Helen Isaac - 2007

CSEG Meritorious Service Award Recipient Citation for Helen Isaac
by Perry Kotkas

Helen Isaac

It is an honour and my pleasure to present this citation for Helen Isaac, Ph.D., who is a recipient of the CSEG’s prestigious Award for Meritorious Service for 2007.  I first met Helen in 2000, when she joined me on the Executive Committee; I am now ‘working for her’ on the Outreach committee, of which Helen is the chairperson.

Helen is very well-known for her infectious smile, her bright laugh, yet her quiet demeanour and her service as a volunteer for the CSEG in various roles.  Helen’s CSEG service began in 2000 when she was elected to the Executive Committee, then she served 5 years on the RECORDER staff; Helen is currently chair of the very active Outreach Committee.  Allow me to give you some insight into the life & times of Helen Isaac.

Helen describes herself as a ‘little fat kid’ born in Nottingham, England.  Helen was ‘hopeless’ in sports but excelled in math and music – two loves that she would carry with her through to today.  Helen became interested in geophysics towards the end of her B.Sc, as “it looked interesting and I wanted to travel”.  She has a B.Sc. in Mathematics (1973) and an M.Sc. in Geophysics (1974) from the prestigious Imperial College in London, and a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary (1996).

After university in London, Helen did travel – she worked as a seismic data processor for Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, then back in London as an exploration geophysicist in Phillips’ Norwegian group.  In 1980, Helen came to Calgary to work for Hudson’s Bay Oil & Gas’s international company, interpreting data from the Far East, Middle East, Africa, and the North Sea.  After Dome took over HBOG, Helen moved to Canterra, where she worked as an interpreter on offshore Nova Scotia, Beaufort and northern Alberta projects.  Take-overs persisted and Helen ‘endured’ a few more years after Husky took over Canterra.  Like so many of us, Helen was laid off, in 1992, just five weeks after her husband was laid off from Pan Canadian. That reminds me of the famous quote: “You’ve never lived until you’ve been laid off in the oilpatch” (author unknown) … something our younger members may have not yet accomplished.

Helen did her Ph.D. at the U. of Calgary on timelapse 3D and 3C reservoir monitoring of heavy oil undergoing cyclical steam stimulation at Cold Lake.  Upon completion, Helen was hired by the Fold-Fault Research Project as a Research Scientist and has been in that role ever since.

Helen’s CSEG volunteer career started in 2000, when she was elected to the Executive Committee as second vice-president (nick-named the ‘VP in charge of lunch’); Helen and I served on that executive together.  We had quite a year – the CSEG’s 50th Anniversary and the SEG Convention in Calgary, as well as the GeoCanada national convention; a hugely busy time!  Helen served on that SEG convention’s Technical Committee.  She has also served on the CSEG convention technical committee and chaired many technical sessions.

During Helen’s year as second vice-president we modified the service of the Executive Committee members to two-year terms (a very successful action by the way), as well as changing the executive members’ functions.  Helen became Director of Educational Services – an expanded role which she fulfilled admirably.  A foot note to the beginning of Helen’s volunteer career – I asked her what caused her to volunteer; I expected some kind of deep sense of commitment type of reply….  She replied: “Well, somebody phoned me and asked if I’d serve…and I figured, why not, I could help a bit”.  And a long and meritorious volunteer career was born!

In 2002 Helen joined the RECORDER as Assistant Technical Editor, and served five years. Satinder Chopra, long-time Production Editor (also a Meritorious Service Award recipient), writes: “Helen’s diverse contributions ranged from soliciting articles, making prompt corrections to articles, putting forth and supporting good ideas that could be implemented in the magazine.  She would take the initiative as well as painstaking effort in doing all this and remained committed for as long as she was on our committee.  She was also our link with the academic world at the University of Calgary.  I have known Helen as a gentle and productive member, who was very effective in whatever way she contributed, maintained her good nature and has a great sense of humour.  I am happy that Helen is receiving this well deserved award; my congratulations to her.”

Outreach became Helen’s latest CSEG home; she joined in 2002 and became chairperson in 2003.  Under Helen’s leadership this committee has become one of the CSEG’s flagships of performance to our membership, the public, and to students across Canada.  Helen has gathered a diverse and excellent group of volunteers, from brand new members to very experienced veterans; she guides us and maintains balance very effectively.  Outreach is putting the CSEG ‘on the map’ in the eyes of the public in many new ways!

Helen’s other volunteer world is a big one – she has been a soprano member of the Calgary Philharmonic Chorus for 22 years!  In addition, she has been awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership in the Calgary Ski Club for huge service with them, including the ongoing organizing of the Lake Louise Loppet cross-country race (hundreds of participants over the years from ages 4-85!).  Helen is also a Certified Cross Country Canada race official and has worked a number of World Cup events.  Helen enjoys XC-skiing and singing (of course!) as well as hiking and gardening.

In conclusion, the CSEG’s Award for Meritorious Service is certainly befitting a person of Helen’s stature – congratulations Helen, for past and ongoing excellent service to our society.  People like you are the cornerstones of the CSEG.