See how a 30 year veteran of the Oil and Gas industry is “giving something back” by building a volunteer organization to help teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) in Texas public high schools. If you would like to learn more and get involved please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark: Hey, folks, let’s learn something new about the oil and gas industry.
All right. Today, we’re in Sugar Land, Texas sitting here with Dick Murphy. And, Dick, you had a long history in oil and gas. I’m glad you could join us.
Dick: Great to be here.
Mark: So, do me a favor, tell me a little bit about your background. We’ve known each other for a while, but our audience I don’t think has met you yet.
Dick: Okay. I have two engineering degrees, one from BS Mechanical Engineering from Cal Berkeley and a degree of engineering from Stanford University in Petroleum Engineering. So, I graduated in 1977, started work with Phillips Petroleum Company. I was with them for nearly five years, four of it in Norway where we opened up Phillips’ enterprise in the Ekofisk area.
I was reservoir engineer and a supervisor with them and then in 1982 I left Phillips, I went to work for Marathon Oil Company. I spent the next twenty eight years with them; five in London, two in Aberdeen, three in Anchorage, and eighteen in Houston. And I varied in reservoir engineering through management and through planning, exploration, economic evaluations, and retired in 2010.
Mark: Wow. So, over thirty years in the oil and gas industry. You have seen all kinds of change?
Dick: Well, I got to see the opening of the North Sea. Really, the starting up of the Ekofisk area because that’s Phillips’ crown jewel or one of them. And to see that grow to see it start from nothing to grow up to what it was was fascinating. And now, to go into the Shell place, it’s a completely different world. And, the technology is so different over the thirty five years that I’ve been involved in this. It’s tremendous. What we used to do in terms of simulation back in 1982 or in 1980, now it’s a hundred or thousand times bigger in terms of what you can do.
Mark: Yeah. That is awesome. So, Dick and I are both members of the Society of Petroleum Engineers the Gulf Coast Chapter. And I got introduced to Dick when they were looking for volunteers and you heard me talk about this before that I help teach STEMS. And this is a wonderful thing to do, the oil and gas industry has a shortage of STEMS talent and quite honestly you’re giving something back to the world and it feels good.
So, Dick, let’s talk a little bit about your involvement with the whole STEMS thing and SPE?
Dick: What got me involved in this was after I retired, three years ago – I retired five years ago. But three years ago, I always wanted to do some tutoring because being an engineer I could do the math and I had a pretty good idea on the science. And so, I wanted to get involved with students at the high school levels in math, or physics, or chemistry.
Three years ago I decided to become a substitute teacher. I figured that’s one way to get in so that the district could see what I could offer. Literally within an hour of giving – getting approved, Dulles High School in Fort Bed ISD called me up and wanted me to do a long term seven weeks substitute teaching assignment in Chemistry. That was a challenge because I hadn’t seen a Chemistry class in forty years and so, I had to relearn the subject, but I found the teachers to be outstanding, the materials to be great. I thoroughly enjoyed my seven weeks of teaching On Level Chemistry and Pre AP Chemistry.
After that, I realized that I enjoyed doing this but I wondered, you know, the teachers have a tough time getting around everybody in the classroom. When you have thirty-plus students in a classroom, it’s impossible for them to get to everybody and especially when you’re dealing with On Level students. The distribution of knowledge within that level is tremendous from those that are pretty good at the subject to those that are really struggling. And they could be struggling from a number of reasons.
And so, I offered to Dulles High School to the department head why don’t I come in one to two days a week in Chemistry and Physics at the teacher’s discretion and I’ll be sort of like an extra teacher in the classroom following their instructions helping the students with their lessons and I’ll do it all for free.
And, they took up on that and now, it has morphed to where I’m at Dulles High School four days a week. I’m with six teachers I handle three levels of Physics and one level of Chemistry. But a year ago, I made the SPE aware of what I was doing because I felt what I was doing was not unique, just because I was doing it didn’t mean no one else could do it.
So, I knew the president or the chairman of the SPE here and I told him what I was doing, they thought it was great and so, we went out and we solicited members within Fort Bend ISD to see who wants to do the same thing. Mark is one of them. We had four others besides himself, total six including me.
We pilot program this thing at three high schools; Clements High School, Dulles High School, Austin High School in Fort Bend ISD to make sure it could work. It did. The Deparment Ed at Austin and Dulles High School want more tutors this year, more volunteers. And so, we’re trying to expand this now to Katy ISD at Katy Taylor High School carefully to make sure again it can work.
All of us have found this to very personally satisfying. You get e-mails from students or from parents thanking you for helping them and to understand material, taking the time to do it, to share your knowledge with them, to help even the ones who really get it, they want to know what’s it like to be an engineer.
And so, you tell them directly this is what the game is all about, this is what you’re really heading towards and you’re a real live example of one. And they see you as a role model and any benefit we can give the students to help them understand this whether they never use chemistry of physics in their life again, the process, the thinking, that will always help them.
And since we really don’t know what we’re going to be doing in the future. They could be involved in some business that has to deal with chemistry or physics in some tangential way that now they will then understand better what’s going on, they’d be more productive. It can only help them.
Mark: Yeah. And let me stop here and clarify because Dick is an engineer. It’s a Science. So, I actually teach Biology, I don’t teach Chemistry or Physics. So, any Science out there that you feel like you could help a student learn, we would welcome you.
Dick: Even if it’s Math because what I’ve noticed is that I can see this also is applicable in Math. Frankly, this could be applicable in just about any class as long as the teacher and the mentor are willing to do this. But certainly in Math whether it’s Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Pre Calculus, all these classes could similarly use mentors.
Mark: Yeah. And then, also as far as commitment of time, I do half a day on Friday, so you don’t necessarily have to jump in this with both feet especially if you have a job or other type of responsibilities.
Dick: And also, along that line, like what Mark has mentioned, he does half a day a week on Friday, yes, I do four days a week, but that’s just me. Others will do one day a week. They may not do every Thursday, they may do a Tuesday, maybe they do a Thursday. The teacher tells them they can’t come in on Thursday because they’re testing, come in on Wednesday, they come in on a Wednesday. You always can take your vacation because you do, you’re a volunteer. The teachers accept that.
So, this is not a firm commitment like a real live job, but it is a commitment because you are committing to helping them whatever amount you’ve offered.
Mark: Yeah. So, we need more people to help. So, if you’re in the would you say Greater Houston area?
Dick: I would say right now the Greater Houston area, I mean granted we’re focused on Fort Bend ISD and Katy ISD, but if we get a number of volunteers that want to help out at HISD or Spring Branch or Friendswood or the Woodlands area or wherever, let me know. And then we could see the number of volunteers and then work something out. Or, if you live in a different area and you want to come down to Fort Bend or to go to Katy, that’s perfectly fine because you don’t have to live in the district to volunteer in the district.
Mark: Yeah. So, Richard, if people want to find out more and get involve, what should they do?
Dick: The simplest way is to contact me by e-mail and my e-mail address is email@example.com.
Mark: Yeah. And we’ll put a link up in the show notes so you won’t have to be writing stuff down.
So, Dick, thank you so much for your time.
Dick: It’s been a pleasure. I hope some of you out there regardless of your age regardless of what you’re doing, if you feel this is something you want to do, let me know. And then we can try to work it out and whether if you’re retired, you’re out of a job working part-time, self-employed, whatever it may be, we would embrace we would welcome you into this and I know that you’ll find it personally rewarding.
Mark: Yeah. And I’ll echo that. It is unbelievably personally satisfying to help these kids out.
So, folks, I hope this helped, we will see you next time.