Retirement speech to Stanford students and staff
by Jon Claerbout 1/15/08

I came here 40 years ago. Just after I finished my PhD at MIT. My thesis: atmospheric electro magnetic gravity waves.

This building (Mitchell) was not here when I came. You know that big hole in the ground in the shadow of the Green Earth Sciences building?

The Salvatori Geophysics building before Jon arrived.
The sole landmark visible today is geology corner on the left edge.
The Friday beer oak tree is gone too.
(picture credit: Bob Kovach)
The old Geophysics Building was over that hole. It was named the Henry Salvatori geophysics building. Henry made his money in my field, geophysical prospecting. Henry never gave us another dime. I heard he figured it was more important to get Ronald Reagan elected president, which was what he set out to do next.

Like all professors I went looking for funds for graduate students. I got grants from the usual sources, but what I really wanted to do was something nobody else was doing -- get money directly from geophysical survey companies and oil companies. I tried six years. I invented wave equation migration which I would like to claim is how I got SEP started. But the real reason I was able to get SEP started might be the price of oil ran up past 3 or 4 dollars a barrel.

Would you like to hear about the time half the gas stations in Palo Alto ran out of gas? The other half had long lines of cars waiting. Then they'd run out gas too. That's when I came up for tenure. So, you see, lady luck smiled on me again. Those gas lines were a result of government price controls.

When I first arrived here I saw Bob Kovach had a secretary. I had no desire for a secretary. When you have a secretary, I thought, you need to talk to her, to give her activities to fill her day. I could not imagine that. I just wanted to think about geophysics -- all the time. Nowdays I've changed. Now I enjoy chatting with people. Stop by my office. Join me for lunch. Any day.

In the early days there was not much bureaucracy. In those days the dean downstairs had only two secretaries. Imagine that. Only two secretaries in the deans' office. Amazing!

And what about Geophysics? We had a secretary too. Just one. Her name was Mary Dowden. I still see her.

In the beginning in Geophysics we had no faculty meetings. Didn't need them. From time to time it would happen accidentally that I'd be in the men's room when the other faculty would trickle in, George Thompson, Bob Kovach, and Allen Cox. Before finishing our business in the men's room we'd also finish all the faculty business. That's how we came to hire Amos Nur. Norm Sleep too. Those days are gone forever. Now our chair person is a woman, the dean above her is a woman, and the provost above her was a woman.

My office today is behind the upper crotch in the gum tree.

I would like to tell you how Stanford's Hewlett building and Packard building came about. All the buildings in that area used to be World War II temporary buildings. Two-story wooden fire traps. When our Green Earth Science building was dedicated, I was standing there with Cecil Green. Mr. Packard and Mr. Hewlett came to meet this person Cecil Green who had started Texas Instruments as an offshoot of the instument group in his Geophysical Services company (GSI). We were all looking down at those World War II "temporary" buildings. The upshot was that Mr. Packard and Mr. Hewlett decided they ought to do like this generous Texan had already done. As I mentioned, Cecil Green made his money in geophysical prospecting. I've been the proud holder of the Cecil Green chair.

As I get older I find the people get friendlier every year, unlike the computers. Every year the computers get more persnickety. So...

After retirement I plan to continue teaching. As for research, I'll keep drumming up new projects for new students, but those students will have to rely on Biondo and Bob to get them finished.

That brings you pretty much up to date.