's first pregnant computer," as the term once referred to people, rather than machines, who performed computations. Early efforts enabled the company to help discover several major oil fields, allowing expansion to five crews in 1955, despite the down cycle in industry crew count at the time.
Firmly established, Dawson Geophysical incorporated in 1957, with key people given equity in the company, and in 1981 the corporation went public. By prudently refraining from overexpansion during peaks of this cyclic business, the firm has not only negotiated the troughs but also kept up with technological advances. Today all six of Dawson's land seismic crews are state of the art in 3D acquisition.
After 45 years in business, Dawson Geophysical, under Decker's hands-on leadership, enjoys the same high regard as its founder and president. One of the firm's directors, Calvin Clements, describes Decker in terms such as "highest integrity, fairness, and compassion, as well as his deep sense of responsibility to the company's employees."
For his part, Decker never fails to point to others when speaking about the company's success. He says, "I am indebted to literally thousands of people and hundreds of companies for the joy I have derived from geophysics. It's been a love affair, but I'm not sure which I love moreSthe geophysics or the geophysicistsSor which love sparked the other." Surely this attitude has earned Decker the title of "gentleman of gentlemen," as Ron Genter calls him, adding, "I could always feel comfortable with Decker for his uprightness and honesty."
Decker Dawson's service to the geophysical community extends to full participation in our professional associations. With customary distinction, Decker served as SEG President in 1989-90 and as president of the Permian Basin Geophysical Society of which he is an honorary life member. As a result of his dedicated service, currently as a member of the University of Texas-Austin's Geology Foundation Advisory Council and as a director of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, Decker has been given Life Membership in IAGC and has been inducted into the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum's Hall of Fame.
(His value to the geophysical community may well be matched by his value to the community of Midland, Texas. Here he has served as president of the city's chamber of commerce, country club, community theater, and petroleum club. A deacon and elder of the First Presbyterian Church, Decker has also served as director of the county hospital district, a life insurance company, and three financial institutions.)
Throughout his professional life, he has given fully of himself to his company, the geophysical community, and the city of Midland, Texas, and in the process earned unequivocal trust and confidence. The SEG Enterprise Award truly fits Decker Dawson like a glove.