Ted Collins receives Seed Sower Award

Winter 2013

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Ted Collins, center, accepts his Seed Sower award from Tom Landers, dean of the College of Engineering, left, and Larry Grillot, dean of the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy. The award is presented to OU donors of $1million or more.

Ted Collins, center, accepts his Seed Sower award from Tom Landers, dean of the College of Engineering, left, and Larry Grillot, dean of the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy. The award is presented to OU donors of $1million or more.

When Ted Collins Jr. was a boy his father told him, “If you want to go into the oil business, you need to go to the University of Oklahoma.” It was high praise from a man who knew a thing or two about the industry. A former bookkeeper for a Texas hardware chain, the elder Collins began trading oil and gas leases during the Gusher Age of the 1920s. He played gin rummy with Sid Richardson and rubbed elbows with the likes of Clint Murchison and William “Monty” Moncreif. Even though Collins Sr. did not live to see his son graduate from high school, Ted Jr. took his advice to heart.

The younger Collins earned a degree in geological engineering from OU and had a job offer from Pan American Petroleum [now BP Amoco] before graduating in 1960. “I started at $525 a month and said ‘hallelujah!’” he recalled. To celebrate his good fortune, he bought a brand new Chevrolet with all the bells and whistles for $3,100.

In 1963, Collins left the company to become an independent oil operator. His start-ups grew into sizeable companies—American Quasar Petroleum and Collins & Ware, which he founded with fellow OU alumnus Herbert Ware Jr.

He was president of Houston Natural Gas’s oil division when it merged with Northern Natural Gas to form Enron. He left Enron in 1987, but remained an independent and active and player in the industry.

For the past five decades, he has built a reputation as a straight-shooter that has earned him accolades from the American Association of Professional Landmen’s Lifetime Achievement Award to the Permian Basin Petroleum Association’s Top Hand Award in 2008. He is a past president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, the Permian Basin Landmen’s Association, the Petroleum Club of Midland and has served as chairman of the Midland Wildcat Committee since 1984.

In 2009, he was elected into the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum’s Hall of Fame and in 2012, earned the Hearst Energy Award for Lifetime Achievement. That same year, he was presented OU’s prestigious Seed Sower Award in recognition of his gifts totaling more than $1 million to his alma mater.

Recently, Collins has supported two key initiatives in the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy: undergraduate geological laboratories and graduate teaching fellowships. He has funded 10 graduate fellowships at $25,000 apiece to help master’s students who are working their way through school by teaching laboratory courses.

“I got a job at a time when jobs weren’t that easy to find because of my education,” said Collins. “If I can help someone else do that, I am happy to do it.”

Determined to graduate in four years, Collins took 21 hours with five labs during the last semester of his senior year. “I got serious,” he said. Professors like Ralph Disney, Victor Monnet and Preston Moore, who came to the classroom by way of the oil industry, were especially motivating, he recalled.

Collins said this is an exciting time to be in the oil and gas business. “I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “There’s a boom going on out there, and we’re very active. We’re drilling a lot of wells.”

Collins currently owns interests in oil and gas drilling operations in the Barnett Shale in North Texas, the Permian Basin in West Texas, the Eagle- ford of South Texas and the Bakken fields of Montana and North Dakota.

“I sold Harold Hamm of Continental Resources three-fourths interest in their first acreage in the Bakken play,” Collins said. “At that time, they had not drilled a well there, and now they are the largest acreage owner and producer in the Bakken.”

Although Collins is more reserved than many oil producers in his belief that the U.S. can achieve complete energy independence, he does believe the nation can significantly reduce the amount of oil it imports through a combination of lowered consumption and increased production.

“We do have a lot of oil that, thanks to new technology, we can reach. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have been incredible technological advances to the industry,” he said. “You have better equipment, better bits, safer procedures so you can go deeper. But a lot hasn’t changed.”

At the end of the day, “You still go out there with a bit and a crew.”