Norman H. Foster was a leader and innovator in the field of petroleum geology for more than 40 years. To all who knew him, he was a great friend and a beloved leader, teacher, and mentor. He was kind, supportive, thoughtful, and encouraging; always having time to listen. Above all, he was a remarkable man of high ideals and fundamental, unwavering honesty and integrity.
Norman was born on October 2, 1934, on the campus of the University of Iowa, where his father was a member of the Art Department staff. At an early age, his family moved to an artist colony in Woodstock, in upstate New York. Growing up in the Catskills, he developed an interest in the rocks exposed in the area. A neighbor, who was a well-known paleontologist, often took Norm on fossil hunting outings in the Devonian outcrops of the area, explaining the fossils and the geology of the Catskills delta. His career as a geologist was probably scaled before he even started high school.
Norman returned to the place of his birth, the University of Iowa, for his higher education, earning an M.S. degree in geology in 1960. He then enrolled at the University of Kansas where he received a Ph.D. in geology. His wife Janet, who Norm had met his first year at Iowa and married in his senior year, is an R.N. She worked at Mercy Hospital at Veteran's Hospital in Iowa City while Norm was in school.
He joined Sinclair Oil Corporation in 1962 in Casper, Wyoming, then was transferred to their Denver office. Norm was a pioneer in the team concept of exploration for petroleum, establishing teams of geologists, geophysicists, engineers, and landmen. In 1969, he joined one of Tom Jordan’s enterprises and spent 10 years searching for oil and minerals in areas as diverse as Indonesia and Nevada. In 1979 Norm became an independent. At the time of his death, he was managing partner of Foster Exploration, LLC.
Throughout his career, he was strongly supportive of and active in volunteer work with his professional societies, the universities of Iowa and Kansas, and other organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, on which he served. He held many offices and received many awards, including President of AAPG (1988-89) and the Association’s highest award, the Sidney Powers Memorial Medal (posthumously in 1999).
Norman Foster passed away on January 1, 1999, in Denver, with Janet and their children at his bedside.
The Norman H. Foster Memorial Grant is awarded annually to a qualified graduate student through the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation Grants-in-Aid Program, and is endowed through the AAPG Foundation from generous contributions by his numerous friends and colleagues.