Portraits in Excellence 2002 [The Baylor Line]
by Hope Katz Gibbs
The Baylor Line
Photos by Dan Bryant
On January 25, 2002, The Baylor Alumni Association bestowed the prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award on remarkable Baylor graduates at a black-tie banquet. By earning praise of their peers and colleagues, these leaders brought high honor to their alma mater.
DR. JOHN RIOLA, Class of 1968
Chief geophysicist at Texaco Worldwide Exploration
EDUCATION HAS ALWAYS BEEN IMPORTANT to John Riola, chief geophysicist at Texaco World Exploration, who graduated summa cum laude from Baylor in 1968.
His parents, who had attended Baylor, were teachers there and Riola says his childhood revolved around school, family, and sports.
“I believe I took an academic course every summer until I finished my PhD,” recalls Riola, now 56. “My parents believed that a great education was always the most important thing they could give us.”
Their philosophy, and his hard work, paid off. After earning a doctorate from Rice University in 1973, Riola-who had a double major in physics and mathematics at Baylor-received four job offers: to become professor at the University of Dallas, head to Los Alamos to develop offensive weapons systems, or fly an orbiting space station for NASA.
Instead, Riola chose to join the ranks of Texaco’s Exploration and Producing Technology Department as a geophysicist.
“Although I never had a geology course as an undergraduate or graduate student, the job at Texaco was the most promising opportunity,” Riola explains. “After a lot of on-the-job learning, I gradually became a contributor.”
In fact, Riola made important contributions in his early years at Texaco, according to Robert Tatham, the Shell Companies Centennial Chair in Geophysics at the University of Texas, who worked with Riola at Texaco in the 1970s.
“John solved some significant problems in seismic data acquisition and processing,” Tatham says, noting that the results of Riola’s work allowed the company to successfully collect and analyze data in land areas previously closed to effective exploration.
Managers at Texaco noticed his accomplishments, and in 1981 they promoted Riola to staff geophysicist—which meant he reported to the president of Texaco USA. In 1983 he was named geophysical manager for the Midland division, and in 1989 he was promoted to geosciences technology manager of the company’s eastern region for New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1996, he moved from regional duties to the corporate level, joining the Texaco Worldwide Exploration division and becoming the chief geophysicist in 1999. Despite the scientific contributions he made at Texaco, Riola believes his greatest accomplishments have been as a manager.
“I quickly learned that I could accomplish so much more by training and encouraging other people,” says Riola, who currently lives in Houston with his wife, Ellen Hauge. “At the end of the day, what matters is the way you deal with people and whether people see you as a person of integrity—a person they can trust. “
William Wallace, Riola’s mentor and boss at Texaco from 1989 to 1994, says Riola’s ability to guide others made him an effective manager and a valuable employee.
“During the course of the five years I worked with John, he was repeatedly involved in important assignments, task forces, and studies that were designed to achieve dramatic behavioral and organizational changes in a division with twenty-five hundred people,” Wallace recalls. “With John’s assistance, we became the first team-based organization in Texaco with quality-based initiatives that were adopted by the entire organization. The business results improved, as did the morale of the entire organization.”
When Texaco merged with Chevron last fall, many jobs were cut-including Riola’s. He’ll stay on through the spring as a technology advisor to negotiate the transfer of licenses on dozens of agreements and contracts that require his technical expertise.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do after that,” says Riola, who has three children and one stepson. “I do plan to stay in the Houston area, though, because in my field this is where the job opportunities are. I am looking forward to seeing where those opportunities take me.”
DR. FRANK NEWPORT, Class of 1970
Editor-in-Chief, The Gallup Poll*
EVEN AS A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT IN FORT Worth in the 1960s, Frank Newport was fascinated by the social interaction and status hierarchy that organized the lives of his fellow classmates.
“No one was ever named most popular, or most unpopular, but everyone had a sense of the schematic map, and I found that to be amazing,” says the 52-year-old Newport, who since 1990 has put his interest in sociology to work as editor-in-chief of The Gallup Poll in Princeton, New Jersey. “I was neither appalled by nor in favor of that hierarchy, but rather was like someone who is fascinated by bugs. I simply stayed neutral and observed.”
Newport follows a similar neutral strategy today. “I seem to frustrate people at parties when they ask me what I think about a certain issue,” he says. “I tell them, ‘well, 80 percent of the people believe such-and-such.’ They usually roll their eyes.”
One reason for his indirect response, Newport says, is that he values the opinions of the American people-sometimes more than he values his own.
“There is great intelligence and insight that comes forth when the opinion of a teacher from Kansas is combined with a plumber from North Dakota, a housewife in New Jersey, a doctor in Miami, and a professor at Harvard in Boston,” he says. “Collectively, the American people are quite wise and insightful.”
Of course, he’s heard the criticism that the masses are not very smart. (“It’s true,” he says. “Some Americans don’t know where Afghanistan is on the map.”) Nonetheless, the people
were on target when it came to controversies like the 0. J. Simpson trial, the Elian Gonzales custody case, the 2000 election Florida recount, and President Clinton’s involvement with Monica Lewinsky and his subsequent impeachment trial.
“With reference to President Clinton, our data showed that most people thought he’d had an affair long before he made his public confession,” Newport says. “However, our data also told us that Americans didn’t want Clinton to leave office early.”
In that instance, he says, policymakers and politicians listened to the people-not something that happens as often as Newport would hope.
