NORMAN, OKLA. – Oklahoma energy entrepreneur and philanthropist John Larry Nichols was named the 2023 Oklahoma Trailblazer by the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy at the University of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Trailblazers have exemplary standards of personal integrity, ethics and service to others. Recipients are ambassadors for the energy industry and role models for future generations, something that Larry Nichols, co-founder and CEO emeritus of Devon Energy, personifies.
“Larry Nichols truly personifies the trailblazer award. By any standard, his leadership and exceptional insights have resulted in revolutionary impacts to the energy industry. But what really drives this man and makes him truly remarkable is his care and concern for others, which reflects the core of who he is – a kind, humble, and thoughtful person,” said OU Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy Interim Dean John Antonio.
Nichols, an Oklahoma City native, is an alumnus of Casady High School, where he met his wife, Polly. The couple married in 1972 and have two children, Sally and Tyler.
Nichols pursued a degree in geology during his undergraduate education, but he always had an interest in law. He earned his bachelor’s degree in geology from Princeton University and his master’s degree in law from the University of Michigan. He went on to serve as law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1967 to 1968. He then served as special assistant to Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
After gaining experience in law, he was persuaded by his father, John W. Nichols, to intern at their family business and diversify his experience. During the next few years, he made significant progress in growing the family business and developed a passion for entrepreneurship and the oil and gas industry.
Nichols co-founded Devon Energy with his father in 1970, and was named president of the company in 1976, and chief executive officer in 1980. Nichols grew what was once a small operation with only about four employees into a publicly traded energy powerhouse, employing thousands and producing about 3% of all gas consumed in North America. The company was listed among the top 100 places to work by Fortune magazine.
In 2001, Nichols was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In 2005, he was named Energy Advocate of the year and in 2006, he was named one of the 50 most powerful Oklahomans. Nichols also serves on various professional boards, including the American Petroleum Institute, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and American Exploration and Production Council. His expertise in the energy industry has also driven him to participate in politics as an energy adviser to the White House.
Nichols also donates his time, talent and resources to giving back to Oklahoma. He serves on the advisory boards of various organizations, including the Oklahoma Nature Conservancy, the United Way of Central Oklahoma, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and The State Chamber.
Under Nichols’ leadership, Devon Energy Corp. has made significant gifts to the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Myriad Gardens, the Oklahoma Science Museum, the Oklahoma History Museum and many others.
Nichols retired in 2016, and now serves as chairman emeritus of Devon Energy.
About the Oklahoma Trailblazer Award
Established in 2003, the Trailblazer award is presented to an individual who has courageously pioneered operational or scientific practices, procedures and developments for the energy industry, while also enhancing quality of life for all Oklahomans. Oklahoma Trailblazers have exemplary standards of personal integrity, ethics and service to others. Recipients are ambassadors for the energy industry and role models for future generations. Past recipients of the award are Harold Hamm, Ronnie K. Irani, Thomas H. McCasland Jr., Archie Dunham, Brian O’Brien, J. Denny Bartell, Charles Stephenson Jr., Lew O. Ward III, Curtis Mewbourne, the Lloyd Noble Family and John W. Nichols.
About the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy
The Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy at the University of Oklahoma educates scientists and engineers and creates knowledge of Earth’s past and present to navigate a future that meets societal needs for both energy and a livable environment. From engineering ways to converting abandoned oil wells to geothermal producers, to probing Earth’s past climate, to designing ways to sequester carbon, Mewbourne College faculty are striving to create a better and more sustainable world.