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McDougall makes pledge to TU engineering program

October 14, 2010
TOPICS: In the news, OIPA
OIPA Executive Committee member and Wildcatters Club President Jeff McDougall has pledged $7.5 million to his alma mater. A 1984 Tulsa University graduate, McDougall's donation will be used by the university's petroleum engineering program to build the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering.

From the Tulsa World:

Jeff McDougall, who graduated from TU in 1984, announced the $7.5 million, two-part gift Wednesday.

He said he believed that his time at TU prepared him to make his own luck instead of waiting for it.

After he lost a job 24 years ago at Triad Drilling Co., he formed JMA Energy Co., which operates about 180 wells, mainly in western Oklahoma, and employs more than 50 people.

"The experience changed me," McDougall said of his TU days. "Going into school I was one thing, and coming out I was a different person."

McDougall's success now enables him to give back, in a big way, to his alma mater. His gift will transform his old department into the newly named McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering.

TU President Steadman Upham said during the announcement at Collins Hall that McDougall "has made an extraordinary commitment. We are deeply honored by Jeff's generosity."

The gift will be split into two endowments. One, the $4 million McDougall Endowed Chair, will fund a director for the school and create research partnerships with oil and gas businesses.

The second endowment, in honor of the legendary TU professor Dr. Kermit Brown, will support the petroleum engineering faculty through salary supplements,

research incentives and other future initiatives.

The leadership of TU's petroleum engineering department, already considered one of the strongest in the country, is important to McDougall and other alumni in their search for a director.

"We're looking for somebody who, at the end of the day, has got the stature to lead the program," McDougall said. "They'd have to be the stature of Kermit Brown."

Brown, who died last December at age 86, was the author of seven books, but his biggest impact may have come from his more than 40 years in the classroom.

Other big changes await the Tulsa program structurally and scholastically. The new school will be partially housed in the planned $16 million Stephenson Hall.

The building, seeded with a $10 million gift from former Vintage Petroleum CEO Charles Stephenson and his wife, Peggy, is still about $3 million short on funding. However, officials hope to break ground on it this spring and complete the project by the first half of 2012.

Steven Bellovich, the dean of the university's College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, said the gifts from McDougall and Stephenson may provide inspiration to other potential donors who want to see TU's petroleum engineering school ascend even higher.

"I think that's an entirely possible goal," he said. "We already have a good reputation and we want to build it better. Money helps."

The department's name change to the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering will take effect immediately, and the search for a director is to start soon. The school's current home is Keplinger Hall.

McDougall certainly believes that his TU education readied him for the unexpected. He slept on floors while waiting in line for job interviews and even spent his part of his early career as a roughneck.

He survived his layoff during the Oil Bust era by doing independent consulting work before he started JMA, named after himself and his children Maggi and Andrew. Both work for JMA. McDougall, 49, has another son, Jacob, who is a high school sophomore.

"I owe a lot to this school and this profession," McDougall said.

"A lot of guys wait until they retire and have spent a long time in their careers to give this kind of gift. I just find it humbling that I can even do it."

He is excited about the prospects for the oil and gas industry, as he believes that well-educated graduates will hit innovative payloads again and again.

This era's breakthroughs in drilling technology only hint at what's possible in domestic production, he said.

"The oil and gas industry has got a very vibrant and bright future," McDougall said. "It's what got us to this point."

McDougall is a member of TU's board of trustees. He is active in the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and is the president of the association's Wildcatter Club.
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