Dr. Robert and Mrs. Margaret Sheriff
Department of Geosciences
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by Noelle Heinze
Professor Emeritus of Geosciences Robert E. Sheriff and his wife Margaret are passionate about education. As the parents of six children, all college educated with careers ranging from geology to health and law, the Sheriffs are interested in fostering educational and research opportunities for other young people.
For over 30 years Robert Sheriff has taught at the University of Houston. An expert in exploration seismology, Dr. Sheriff is today primarily involved with reservoir geophysics, focusing his interest on energy production. In addition, he is well versed in sequence stratigraphy, a branch of geology concerned with interpreting patterns of rock deposition for use in hydrocarbon exploration and other geological pursuits. He wrote a book on this technique, which he helped to develop, refine, and teach in the 70s, and he is the author of several geophysics textbooks, which have been translated into many different languages.
Complementing Sheriff’s interest in education is Margaret Sheriff’s volunteer work with the Girl Scouts.  She has been active in Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in seven locations, three countries, and five U.S. councils.  Currently, Mrs. Sheriff is an active volunteer for the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the GSSJ Council. In addition, she was honored with the prestigious Juliette Low Friendship Medal by GSUSA’s national board of directors and will receive her sixty-year pin next year.
Well traveled, having lived in Australia, Trinidad, California, and Louisiana (among other places), and making their home in Houston for about 35 years, Robert and Margaret Sheriff have a world perspective that is balanced by their hometown roots in Ohio and Kansas.
It was in 1944 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, while working on the famous Manhattan Project, that the Sheriffs met. “We were introduced to each other by Margaret’s brother and hit it off right away,” says Sheriff, “ We married several months later.”
Their union has taken them across the globe, living in and traveling to foreign countries while Sheriff worked in a variety of geophysical and managerial positions for the Chevron Oil Company over the next 25 years.  During that time, Margaret Sheriff became involved on an international level with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, while also raising six children.
“Houston has a large Girl Scout council, so there was always something new in which I could get involved. I kept getting opportunities that I enjoyed. I had a high school troop for ten years after our daughters were gone. I had the opportunity to take a couple of troop trips to Europe, and I watched the world open up to the girls,” says Margaret Sheriff.
After working for Chevron, Robert Sheriff served as senior vice president for development of Seiscom Delta Corporation from 1975 to 1980.  He began teaching as an adjunct professor at UH in 1973 and became a full-time faculty member in 1981.
“When I was working in industry, I always had in mind that eventually I would go on and teach,” says Sheriff. “Margaret and I have always felt strongly about education, and we’ve always tried to teach our children to get as much education as they can.”
Here at the University of Houston, the Sheriffs have had an enormous impact on students and faculty in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Through various endowments, they have established two annual Society of Exploration Geophysicists Foundation scholarships for foreign graduate students, and three chaired professorships in applied seismology, sequence stratigraphy, and applied geophysics. In addition, an annual Sheriff Lecture series has been established in their honor by the Houston Geological Society and the UH Geosciences Alumni Association.
"The Sheriffs’ commitment to education and outreach to young people is phenomenal.  It’s quite spectacular when you consider all they have contributed to education over the years and the wonderful efforts of Margaret’s volunteer work with the Girl Scouts.  I cannot think of better examples of a couple who have truly given so much back to the university, department, and community,” says John F. Casey, chairman of the Department of Geosciences. “It has been an honor for us all in the Department to work with and know both Bob and Margaret so well. We thank them for their overwhelming generosity.”
© University of Houston 2005