Seeing the value in something others can't see is a gift.
John Marshall, BA '49, MA '50, has taken that gift and helped others reap the rewards throughout his lifetime. From his decades-long career as a geologist in the oil industry to his involvement as a volunteer and donor for the Geological Sciences Department in the MU College of Arts and Science, Marshall has shown others where to find the proverbial "diamond in the rough" all of his life.
From Marshall's perspective, one of those diamonds in the rough lies in the mountains of central Wyoming: MU's Edward B. Branson Geology Field Laboratory just outside of Lander, Wyo. Few people outside of the geology department are aware of this Mizzou resource.
Marshall says studying at Camp Branson in 1949, maybe more than any other experience, molded him into a professional geologist. It also forged the long-term relationship with his alma mater that he maintains today. "You get to know one another out there, get very close," Marshall says. "We all jumped from rattlesnakes."
Seeing the value of such experiences, Marshall is actively involved in making sure today's geology students at MU have the best opportunities to achieve success.
He was a founding member of the Department of Geological Sciences' alumni development board, which has modernized Camp Branson, built endowments and funded other projects for the department. Marshall continues to serve on the development board and the campaign committee for Arts and Science.
Kevin Shelton, geology department chair, says Marshall has been integral to the success of the department. "John Marshall loves the department of geology and he loves MU," Shelton says. "At every opportunity John is pursuing what is best for students and for the faculty."
Shelton says that Marshall has always been at the forefront of what the department is doing, pushing them to get better. "We have a great development board," Shelton continued. "John Marshall has been instrumental in all the good things the board has done for this department for as long as I can remember."
Setting the example, Marshall and his wife established an endowment for undergraduate enrichment in the department. Betty passed away in 2003, but John continues to serve. Marshall also created a charitable remainder trust that will benefit the department.
A GI Bill geology student
Marshall's father was an MU graduate but Marshall could not be sure he would have the same opportunity. He started at MU but World War II interrupted his studies.
During the war, Marshall earned three battle stars as a tank commander with Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army. After fighting the Battle of the Bulge, he was transferred to Gen. William Hood Simpson's 9th Army, with whom he "raced across Europe," Marshall says.
Like thousands of other soldiers of that era, Marshall took the opportunity to return to school. Marshall says the greatest thing that ever happened to him was the GI Bill and the chance to go back to MU. "If I had gone back home and went back on the hoe handle, you would never have heard of me," he says. Marshall turned his attention to the study of geology.
A door stop, a sling shot and a father's admonition
Growing up in Charleston, Mo., Marshall enjoyed a typical small-town childhood close to relatives and the outdoors. His grandmother's house was on Marshall Street, named for his grandfather. Marshall recalls his grandmother had a funny looking rock to keep the door propped open.
The street in front of his house was little more than a gravel road running through town. Marshall remembers the pretty stones he used as ammunition for his slingshot. "I had me some slingshot ambitions. Not very many people were much better than me with a slingshot. But those pretty rocks interested me," Marshall says.
It took some direction from his father, however, to steer Marshall's fascination with rocks toward geology. According to Marshall, his father never forgot the required geology classes he took while pursuing an MU degree in agriculture. His father also spent time in Texas working in and around the oil industry and encouraged John to study geology.
The GI Bill got Marshall back to Mizzou, which he credits with preparing him to succeed. Marshall earned two degrees in geology while attending MU. "They trained me well," Marshall says. "I could match wits with anybody when I was out of that place."
After graduation, Marshall went to work in the oil industry. From 1950 to 1982 he worked as a geologist for Mobil Oil. He was chief geologist from 1978 to 1981, with 400 geologists working for him. His final two years he worked in New York as Mobil's general manager of exploration for the Western Hemisphere.
After retiring in 1982, he started his own venture capital company, Marshall Energetics Ltd., where he is actively involved as CEO and chairman of the board. "I can't remember a day that I didn't want to go to work," he says. "I am amazed that they pay me for working." Whether it's going to work every day or helping his alma mater, Marshall clearly has the gift of seeing the value in things others can't see.
Return to Mizzou Legacy Stories.