Leon J. Aden, 80BS, 82MS, regularly travels the globe as a top-level geologist with ExxonMobil, but he still finds time to return to the University of Iowa as a dedicated volunteer, mentor, and advisor.
When he's not busy leading exploration and development evaluations of places as far-flung as Africa, Asia, and the Arctic, Aden invests in his alma mater through gifts of guidance and resources.
Aden's ties to Iowa run deep. After high school, he enrolled in what is now the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), earning a bachelor's degree in geology in 1980. He completed his master's degree in 1982 at Iowa, focusing his thesis on clay mineralogy and deposition environments in eastern Kansas, western Missouri, and northeastern Oklahoma.
After graduation, the young scientist began work for Exxon Corporation, which hired him to help sustain gas production in South Texas. Aden quickly proved a talented geologist, and in 1990, he was transferred to Exxon Exploration, where he searched for oil and gas fields in Trinidad, Papua New Guinea, West Africa, South America, and Europe.
By 2003, Aden had joined ExxonMobil Upstream Research to help develop predictive models of clastic reservoirs, and in 2004, he moved to ExxonMobil Development Company to supervise development of Nigerian deep-water fields. Since returning in 2007 to ExxonMobil Exploration, where he uses advanced modeling techniques to target complex oil and gas-reservoir systems, he has become one of the company's go-to people for addressing challenging problems from an interdisciplinary perspective.
In Iowa, Aden represents ExxonMobil on the UI campus, where he regularly mentors and recruits students—and is almost singlehandedly responsible for all the Hawkeye hires that ExxonMobil's geosciences division has made in the last 15 years. In addition, he has volunteered for the UI geoscience alumni advisory board and is a longtime member and former chair of the CLAS dean's advisory board. Sam Bromberger, who served with Aden on the dean's advisory board, says that his colleague has the ability to "understand problems quickly, formulate solutions, estimate resources at his disposal, develop and execute a plan, and lead his team members to a satisfactory solution."
This problem-solving approach also fuels Aden's generous UI giving. He and his wife, Vicki McDonald Aden, 81BSIE, have donated more than $500,000 to Iowa, supporting areas that honor the spirit of his work in exploration and discovery. They have directed their contributions to departments that pursue particularly imaginative and promising programs, such as the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The Adens also created an endowed Excellence and Innovation Fund for the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in 2007 hosted a successful fundraiser for the Maia Quartet at their Houston home.
Through his staunch support of the University of Iowa—and his impressive, 30-year career as a first-rate geologist—Leon J. Aden has been both a local and global champion of UI education.
Aden is a sustaining life member of the UI Alumni Association and a member of the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.