Willard J. Classen
The Classen Family Grant was established by his two sons, Willard, Jr. (Will) and Jim to honor the memory of Willard John Classen and to recognize the family’s long involvement in and dedication to the profession of petroleum geology. Both sons are also petroleum geologists.
Willard Classen, Sr. was born in San Francisco, California on October 3, 1899 to the descendants of gold rush “49ers.” After the great earthquake of 1906, his family relocated to what is now the city of Atherton. He entered Stanford in 1917, majoring in geology and mining, and graduated with the class of 1921. Upon graduation, he went to work for Standard Oil Co. of California and was sent to Texas and then to Guayaquil, Ecuador where he spent a year mapping in the jungle on mule-back.
Upon returning to the U.S., he joined Tidewater, working in Alaska, Utah (where he met and married Zelda Ann Stark of Moab), and California. He was transferred to Tidewater’s San Francisco office where he served as assistant chief geologist. Willard left the company in 1934 to start a consulting career that included prospect generation, petroleum engineering, operations, oil and gas estate evaluation, and land leasing activities. During WWI, he served briefly as a private and then, in WWII, as an officer in the Air Corps where he attained the rank of Major. After the war, he returned to his consulting practice until retiring in 1971. He passed away in Menlo Park, California, on November 16, 1998 at the age of 99.
His oldest son, Will, now lives in Rossmoor in California and is retired from Chevron where he served as an exploration staff geologist. His other son, Jim, worked 14 years in AMOCO and now heads Classen Exploration, Inc. in Boise, Idaho. Jim continues to be active in Gulf Coast exploration and exploitation as an independent. His daughter, Ann, is a retired teacher, airline stewardess and Realtor and now lives in Stanford Hills in Menlo Park, California.
The family’s participation in the exciting game of finding oil and gas began 90 years ago and continues through Jim Classen’s activities.