ISEM was founded in 1966 as the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man – an intellectual “joint venture” by Dean Claude Albritton and William B. Heroy, Sr. The decade of the 1960’s saw SMU beginning to develop major research centers and the doctoral programs that accompanied them. Geological Sciences (now Earth Sciences), Archaeology (in the Department of Anthropology) and Statistics were three departments that Albritton and Heroy believed to be at a point in their development where each would be strengthened by interaction with the others. At a time when interdisciplinary programs were far less common than they are now this was path breaking.
With the research programs in those departments well started in the University it rapidly became clear that space for their growth was becoming an urgent need. Heroy proposed to make a gift in support of the building, This gift, he believed, could be matched by a grant from the National Science Foundation, This, in turn, was to be matched by a grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Thus Heroy’s gift and the two federal grants which together nearly equaled Heroy’s gift, made possible the construction of the N. L. Heroy Hall of Science. An additional provision of Heroy’s gift was that an independent research institute would be created to administer Heroy Hall for the first twenty years and the resources and related programs in perpetuity. The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man, now styled ISEM, was thus created.
In addition to the fully equipped Heroy Hall, Dr. Heroy made a gift to establish an ISEM Radiocarbon Laboratory and, later, the Institute raised the funds to establish a Stable Isotope Laboratory. Throughout its existence ISEM has also supported the research projects of the Shuler Museum of Paleontology. All of these activities are interdisciplinary in nature and support the principles on which ISEM was founded. In addition ISEM has regularly provided grants to support research in its fields of interest both for students and faculty.
In addition to this research support and reflecting Heroy’s long association with the energy field ISEM has supported many events related to the energy industry worldwide. Notable among these is the series of four ymposia on Unconventional Methods in Exploration (1968 – 1985) (still in demand); eleven energy conferences (1980 – 1996); visits from two OPEC Secretaries General (seven visits with associated public events); participated with the Texas Energy Council in organizing and presenting seven annual energy symposia; and having presented (through 2013) twenty eight three day Energy Roundtables (national and international). With the move of most of the major energy companies away from Dallas by the year 2000 the number of energy events presented in the ensuing decade has diminished but, of course, established events like the annual Energy Roundtables continue with success, thanks to significant assistance from ISEM’s Trustees.
Current activities of the Institute are wide ranging but continue to be focused on interdisciplinary research and related education. Significant support of the Shuler Museum’s research program have been augmented by extensive grants international and domestic. Related travel to energy or paleontological sites have provided opportunities for ISEM Trustees and friends to visit sites of research or energy related activities. The Institute continues to provide support for SMU programs in addition to providing dimensions that would not otherwise be available were it not for ISEM and its programs and activities.