Dean J. Mike Stice, Curtis Mewbourne and President Joseph Harroz Jr. cut the ribbon to the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering's Centennial monument in front of Sarkeys Energy Center. Image by Travis Caperton.
JUNE 23, 2022 | BY SARAH WARREN
The Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy and the University of Oklahoma is remembering the life and legacy of Curtis W. Mewbourne, who died today, June 23, 2022. The loyal OU alumnus and namesake of the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy and the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering left a mark on the lives of the students he supported, faculty he championed and university he loved.
While studying at OU, Mr. Mewbourne was an active student in petroleum engineering organizations and a member of Phi Gamma Delta – even playing on the fraternity’s championship basketball team.
Mr. Mewbourne graduated from OU with a degree in petroleum engineering in 1958 and then served as an officer in the U.S. Army. After gaining experience in several areas of the oil and gas industry, he founded Mewbourne Oil Company in 1965. Over the coming decades, he would transform his company into one of the most successful privately-owned oil and gas producers in America.
Curtis Mewbourne (standing on the left) posing with his fraternity’s championship basketball team.
Throughout his extraordinary rise to the top of his field, Curtis Mewbourne always remained steadfastly loyal and directly engaged with his alma mater. Curtis was a shining example of what we hope for our students, fundamentally impacting the world through his leadership and love of those with whom he engaged. I am among the fortunate many whose life he has changed for the better. The enthusiasm he poured into shaping the energy leaders of tomorrow will be felt at the University of Oklahoma for generations to come. We offer our heartfelt sympathies and prayers to Joanne and the entire Mewbourne family.
Joseph Harroz, Jr.
President, The University of Oklahoma
Even amid the energy industry’s ups and downs, Mr. Mewbourne made it his mission to consistently equip and encourage OU’s petroleum engineering and geoscience students, faculty and staff.
In 1982 he endowed the Mewbourne Professorship in Petroleum Engineering. As of 2022, there are six Mewbourne Professorships in Petroleum Engineering as well as the Curtis Mewbourne Professorship, each of which underwrites the research and teaching activities of a petroleum engineering professor.
The Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering is one of the best programs in the world. The close relationship the school has enjoyed with CurtisMewbourne and Mewbourne Oil is a large contributing factor to this success. In fact, this close relationship was a deciding factor for me when I moved to Norman to be the director of the Mewbourne School in 2019. The endowment of the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering and the establishment of the Mewbourne Chairs has made it possible for our faculty to stay in the forefront of research and engineering education. We will continue to strive to ensure that the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering is a long-lasting legacy to Mr. Mewbourne. His contributions to this program will live on.
Director, Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering
His endowments include the Mewbourne Enrichment Fund, which benefits undergraduate students and inspires faculty and staff to provide excellence in teaching. He also endowed the Mewbourne Leadership Scholars Program, which provides annual scholarships for entering freshmen and continues to support them through graduation. His most recent gift created the college’s Faculty Support Endowment.
As the namesake for the Mewbourne College and the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering, Curtis Mewbourne has always answered the call to serve his alma mater. However, his most important contribution was not financial; it was his remarkable way of offering encouragement especially in difficult times. Curtis’ success was fueled by repeated bold acts of kindness. He was a generous mentor capable of changing lives simply through conversation. His optimism was contagious, and his leadership was reflected in everything he did. When Curtis entered a room, you knew who was in charge and, moreover, you knew you were in good hands. For me personally, I will miss my friend and mentor, but mostly I will miss his extraordinary laugh – a laugh that disarmed the most disagreeable opponent and filled his supporters with the energy required to deliver on his heroic expectations.
Dean, Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy
In recognition of his longtime support, the University of Oklahoma named the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering in his honor in May of 2000, and granted him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 2002.
On Nov. 2, 2007, the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy was named in his honor, and he was bestowed the college’s Trailblazer Award for his professional achievements and lifetime commitment to the energy industry.
A statue forever memorializing Mr. Mewbourne with his loyal dog, Rebel, proudly stands at the entrance to Sarkeys Energy Center – the home of Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy – where it welcomes all who enter to learn, to dream, and to make the world a better place.
Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) students hold a banner thanking Mr. Mewbourne shortly after his naming gift for the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering.
Curtis had an unwavering belief that his education and experiences at the University of Oklahoma changed his life and prepared him for success in business. He loved young people, and his loyalty to OU was driven by gratitude and a desire to give our students the same opportunity he received in Norman. I cannot overstate the impact he had on my life, for which I will always be thankful, as will countless other Sooners that he employed, mentored and encouraged. We offer our prayers to the Mewbourne family, and assurance that we will honor Mr. Mewbourne by moving forward at his company with confidence and courage, mindful of the many lessons he taught us.
Mewbourne Oil Company CEO and OU alumnus
Decades of faculty and students alike have stories of Mr. Mewbourne’s generosity, intentionality, and genuine desire to encourage the future generations of the energy industry. Whether purchasing the only SEM microscope used by undergraduate petroleum engineering students in the nation or learning how new desks could contribute to a better classroom environment, Mr. Mewbourne was unwavering in his love for OU.
In the last 25 years, Mewbourne Oil Company has been the largest supporter of student scholarships and internships at OU.
The best way to remember Curtis Mewbourne and celebrate his legacy at the university is through his own words. On Feb. 11, 2000, he gave a speech to OU students at the Petroleum and Geological Engineering Distinguished Scholars Banquet. His words, his legacy and his dreams for Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy will live on.
"The oil and gas industry ... is a wonderful business filled with opportunity and excitement. The opportunity to learn and work with some of the finest people in the world. A business that is a long journey with a lot of interesting stops along the way where you will see challenges of every sort and technology beyond your belief.
The challenge to drill a well all by yourself in the isolation of the Rocky Mountains and to work on a project in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. To solve problems with a pencil on the back of the daily drilling report in a Ford pickup truck in western Oklahoma or in a high-rise building in Houston. An opportunity to initiate a project from only a dream.
Yes, it can be a long journey, but one filled with adventure."
Curtis W. Mewbourne
The Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy improves people’s lives through research, education and service by studying Earth’s past and present, developing new energy tools and resources, and creating geoscientists and engineers who work across disciplines to address some of society’s most critical challenges.
Sarah Warren is the director of communications and events at the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy. For the last four years, she's been writing and telling the stories of Mewbourne College. Her work has landed stories on Vox, Forbes and countless other news outlets across the country. For media inquiries, you can email Sarah or call her at 405-325-8981.