Paul Mershon, a noted petroleum geologist whose love of adventure, education and world travel made him a hero among his extended family, has left a $3.3 million legacy to students who follow in his footsteps at the University of Oklahoma.
Mershon established an estate gift at the OU Foundation that will provide support for faculty in the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, funding and scholarships for the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics, scholarships for non-traditional geology and geophysics students, and support for OU’s Bartell Field Camp in Colorado.
“The endowment Paul Mershon provided will offer substantial new scholarship opportunities for traditional as well as non-traditional students,” said R. Doug Elmore, director and Eberly Chair for OU’s ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics. “His support for the Bartell Field Camp will allow us to continue to offer an excellent experience for our students, and other gifts will provide maximum flexibility to support field trips and teaching assistantships.”
Mershon, who grew up in Walters, Okla., was a World War II veteran who attended OU on the G.I. Bill. He graduated in 1957 at the age of 32 and went to work in the oil and gas industry in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. He co-founded the oil and gas company Macey and Mershon of Denver and developed the “Mershon Decline Curve,” a formula still used today to assess oil and gas productivity.
After his retirement, Mershon helped to establish the Great Western Oil and Gas Co. He remained active in oil and gas ventures until shortly before his death at age 90 in March 2015.
He was a generous donor to OU scholarships and programs throughout his career and also established an educational foundation that funded the first computer lab in Walters Public Schools. The lab is still active today.
“Paul had a lifelong love of learning,” said niece Paula Copeland Broe, a fellow OU alum. “He recognized the value of education and what it had done for him. He credited his degree at the University of Oklahoma for allowing him to live his life to the fullest.”
Mershon’s love of learning extended to teaching himself computer programming and becoming a jet pilot and world-class fisherman. He traveled extensively, took college courses in archaeology into his 80s and spent many hours volunteering for the Early Man Project near Las Vegas.
“When he was 85, he hiked over 7 miles in one day in the Amazon rainforest with his family and afterward managed to shatter the bull’s-eye of a target with a bow and arrow – a feat even the native archer wasn’t able to accomplish,” Broe said.
Though he had no children of his own, Mershon was celebrated as the patriarch of his large family, said niece Karissa Copeland Torcom. “When Uncle Paul came home to Oklahoma, we would often load up in the car and travel the back roads of Oklahoma in search of geodes, fossils or arrowheads. If we didn’t find anything, he would show his great-nephews and nieces how to make their own arrowheads.”
At the time of his death, Mershon was hard at work on a geology report for the Early Man Project, Torcom said.
“He was so caring and generous,” said his sister, Cecilia “June” Mershon Copeland. “He liked helping others and loved to share his knowledge and enthusiasm about so many things.”