Donald E Owen 1936-2023

Don at a Dakota Fm. outcrop in 2006
(click for a larger version)

January 8, 2024

Don passed away in Beaumont, Texas on December 30, 2023. He was born in Galveston on November 27, 1936, where he first became acquainted with hurricanes and coastal geologic processes, which provided early inspiration for his interest in geoscience. After graduating at the top of his class at Lamar University in Beaumont, Don earned his MS and PhD degrees at Kansas University. A self-described “fanatical geologist,” his passion for the science was reflected in his research, teaching, and consulting accomplishments.

Don’s primary interest was field geology, particularly classical stratigraphy. Those of us who went to the field with him could count on long days spent measuring sections, digging up bentonites, characterizing sediments, and describing depositional environments. He did not have time for anything else. Don’s outdoor kitchen consisted of a cooler full of diet cokes, a can opener, and a fork.

Don spent the majority of his career as a professor, first with Bowling Green University (14 years), followed by a 37-year tenure at Lamar University, where he retired as Emeritus Professor of Geoscience in 2012. He was a prolific author and editor of over 100 technical papers and guidebooks, many of which focussed on the San Juan Basin of northern New Mexico.

When he wasn’t teaching field camp, Don spent his summers doing field research, and consulting for petroleum companies in New Mexico. He was known as “Doctor Dakota” for his work in the complex Cretaceous Dakota Formation. His collaboration with petroleum geologists resulted in the first basin-wide resource assessment of the Dakota Formation. That work remains an industry standard for integrating enormous outcrop and subsurface datasets over an entire petroleum system.

Don was active in many professional organizations, including AAPG, SEPM, HGS, NMGS, FCGS, NMBEG, and he was a commissioner with the North American Commission of Stratigraphic Nomenclature. Highly respected by peers and students, Don was a positive influence on multiple generations of students and colleagues, and his enormous contributions to academia, teaching, and the petroleum industry are lasting legacies.

— Charles Head