L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal

T. Boone Pickens, 2009 Weeks Medal Recipient

Boone Pickens

Currently listed as the 369th richest man in the world, T. Boone Pickens has been involved in a wide variety of philanthropic activities: his career $600 million in charitable contributions has included frequent donations to Oklahoma State University, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and The University of Texas medical department. He has also lent his time and energy to lobbying for the end of horse slaughter in America for overseas consumption, and to environmental concerns: in 2007, he filed documents with the state of Texas to begin developing what would be the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas panhandle. He has also been a vociferous advocate of using natural gas as vehicular fuel, with his Clean Energy (formerly Pickens Fuel Corp.) providing more vehicular natural gas to the United States than any other firm.

Prior to his work as an environmentalist and philanthropist, Pickens made his reputation as an oilman- he is, after all, featured on the front cover of the publication 100 Most Influential People of the Petroleum Century, and was born in 1928 to an oil landman in Holdenville, Oklahoma.  After attaining a degree in geology from OSU in 1951, he found work with Phillips Petroleum, being employed there for 3 years until going independent with two other investors. Pickens’ oil and gas concern, Petroleum Exploration Inc., would segue into the Altair Oil & Gas Co, an oil and gas firm largely devoted to exploration in Western Canada. Pickens’ largest success, however, remains Mesa Petroleum, a company he took public in 1964.

As one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in the U.S., Mesa was responsible for producing over 3 billion cubic feet of gas and 150 million barrels of oil over a 32-year span ending in 1996. However, it was acquisition rather than exploration which helped make Boone his first billion, and Boone’s role in initiating mergers between oil companies (four out of seven total) in the 1980s was an central one. Boone stresses that these moves were not made with the hope of aggressively “taking over” other companies, but were made out of concern for those companies’ shareholders, who he felt were being neglected. Despite the controversy surrounding Boone’s methods at the time, evidence shows that American businesses entered the 1990s more competitive than at any point in the previous decades, due in part to business savvy such as his own.

Although he is 80 years of age at the time of writing, Pickens has yet to retire, being quoted as saying “I’m afraid I’ll die” if he does so. He continues to provide useful financial support for ventures like the AAPG’s Digital Geology Foundation, which funds the GIS publishing program for the geoscience community. He currently resides in Dallas with his wife Madeleine.