Harold J. Funkhouser was born in Napoleon, Ohio on March 17, 1915. His father owned a Dodge dealership. He was the second of three brothers; the oldest being Paul and the youngest, Larry. As a youth, in addition to learning to drive at age 10, he was very athletic – and musically talented.
“Funk,” as he was known to his friends, entered the University of Miami (Ohio) in 1933, graduating in 1937 with a B.A. in geology. He next attended the University of Chicago, earning an M.S. in Geology and Paleontology in 1938.
That same year, he went to work for Gulf Oil Corporation and was immediately sent to El Tigre, in eastern Venezuela, to work for Gulf’s subsidiary, Mene Grande Oil Company as a junior geologist. He began his work under Hollis Hedberg. In his early days in Venezuela, seismic was in its infancy, and he pioneered the use of Schlumberger logs, which were almost unknown in the Americas at that time. The President of Gulf at that time observed that one of his many strengths was his “great ability to relate our science to hard economics.” A geologist who worked for him has observed that, “As a boss, he was very demanding but fair. He would implicitly trust his employees and associates and assume they were intelligent and honest. He would always give credit and reward where due. Most important, he had no fear of his superiors and always expressed his sincere opinion.”
He was named Chief Geologist for Mene Grande in 1951. With Venezuela moving inexorably toward nationalization, he returned to the states in 1960 to serve as Gulf’s Exploration Coordinator for the U.S. in Houston.
In his new position, he supported Gulf Research’s work in the use of computers in exploration, regional subsurface-seismic geology, high-pressure shale tectonics and seismic detection of hydrocarbons. He was ready to use new techniques even before they were totally understood.
“Funk” retired from Gulf in 1973 after 35 years of outstanding service. He loved petroleum exploration and often commented how lucky he felt to get paid for doing something he enjoyed so much. He died on Oct 30, 1998 in Houston.
The Harold J. Funkhouser Memorial Grant is awarded annually to a deserving graduate student through the AAPG Foundation Grants-in-Aid program. It is endowed through generous contributions to the AAPG Foundation from his brother, Lawrence W. Funkhouser, and numerous other colleagues.