Robert Ballard

Ballard began working for Andreas Rechnitzer's Ocean Systems Group at North American Aviation in 1962 when his father, Chet, the chief engineer at North American Aviation's Minuteman missile program, helped him get a part-time job. At North American, he worked on North American's failed proposal to build the submersible Alvin for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In 1965, Ballard graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, earning undergraduate degrees in chemistry and geology. While a student in Santa Barbara, California, he joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and also completed the US Army's ROTC program, giving him an Army officer's commission in Army Intelligence. His first graduate degree (MS, 1966) was in geophysics from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Geophysics where he trained porpoises and whales. Subsequently, he returned to Andreas Rechnitzer's Ocean Systems Group at North American Aviation.
Ballard was working towards a Ph.D. in marine geology at the University of Southern California in 1967 when he was called to active duty. Upon his request, he was transferred from the Army into the US Navy as an oceanographer. The Navy assigned him as a liaison between the Office of Naval Research and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
After leaving active duty and entering into the Naval Reserve in 1970, Ballard continued working at Woods Hole persuading organizations and people, mostly scientists, to fund and use Alvin for undersea research. Four years later he received a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics at the University of Rhode Island.