Oklahoma Geological Foundation honors three
Three men integral to Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry and geology were honored Thursday in Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma Geological Foundation honored T. Howard McCasland, Aubrey K. McClendon and Robert A. Hefner III at its annual Legends Dinner.
Recipients of the honor are distinguished Oklahomans who have had a significant impact on geology, the energy industry and the state through both their professional and philanthropic efforts. Past honorees include Dean A. McGee, John W. Nichols, Harold Hamm, Frank Buttram, Lew O. Ward III, Samuel Russel Noble, T. Boone Pickens, and many more.
“Our legends honorees are people with Oklahoma roots who have impacted the geosciences profession and have impacted the city and the state,” said Mark Lester, a retired geologist who worked for Chesapeake Energy for 22 years and is a member of the foundation’s board of directors. The foundation, Lester said, pays to train and equip Oklahoma teachers with earth sciences educational materials and also offers scholarships to university students to help them attend summer geology field camps. The foundation spends about $100,000 a year to support those efforts.
“That’s very important now,” he said. “And it isn’t just oil and gas. It’s about water and the conservation of all of our other natural resources.”
Members of the McCasland and McClendon families attended Thursday’s event to receive the awards on the honorees’ behalf.
Hefner said Thursday at the event that he was humbled to be honored along with such other greats in the industry.
“Before everything else, I am a geologist,” Hefner said. “That’s why this is such a great honor.”
Hefner said his grandfather and McCasland knew one another and did some deals together.
“And then, of course, Aubrey was a great buddy who really was a spiritual soul mate in many ways, because we thought so much alike,” he said. “He was a wonderful man, and we miss him, and it’s great to be honored alongside of him.”
Like the foundation, Hefner too has a deep passion about sharing his love of earth science.
“I have always thought that geology should be one of the mandatory courses in one’s education,” he said. “If you know a little bit about it, at least, it makes it so much nicer just walking around the earth.
“You can appreciate it so much more. I love the earth, and I love the environment.”
McCasland a Pioneer Legend
McCasland, who died in 1979, was honored with the Pioneer Legend award.
He was born in a dugout near Duncan in 1895 and graduated
from the University of Oklahoma in 1916. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, McCasland returned to southern Oklahoma and got involved with buying, selling and trading land, leases and minerals.
In 1946, he and several associates formed Mack Oil Co., which developed extensive oil and gas production in Oklahoma and Kansas. Mack Oil later added M&M Supply Co., Thomas Drilling, AmQuest Financial Corp., Investors Trust Co. and other successful businesses to its family.
McCasland’s philanthropic activities included service to various organizations and state commissions. Named Duncan’s Top Senior Citizen in 1959, McCasland also served as a director of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the Oklahoma Heart Association, and also served the state as a member of the Oklahoma Highway Commission and the Oklahoma Economic Development Commission.
He also served OU in various ways, including leading the University of Oklahoma Foundation’s Board of Trustees as its chairman.
In 1972, he was named outstanding Oilman of the Year by the Oklahoma Petroleum Council.
McClendon a Historical Legend
McClendon, who died in 2016, was honored as a Historical Legend by the foundation.
At age 23, during the height of Oklahoma’s oil bust, he and Tom Ward partnered up to buy and sell leasehold. Later, they invested $50,000 to start Chesapeake Energy.
McClendon and Ward pioneered the shale revolution in the oil and gas industry, using 3-D seismic and horizontal drilling and completion techniques to unlock oil and gas in unconventional reservoirs, and grew Chesapeake into a multibillion-dollar company.
McClendon, who was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2007, left Chesapeake in 2013 and founded American Energy Partners within weeks. Based mainly on McClendon’s reputation, American Energy Partners raised billions of dollars from investors, and he was busy working to grow that business when he died in a car accident.
McClendon’s impact on the Oklahoma City community through his investments in other local enterprises, his support for nonprofits and the role he played in helping to bring NBA basketball to town was as significant as the work he did as an oil and gas professional.
He supported the Oklahoma River Boathouse District, Duke University, the University of Oklahoma, Casady and Heritage Hall schools, All Souls Episcopal Church, the Boys & Girls Club, the Boy Scouts of America and other groups and organizations.
Hefner a Living Legend
Hefner, the founder and owner of GHK Exploration Co. in Oklahoma City, received the Living Legend award. Hefner pioneered the ultra-deep natural gas exploration and helped convince Congress to deregulate natural gas prices, making it possible for independent companies to lead in the ongoing development of the nation’s oil and gas resources.
Hefner, an OU graduate, also is an active philanthropist who helped Princeton University publish Albert Einstein’s personal papers through financial and moral support and also established two major endowments at Webb Schools of California to support creative science offerings to its students.
While doing research for China’s Ministry of Petroleum in 1985, Hefner became interested in the nation’s seemingly unstoppable transition into a modern and dominant global power, and he began to collect paintings from Chinese artists that expressed that theme.
The Hefner Collection in 2017 consisted of about 300 pieces that represents art of China’s post-cultural revolution period, and he published a book in 1997 that features selections from the collection.
Hefner also wrote “The Grand Energy Transition,” which was published in 2009.
Aubrey K. McClendon
T. Howard McCasland