“Politicians sometimes listen to polling data, but not always. The reason why, they have told us, is that there are too many polls and the information is often contradictory. Then, there are those politicians, like President George W. Bush, who say they believe politicians should lead without paying attention to public opinion.
“Well, I think presidents and other political leaders should pay keen attention to what the people think and what they want. There are 280 million Americans, and it behooves our representatives to spend time getting to know those they represent. Polls are a great way to do it.”
Newport, who has four children with his wife of 25 years, Kim Cooper, does his best to disseminate Gallup’s results. He is the featured on-air host of CNN’s Gallup Poll segments and has presented more than eight hundred segments in the last two years. He also regularly appears on CNN International and CNNfn, is the editor of Gallup Poll Monthly magazine, and records twice-weekly radio features that are broadcast on CNN to more than fifteen hundred stations around the country.
Those on-air duties dovetail with Newport’s other passion—broadcasting. In fact, he worked his way through Baylor as a radio announcer and television sports and news anchor. Although he majored in broadcasting, he switched to sociology and earned masters and doctoral degrees in sociology from the University of Michigan.
Newport says he feels a strong bond to Baylor because several members of his family attended and taught at the school. His father, Dr. John P. Newport, who died last year, was a professor at Baylor in the 1950s. And for years, his uncle, Dr. Frank Leavell, taught English at Baylor.
Plus, he says his roots in Texas friendliness and his Baylor education have given him the broadminded perspective he needs to do his job well.
“A central theme in my life is to respect all people and their opinions,” Newport says. “Everyone has a contribution to make. At Gallup, we look at people’s strengths, not their flaws. We believe that everyone has something important to say. You just have to get it out of them.”
DR. JOANN HORTON GOATCHER, Class of 1952
Missionary physician in Southeast Asia
WHEN DR. JOANN HORTON GOATCHER was nine years old, she knew her life’s work would be dedicated to assisting some of the world’s neediest people.
“I was called by the Lord as a child, and that call required preparation,” says Goatcher, now 70. “That preparation included physics, trigonometry, Latin, and biochemistry — all the classes most students tried to avoid. But I knew they were preparation for the ministry of medicine to which God had called life.”
In 1948 Goatcher enrolled at Baylor University, and after graduation she was accepted to Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. It was the early 1950s, a time when women were often discouraged from choosing medicine as a career.
“Some of the professors made it difficult for the six of us women in the class, trying to intimidate us and get us to drop out,” says Goatcher. “Yet the challenge they offered just made me study harder and ultimately helped me become a better physician.”
After graduating from medical school in 1955, Goatcher completed an internship and a pediatric residency and then obtained further training in leprosy and other infectious diseases prominent in the Third World.
She married Earl, a hospital administrator, in December 1957, and a year later their daughter, Lisa, was born. A son, James, came in 1962. (Both went on to graduate from Baylor.) When James was just five months old, the family boarded a ship for the twenty-one-day trip to Thailand.
For nine years, Goatcher worked as a staff physician at a newly built hospital in the small town of Bangkla and in the surrounding rural area between Bangkok and the Cambodian border. She and the other missionary physicians served a population of three hundred thousand, regularly treating people for such ailments as diphtheria, leprosy, cobra bites, polio, tuberculosis, and meningitis.
“Many patients died needlessly,” she says. “With no knowledge of the germ theory of disease, their first line of defense usually was an animal sacrifice, incantation, manure and bile poultice, or snake oil. When that didn’t work, they would come to the hospital. But it was often too late for us to help.”
Goatcher’s work extended far beyond providing medical care. “My husband and I started a Bible class in our home,” she says. “As time passed, the class grew, becoming a channel through which many people heard about the Lord, came to
believe, and became church members. Today there arc many churches in southeast Thailand, and I’m grateful our class played a role in that.”
Upon their return to the U.S. in 1971, the Goatchers moved to Van Horn, Texas. Earl became an administrator at the local hospital and Joann established a private practice. She also became the medical director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas’s Rio Grande River Ministry, helping to establish 22 rural health clinics in Mexico along the Rio Grande.
She was also a clinician with the Texas Department of Health, serving a large area in West Texas. Because of the great distances involved, the couple bought a plane and Joann learned to fly.
In 1979 the Foreign Mission Board asked the Goatchers to return to Thailand during the Southeast Asia refugee crisis. Joann became the medical director of a 100-bed refugee hospital along the Thai-Cambodian border, while Earl was the refugee program’s overall director, feeding and serving 45,000 refugees in four different camps.
“Artillery fire and the sounds of war were always present,” she says of the challenging situation, “and tuberculosis, malaria, and malnutrition were rampant.”
In 1983, as the crisis subsided, Goatcher began providing primary health care training among a tribal group in India. For three years she and Earl traveled in India, as well as Bangladesh, living in the villages and training designated village leaders.
The Goatchers returned to the United States in 1987, locating in Richmond, Virginia, where Joann worked as a consultant in the medical office of the Foreign Mission Board and as a staff physician for the Virginia Department of Corrections in a juvenile detention center. In 1991, the couple retired near Earl’s hometown of Clinton, Arkansas, where Joann continued her practice. She now practices part-time at a mental health clinic.
“I am so grateful I was permitted to be a physician and so blessed that my family was willing to let me follow my dreams,” Goatcher says. “Most of all, I am grateful to God that he allowed me to walk the road less traveled and serve him in this way.”