Donald A. O’Nesky was born on November 7, 1935 in Haileyville, Oklahoma in the center of the southern Oklahoma coal mining activity. He grew up there and attended the local schools, playing football and basketball for Haileyville High School. In his senior year, he was elected president to the student council and selected as the “All Around Boy.” While still in high school, Don worked in a grocery store, saved his money, and began buying cattle. By the time he graduated, he had 20 black angus cows and augmented his income by selling their calves.
He enrolled at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) where he majored in Business Management and joined the Air Force ROTC program. In his sophomore year, he received the Convair AFROTC cadet award. The next year, he was selected as one of the Distinguished Military Students and in his senior year as a Distinguished Military Graduate and offered a regular commission in the Air Force. This qualified him to take a basic flying course offered by a local airport under contract with the Air Force.
Donald Andrew O’Nesky graduated in May, 1957 with a degree in Business Management and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. He entered the military in 1958 and was assigned to the Air Defense Command in Houma, Louisiana, then transferred to Tachikawa Air Base in Japan and subsequently to Vietnam. It was there that he met Mary Meliti, a beautiful girl from New York, who was working for the State Department in Vietnam and who was destined to become his wife and the mother of his son, Donald A. O’Nesky, Jr.
Don returned to the U.S. in December, 1960. Mary resigned from the State Department in February 1961 and returned to the U.S. They were married in her hometown of Croton-on Hudson, New York on April 15, 1961. During Don's military career, Mary was an active volunteer on the bases and in the communities where they served. She was elected President of the Officers Wives' Club at Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York; President of the Allied Officers Wives' Club at Soesterberg AB, Holland; and in 1966 was selected one of the Outstanding Young Women of America. Upon Don's retirement from military services as a Lt. Colonel in September, 1978, after 20 years of active duty, he prepared for a return to civilian life earning an M.S. in Counseling and Human Development from Troy State University.
Don moved his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma and began looking for a second career. This was fortunate for both Don and AAPG. Don interviewed for the Member Services Manager job and came to work for AAPG in November, 1978. Soon after, the position of Business Manager opened and he moved into that vacancy and was subsequently promoted to Business Director. In 1985 he was appointed to additional duties as Deputy Executive Director of the Association and the Foundation. He also served additional duty as Convention Director for awhile in 1994. In 1997, Don was appointed Executive Director of the Foundation where he served until 1999.
Don played a major role in the growth of AAPG from its annual income of $2.5 million in 1978 to over $11 million in 2002, with member services increasing many-fold and while holding expenses and dues increased to a minimum.
He retired from AAPG on June 30, 2002 after 24 years of service. His many geologist friends have chosen to establish this grant in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the science and profession of petroleum geology. He never had a formal course in geology but, in the opinion of many, he has earned a “degree by association.” When an oil company discovered natural gas on his family property near Haileyville, he became an “oilman,”. He currently serves as the 2011-2012 Chairman of the AAPG Foundation Trustee Associates. Don and Mary currently live in Venice, FL.
The Donald A. and Mary O’Nesky Named Grant is awarded annually to a deserving graduate student through the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation Grants-in-Aid program, and is endowed by the AAPG Foundation with generous contributions from Don’s many friends and associates.