William L. Fisher
Interim Director, 1999–2000
William L. Fisher came to the Bureau of Economic Geology in 1960 to study Tertiary rocks in the Texas Gulf Coastal Plain. He became an expert not only in Texas Gulf Coast geology but also in energy and mineral resource assessment and policy issues. A decade after his arrival, he became the sixth director of the Bureau.
Fisher earned a bachelor’s degree in geology in 1954 from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in geology in 1958 from the University of Kansas. He completed his doctorate at Kansas in 1961, finishing his dissertation while working at the Bureau in Austin.
From his arrival at the Bureau in 1960 to his rise to the directorship in 1970 to his appointment as the first dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences in 2005 to his
current position on the faculty, Bill Fisher has been a positive influence on the Bureau for half its existence, and he holds the distinction of being the longest serving director, leading the organization for nearly one-quarter of its hundred-year history.
Fisher’s tenure as director marked a period of remarkable growth—both of Fisher professionally and of the Bureau in the stature it gained as a premier geological research institution. As the Bureau prospered and outgrew its space on campus, Fisher oversaw the development of new research and core storage facilities at Balcones Research Center (now Pickle Research Campus) that have been the Bureau’s home since 1984.
In 1975 Fisher accepted a Department of Interior appointment as deputy assistant secretary of energy. In 1976 he was appointed by President Ford to assistant secretary of energy and minerals. While Fisher took a leave of absence to focus on national policy issues, Charles G. Groat, an associate director at the Bureau, served as acting director. Fisher returned to the Bureau in 1977 to resume his directorship.
In 1984 Fisher took on added responsibility as chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences and director of the Geology Foundation. He also was elected president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), serving the 1985–86 term. In 1994, he stepped down as director of the Bureau to pursue his long-deferred plans to teach full time. In 1999 the University again turned to Fisher to direct the Bureau until a new director was hired in January 2000. Fisher returned to campus to focus on his students and continue his leading role at the Geology Foundation. His students elected him to receive the Knebel Distinguished Teaching Award in 2000.
Besides his key administrative roles and teaching responsibilities at the University, Fisher continued to support many professional organizations. In addition to the AAPG presidency, he served as president of the Association of American State Geologists, the American Geological Institute (AGI), and the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG). He was awarded the Sidney Powers Medal from AAPG, the Twenhofel Medal from SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), the Marcus Milling Legendary Geoscientist Medal and the Ian Campbell Medal—both from AGI, the Ben H. Parker Medal from AIPG, the Don R. Boyd Medal from the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, and the Hollis Hedberg Medal from the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man. The William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship was established and endowed to honor Fisher by the AGI and friends in 2003.
Fisher has published more than 350 titles, including books and atlases, mostly on energy and mineral resources and policy, stratigraphy, and sedimentology. He has presented more than 700 lectures throughout the world. He has also presented testimony on more than 100 occasions to the U.S. Congress and Texas Legislature.
Fisher served as director of the Geology Foundation from 1984 to 2006, the longest term in that organization’s history, and increased the assets of the Foundation from $10 million to $423 million. He was named an honorary life member of the Advisory Council in 2006. It was through this organization that Fisher met and developed a lifelong friendship with Jack Jackson, whose donation made possible the establishment of the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences.
Fisher was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1994. He was awarded honorary degrees by several institutions and also received the Presidential Citation from The University of Texas at Austin in 2002 for his many contributions to the University. Fisher was honored as the Bureau’s alumnus of the year in 2008, the same year his memoir, Leaning Forward, was published. He holds the Leonidas T. Barrow Centennial Chair in Mineral Resources in the Department of Geological Sciences, where he continues to teach and supervise graduate students.