Dr. Robert F. Walters
(1914 - 1998)

Coauthored by
Daniel F. Merriam 
Lawrence, Kansas 
Robert Cowdery
Wichita, Kansas

Robert F. Walters died in his sleep on April 9, 1998 in his home in Wichita, Kansas.  With his passing the profession lost a senior statesman and the Walters family lost their patriarch.  Bob, as  he preferred, was a scholar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist; he was an extraordinary man with exceptional talents.  He was born in Rochester, NY where he graduated with a bachelor (cum laude) and a masters degree in geology from the University of Rochester.  He was encouraged by the small faculty at Rochester and Benjamin Simmons, a former graduate, to pursue a career in geology.  So from there he went on to Johns Hopkins University to work with Ernst Cloos for his PhD, which was granted in 1946.  His dissertation "Buried Precambrian Hill in Northeastern Barton County, Central Kansas." was published in the AAPG Bulletin and in several publications that are now considered classics.

By 1948 Bob had been employed as a research geologist for 6 years by Gulf Oil Corporation in Tulsa, where he also served as editor of the Tulsa Geological Society Digest, and in Wichita, where he would spend the rest of his productive life.  After leaving Gulf he joined Jack Heathman in the oil business until 1951 when he formed his own company, the Walters Drilling Company.  In this endeavor he was able to combine his vast scientific knowledge with business acumen.  His interest continued in the Precambrian and the Central Kansas Uplift, writing papers on the Kraft-Prusa oil field and oil production from fractured Precambrian basement rocks on the Central Kansas Uplift.  His next major contribution in 1958 was entitled "Differential Entrapment of Oil and Gas in Arbuckle Dolomite of Central Kansas," another paper published in the AAPG Bulletin that has held up through the years and showed his considerable foresight and perception.

He was intrigued by salt dissolution and land subsidence as he pursued his interests during the 1970's and 80's with an important contribution to the subject appearing in 1977 under the title, "Land subsidence in Central Kansas Related to Salt Dissolution" (Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 214).  His attention also was on Pennsylvanian channel sandstones in Ness County, Kansas and he co-authored a paper (with Bob Gutru and Fred James) on the subject which appeared in the Tulsa Geological Society Digest.  Another seminar and his last publication, "Gorham Oil Field, Russell County, Kansas" (Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 228), was published in 1991.  For his effort he received the John C. Frye Award in 1991 from the Geological Society of America.  Bob was associated with the Kansas Geological Survey for several decades and served on the Advisory Council for 10 years and chairing it for five, where he provided leadership in recommending new programs, securing funding, and recommending appropriate policies.

Bob was honored in many ways by many organizations.  In addition to the awards previously mentioned, he was president of the Kansas Geological Society in 1955, made Honorary Member of the KGS in 1970 and AAPG in 1987, and was inducted into the Kansas Oil and Gas Hall of Fame in 1991.  He served on numerous KGS and AAPG committees including the Advisory Council (1972-74), Trustee Associates (1980-85), Research (1951-53), Business (1954-55, 1964-65), Emblem (1955), and was an Associate Editor from 1954 to 1967.  He was an ardent supporter of the KGS and AAPG giving unselfishly of his time to both organizations.

He is survived by his wife Peg, who he married in 1938, four daughters, ten grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.  Bob was active in many civic organizations as well, including (not surprisingly) the Girl Scouts, Wichita Swim Club, Wichita Chapter of the American Red Cross, and was a Deacon in the First Presbyterian Church.  Other interests included archeology and for a hobby he collected Native American artifacts and jewelry.

Bob was a modest person; preferring to help others without public acknowledgment.  He fostered the careers of many young geologists, by not only professional support, but financial support - many times this support, especially to students, was anonymous and unknown to the recipients.  Monetary gifts included support of the geology department at his alma mater, the University of Rochester.

Bob was special in many ways, but especially in his devotion to his family and in his devotion to his profession.  He stood tall in all aspects of life and was unique in and for quality.  He had insight and understanding not only of his chosen profession - geology, but of human nature.  he will be missed and he will be remembered.

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