Distinguished Engineering Graduates 2018

Thomas N. McKnight Jr.

Tom McKnight

B.S. ASE 1970
Founder, Eagle Rock Drilling Inc. and Eagle Rock Manufacturing Inc.

Thomas N. McKnight Jr. founded Eagle Rock Drilling Inc. and Eagle Rock Manufacturing Inc. in 2003, through which he designed and built a series of innovative hydraulic top drive drilling rigs. The intellectual property associated with his rig design was sold to LeTourneau Technologies Drilling Systems Inc. and is now owned by Schlumberger.

McKnight earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 1970.

Upon graduation, he joined the United States Air Force and served for seven years as an F-106 Interceptor pilot for the North American Air Defense Command. In addition to flying, he also served for one year as an engineer for the Air Force Systems Command.

In 1978, McKnight began his oilfield career with Schlumberger as a field engineer in Monahans, Texas, and he became manager of the Schlumberger district office in Midland, Texas, before launching his career as an independent oil producer in 1983. He co-founded Union Royalty Inc. in 1986, becoming one of the first independent oil producers to implement a large-scale CO2 enhanced oil recovery project, and he is a recipient of the Schlumberger Wildcatter of the Year Award.

In 2017, McKnight donated $1 million to the Cockrell School’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics to establish a student-centered signature space in the department’s newly renovated home in what is now North Office Building A on the UT Austin campus. The gift marks the largest single donation the department has ever received.

McKnight and his wife, Mimi, reside in Austin, Texas, and they have two grown daughters, Stephenie and Marcy.