On October 10th, the department welcomed Dr. James R. Baroffio (Ph.D. ‘64) to campus, and presented to him the Department of Geology Alumni Achievement Award for 2019. Jim was born and raised in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania. He was the only person in his family to attend college, receiving his Bachelor’s degree at the College of Wooster, Ohio, in 1954. He worked for two years in the Army Corps of Engineers, in Germany, then earned his Master’s at Ohio State University in 1958. He joined the Standard Oil Company of Texas (which later became Chevron) as a development geologist in the Permian Basin of West Texas. After three years he came to Illinois to pursue his PhD with Prof. Harold Wanless.
After graduating in 1964 with his Ph.D. in Geology and a minor in Civil Engineering, Dr. Baroffio left Illinois to return to the Standard Oil Company of Texas in the offshore geophysical division. Clearly, he moved up the ladder very rapidly after that, and before long he held important management positions, including:
- Chief Geologist for Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico operations, 1972 to 1975:
- Vice President of Exploration for Chevron Oil Field Research Company, a world-class research and development organization in La Habra, California.
- President of The Chevron research campus from 1980 to 1985. These years saw the research company blossom into an international jewel of research and development, with one of the first Cray supercomputers.
- Manager of Regional Operations in Denver
- Vice President of Exploration for Chevron USA in to San Francisco
- President and CEO for Chevron Canada, in Calgary. During his last five years with Chevron Canada he was instrumental in a monumental undertaking: He worked with the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada and a consortium of oil companies overseeing the construction of the Hibernia project--the largest offshore platform in the world at the time.
This series of important positions indicates that Jim had a magic touch in management: He attributes this success to the ways he helped to foster an environment conducive to creatively providing opportunities to succeed, for the petroleum industry’s most valuable asset- its people.
He retired from Chevron in 1994. Not one to put his feet up, Jim got drawn back into the industry. By 1997 he was a member of the board of Pioneer Natural Resources; he served in that role for twelve years. He was asked by Pioneer to stay on as their Geosciences Advisor for five additional years. All told, Dr. Baroffio spent nearly 60 years in the petroleum industry.
Somehow Jim managed to find time to be involved in a variety of activities outside of his work life. He was:
- President and Chairman of the Pacific Symphony Association in Orange County, California;
- Member of the Canadian Board of the Nature Conservancy
- President of the Alberta Nature Conservancy;
- President and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Orange County, CA, World Affairs Council
In light of his many accomplishments and devotion to important institutions, he was the recipient of the Ohio State Orton Award and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Wooster.
Jim has always found time to be a devoted father and husband. His beloved wife of 50 years, Marilyn, who passed away in 2007, taught music and voice at Urbana High School and her chorus won numerous awards in the state of Illinois. During Jim’s long career, she directed Chevron chorales and was involved with local symphonies and other music organizations. Jim and Marilyn raised two sons, Dr. Jim Baroffio, Jr., a forensic psychologist, and David, an English teacher. Jim Jr. and David reported that their dad was involved in their education, coaching sports teams, even playing in the street (rumour has it, however, that he could never hit a curveball). Both sons hold advance degrees.
He took his family on amazing trips, showing them the world, and often narrating geological drama pertaining to Plate Tectonics. Reportedly, he often capped off the discussions with, while pondering some formation with a wistful smile, “it’s as though a great hand just reached down and moved that plate.” To this day, they still think this is hilarious.
Jim has always been a big fan of Professor Harold Wanless and was an important member of the department’s Geo Thrust committee. This group of alumni completed, in 2005, a $3M endowment campaign which generated the endowments that support most of the department’s graduate student fellowships and named professorships. Jim created the Wanless Fellowship, which provides a graduate research stipend to a top student each year, and he has made important contributions recently, to increase its impact. These fellowships have been essential to us in the past ten years, in attracting our best applicants for graduate studies.
The department is proud to count Jim among the ranks of its illustrious alumni, and happy to recognize his impressive achievements with the 2019 Geology Alumni Achievement Award. Congratulations Jim!!!