Worthey endows geosciences field study fund


Students studying to become geologists will have an advantage when they complete their studies at Mississippi State University. An endowed fund established in the College of Arts and Sciences by alumnus Mark Worthey will enable students to engage in real-world experiences while they are in school.

The Mark Worthey Endowed Field Studies Fund in the Department of Geosciences will enhance the department from which Worthy earned a petroleum geology degree. Worthey believes it is easier to learn through hands-on experiences, and he wants students to experience fieldwork before they graduate and begin their professions.

“I hope the department will be able to better educate future scientists through the use of this fund and provide students with the necessary insights to help them succeed in their careers,” Worthey said.

Adam Skarke, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, expressed his appreciation of the fund created by Worthey.

“Field studies are a good way for students to understand how modern sedimentological processes can be used to interpret the geologic record, and we are happy to use the endowment established by Mark Worthey in this manner,” Skarke said.

With the fund’s assistance, Sharke has already organized and run two Mississippi State field trips. Their goal, Skarke explained, is for students to observe modern depositional processes to relate them to rocks deposited on the Mississippi coast during the Eocene Period, which dates from 56 to 33.9 million years ago.

Each year geology students nearing completion of their MSU studies attend field camps as part of their required coursework, and they run the course of a weekend and usually cost around $110 apiece. Each trip includes multiple stops, so students can observe different areas of the coastline.

“The Mark Worthey Endowed Field Studies Fund provides an annual support structure to help students defray the costs associated with these field trips and fieldwork,” said Dr. Bill Cooke, interim head of the Department of Geosciences. “For example,” he said, “when graduate students need to work on research that requires field data sampling, this fund will help pay for student travel costs associated with the gathering of samples.”

Worthey’s previous support of MSU began less than a decade ago when he created the Mark Worthey Endowed Scholarship to provide financial assistance to Department of Geosciences recipients. A second scholarship established by Worthey honors his parents and carries their names. He chose to create the Clarence M. Worthey and Billie Ann Worthey Endowed Scholarship in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the College of Forest Resources because his father was always outdoors, and Worthey felt that department represented him well.

Worthey grew up in Monroe County, Mississippi, and enrolled at MSU in 1975, but he left to join the Air Force. After serving his country for four years, Worthey resumed his academic studies at MSU through the assistance of the G.I. Bill. He earned his diploma in 1984 and became the first person from his family to attend and graduate from college.

“I credit the education I received at Mississippi State to allowing me to get a good professional position, and I want to ensure this education is available to others,” he said.

Following graduation, Worthey moved to Texas when a fellow MSU alumnus gave him his first job as a geologist. After that role, he became a founding officer for Denbury Resources. At present, he is president of McClaren Resources Inc., a private oil and gas company.

For his professional accomplishments, Worthey was honored as a 2009 Alumni Fellow for the College of Arts and Sciences and returned to campus to share his experiences as a mentor to students and faculty. Among Worthey’s most noteworthy accomplishments, he told them, was ringing the bell on behalf of Denbury Resources to close the New York Stock Exchange.

Worthey was born in Rockford, Illinois, and he spent most of his childhood in Hamilton, Mississippi. Today, he and his wife Rhonda, a native Texan, divide their time between McKinney, Texas, and Smith County, Mississippi, and they spend time with Mark’s son Kyle and Rhonda’s daughter Stephanie. With Kyle, Worthey engages in a friendly football competition each year when MSU plays Louisiana State University since Kyle attended LSU.

Worthey is proud of his continued association with Mississippi State. When asked why he initially decided to support the university financially and why he keeps giving, Worthey gave a simple response, “I like helping people help themselves.”

Alumni and friends may assist the College of Arts and Sciences with gifts through Infinite Impact by contacting Alex McIntosh, the college’s development director, at amcintosh@foundation.msstate.edu or telephone 662-325-3240.

By Laura Ladner