Two of New Mexico’s titans of education work in offices far from the state’s major universities.
To most observers, they are employed in oil and gas exploration and development. But to people in the know, Bill Owen and past AAPG President Edward K. “Eddie” David are extraordinarily successful, high-dollar fundraisers for college scholarships and educational training.
David and Owen call on sponsors every four years to help fund a major scholarship dinner at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center.
This year’s dinner raised $202,000, of which $180,000 went to university scholarships and student and teacher training, bringing the total raised at three scholarship dinners over a nine-year period to $425,000.
This resulted in $375,000 going to scholarships and training programs. Additionally, half the seats at the events were donated to students and educators.
David, who served as AAPG president in 1997-98, is president of David Petroleum Corp. of Roswell. Owen, a certified professional landman and 30-year member of the American Association of Professional Landmen, is vice president and exploration manager at David Petroleum.
The scholarship dinners began almost as a fluke in 2008.
David wanted to bring AAPG Honorary Member Lee C. Gerhard back to Roswell to speak about global climate change. Gerhard had started his geology career in Roswell and held the Getty Chair in geological engineering at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Initially, the talk was planned as a presentation to the Roswell Geological Society, but it took off after David and Owen decided it should be an industry-wide event.
So David invited Gerhard to talk at the Roswell Civic Center, which can accommodate a large audience.
As far as David was concerned, it was to be a one-time presentation before an audience of industry people. However, he then decided to add the element of education.
“It just made sense to make it all petroleum, which brought in Roswell and Artesia oil and gas operators and independents,” David said. “You throw in education and it’s staggering.
“It was well-received,” David said, adding that 268 people attended the talk.
That year, the dinner raised $57,000 for scholarships and training programs.
Owen recalls David coming up with the scholarship concept while planning the Gerhard talk.
“It was Eddie’s idea. He knew Dr. Gerhard, who is an expert on global climate change. It seemed like an idea that would appeal to the industry as a whole. When we started putting the event together, Eddie thought of doing one, big meeting.
“Then Eddie started thinking of raising scholarship funds. That’s when it took hold, and was well received by the industry. A small committee, with Gerri Harrington as chairman, was formed and a date was set,” Owen said.
“In our industry, we don’t do a very good job of educating the public about what goes on in the industry. We felt this would be something larger than a meeting within the industry.
Birth of an Institution
“To me, what was interesting, it was a one-time event in 2008,” Owen said. “We were thinking, ‘Let’s put this thing together and see how it works.’ It was never intended to be a repeating event. It took a lot of people.
“One year went by, then two years went by. Four years later, Eddie said: ‘Remember the event we did in 2008?’”
That was the cue for David and Owen to begin work on their next big scholarship dinner, inviting W.C. “Rusty” Riese, a Distinguished Ethics Lecturer for AAPG and Honorary Member, to speak about the BP oil spill.
Riese, at the time an adjunct professor and lecturer at Rice University and an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico, was a good fit for the Roswell dinner. He had received his bachelor’s in geology from New Mexico Tech, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in geology from the University of New Mexico.
Furthermore, Riese had served as a consulting geologist for BP.
A committee was established. James C. Manatt, president of Providence Technology in Roswell, was elected dinner chair.
Besides addressing a dinner audience at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, Riese spoke at student workshops throughout Roswell and Artesia. He ended up speaking to more than 3,000 students, teachers and members of the public at eight events over two and a half days, Owen said.
The 2012 dinner raised $141,000, of which $105,000 was earmarked for scholarships and training programs. That year, 467 people attended the dinner.
The Desk and Derrick Club of Roswell, the Roswell Geological Society and the New Mexico Landmen’s Association were designated hosts for the event. Each of the three organizations was given $21,000 to provide college scholarships.
Additionally, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) program and the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy each received $21,000 for educating students and teachers.
Three years later, David and Owen began thinking about putting together a third scholarship dinner.
David knew the first thing he needed to do was recruit “a good speaker. Not just a knowledgeable speaker, but someone who is interesting.”
The speaker who fit this description was Allen Gilmer, CEO of Drillinginfo Inc., an energy exploration data analytics company serving more than 3,200 firms worldwide from its Austin, Texas, headquarters.
David knew he had a good fit with the southeastern New Mexico oil and gas industry.
“The industry here is very generous,” he explained. “When you get to Roswell and Artesia, you’re working with people whose handshake is their word. People in the industry are good citizens.”
Robert G. Armstrong, president of Armstrong Energy Corp. in Roswell, was named chairman of the April 20, 2017, dinner.
The dinner — dubbed “State Trust Lands: Energizing New Mexico” — was dedicated to the State Land Office, which manages lands granted by Congress to New Mexico in 1898 and 1910 as a means of generating revenue to support public schools, universities, hospitals and other institutions.
The State Land Office holds these lands in trust. Revenues from these lands go into the New Mexico Permanent Fund, which supports education in New Mexico. Approximately 94 percent of the Permanent Fund comes from oil and gas production.
Armstrong said the theme “emphasized the importance of the oil and gas industry to the State of New Mexico in funding education at all levels through the State Permanent Fund.
“The Permanent Fund currently exceeds $15 billion and it is estimated that in fiscal year 2017 the Fund will pay approximately $688 million to the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries include New Mexico public schools and eight universities, and several other public-related organizations.”
Nearly 600 attended, setting a record for diners at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center. They included New Mexico oil and gas professionals, high school students and teachers as special guests, representatives of institutions that benefit from State Land Office income, and members of the public.
Additional attendees included AAPG President Paul Britt and members of AAPG Student Chapters from New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University, Texas Tech University and University of Texas at El Paso.
The Roswell Model
David has some rules for implementing what he terms the “Roswell model.”
“The first step is to seek, identify and secure a messenger who not only has the credentials and reputation to effectively speak before our petroleum industry’s ‘choir,’ but also has the ability to easily and clearly communicate our theme message to the majority of an audience who are outside of the ‘choir.’
“The selection of an outstanding speaker is of the utmost importance to the success of a meaningful event.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jack Swickard is a former editor and general manager of newspapers in Roswell, Farmington and Albuquerque, N.M.