Nowlin Receives 2006 Ocean Sciences Award

Worth D. Nowlin Jr. received the Ocean Sciences Award, which was presented to him on 22 February at the 2006 Ocean Sciences meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, for outstanding and long-standing service to the ocean sciences.


nowlin_worthThe Ocean Sciences Award is presented in recognition of outstanding and long-standing service to the ocean sciences community. It is a pleasure to make the 2006 citation for Worth D. Nowlin Jr., Distinguished Professor of Oceanography at Texas A&M University [College Station].

Worth has, for more than four decades, served as a community leader of mesoscale and large-scale studies of oceanic distributions of properties, the dynamics of ocean circulation, shelf circulation in the Gulf of Mexico, and the development of the coastal module of the Global Ocean Observing System. He has had a tremendous impact on all facets of oceanography and colleagues and students alike.

Worth has published some 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and hundreds of technical reports. He takes great pride in mentoring his graduate students, who span several generations on a direct lineage from his major professor, Distinguished Professor Robert O. Reid, and ultimately to his ‘scientific grandfather,’ Harald U. Sverdrup, the Norwegian pioneer of modern oceanography and the lead author of The Oceans, the ‘bible of oceanography’ for every oceanographer of my generation.

He has served the ocean community through numerous organizations, including the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Office for International Decade of Ocean Exploration, the Journal of Physical Oceanography, the Intergovernmental Ocean Commission, the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), the NSF/University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) Fleet Improvement Committee, the Global Ocean Observing Systems (GOOS), the Intergovernmental GOOS, and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System.

Worth Nowlin has been associated with Texas A&M University for half a century, as an undergraduate and master’s student in mathematics, a Ph.D. student in oceanography, faculty member, department head, deputy dean, and since 1987 distinguished professor, the highest academic rank. Worth has brought in untold research grants and contracts and continues to have an incredible influence on colleagues, postdocs (18), graduate students (31), and technicians at Texas A&M University and institutions around the nation and the world.

Worth is a no-nonsense Texan who does not mince his words. He is full of good ideas and willingly shares opinions and advice. He will give you honest and direct answers to questions you ask, and sometimes—actually often—to questions you do not ask. He is an ‘archetype A’ personality. He demands far more of himself than he does of others, and he never shirks a task. Worth has a very proactive way of operation: ‘He does not wait for his ship to come in; he swims out to meet it,’ according to a colleague.

Worth collects fountain pens and uses them daily, yet somehow never seems to use his shirt pocket as a blotter. He plays racquet ball with a vengeance. He likes to do his own landscaping under the hot Texas sun. Worth is a gourmet cook, a dedicated student of vintage wines, and a gourmand. He dearly loved his cat of 23 years, and when it died, welcomed two more into his life. Worth and his wife, Laura, are generous with both money and time. Worth has on several occasions paid the tuition for students out of his own pocket when funds were in short supply. Worth is a tough guy, but according to a former student, ‘while he is pretty slender around the waist, you will run out of tape if you measure him around the heart.

It is my pleasure to recognize Worth D. Nowlin Jr., Distinguished Professor, and the recipient of the 2006 American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences Award.

Björn Kjerfve, Texas A&M University, College Station


I am very honored to receive this award.

I thank AGU and those who were involved in the nomination and selection process. During the past 40 years, it has been my privilege to work with individuals from many different sectors of the ocean sciences community. I would like to thank just a few of those who profoundly altered my life. Thanks to:

  • Robert O. Reid, who was my major professor and continues today as my scientific mentor.
  • Hugh McLellan, who introduced me to observational oceanography and allowed me to direct my first observational oceanographic project, a month-long survey of the Gulf of Mexico in 1962.
  • Feenan D. Jennings, who introduced me to the federal government complex at ONR and has remained my lifelong friend and a godfather to my children.
  • Joseph Reid, who introduced me to research in the Southern Ocean and to large-scale oceanography.
  • William J. Merrell, from whom I learned a great deal about management and who remains a valued friend.
  • D. James Baker, a great friend, scientific colleague, and confidant from his time at Harvard through his many positions until his current one as president of the Philadelphia Museum of Natural History.
  • Helmuth Sievers, Chilean Navy, retired, who helped me understand the value of international cooperation.
  • Dale Pillsbury, my good companion during 11 years of research in the Southern Ocean.
  • The late George Needler, who worked with me during WOCE and planning for the climate component of the Global Ocean Observing System, and who was a special friend.
  • Neville Smith, for his work in the design of the Global Climate Observing System.
  • Ann Jochens, who guided my recent research projects and taught me much about ethics and excellent administration.
  • My spouse, Laura Nowlin, who taught me the values of effective communication and is the love of my life.

“To mention the numerous others who have helped me qualify for this award would take more time than allowed. I thank you again and hope you enjoy the remainder of this fine meeting.

Worth D. Nowlin, Jr., Texas A&M University, College Station