Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering honors six Distinguished Alumni

Six petroleum engineering alumni were honored at the second annual Distinguished Alumni reception and dinner Nov. 4.

PGE Distinguished Alum

Six petroleum engineering alumni were honored at the second annual Distinguished Alumni reception and dinner Nov. 4 at the Driskill Hotel.

Since the first graduating class of two people in 1931, the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering has graduated some of the most influential world leaders of the oil and gas industry. Last year, the department named six graduates Distinguished Alumni — making them the inaugural inductees.

2011 Honorees

William J. Murray Jr.

William J. Murray Jr.*
B.S. '36, M.S. '37

After receiving his bachelor's in petroleum engineering, Murray continued on at UT to receive his master's degree as part of the first graduating class in petroleum engineering. From there, he went to work for Brannon Oil and Gas until 1939, when he returned to Austin to work for the Railroad Commission of Texas. Murray continued his career in various positions at the Petroleum Administration, Wheelock & Collins, Houston Industrial Gas Company and others. Avidly involved in his community and the Cockrell School, Murray is remembered as enabling the transformation of the state from an agricultural base to the world's energy leader.

Charles Brady Grant

Charles Brady Grant
B.S. '42

Six months after graduating with a bachelor's in petroleum engineering from UT, Grant enrolled in the military, reaching the ranks of 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps — he was one of three officers in charge of maintenance on B-29 Bombers. When World War II ended, Grant went to work at Vinson Supply for 12 years while also attending Harvard Executive Business Management School, where he graduated in 1958. After leaving Vinson in 1960, Grant founded Grant Supply Company in 1960. When he sold the company in 1990, he had 1,700 employees with five different companies in the corporation.

Louis A. Beecherl Jr.

Louis A. Beecherl Jr.*
B.S. '48

Serving a short time in the U.S. Navy prior to his enrollment at UT, Beecherl received his bachelors in petroleum engineering in 1948. He began his professional career as a district engineer for Republic Natural Gas in Corpus Christi, and later transitioned to Texas Oil & Gas in Dallas, where he became president and eventually chairman and chief executive officer. Beecherl was former chair of the Cockrell School's Engineering Advisory Board, and former member and two-time chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents. Recognized as an outstanding alumnus, Beecherl’s generosity has continued to benefit the Cockrell School.

Dr. Ben H. Caudle

Dr. Ben H. Caudle
Ph.D. '63, Professor Emeritus

Prior to obtaining his Ph.D. in petroleum engineering, Caudle received a B.S. in natural sciences-chemistry at UT, and was then drafted into the U.S. Army, where he saw combat at the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine. It wasn't until he presented a lecture at UT PGE that he decided to return for his doctorate. Upon graduating with his Ph.D., Caudle joined the faculty and over the next four decades led research efforts, developed new technologies and mentored generations of petroleum engineers. In 1988, Caudle was inducted into the National Academy of Engineers and was granted professor emeritus status in 1997.

Jeff R. Edgar

Jeff R. Edgar
M.S. '97

A third generation engineer, Edgar earned a master's in petroleum engineering from UT in 1997.  From there, he spent nearly 15 years working in both private and public oil companies before partnering to form Rock Oil Company LLC. In the past year, Edgar has helped the company acquire acreage in the Eagle Ford shale through a $100 million joint venture with Abraxas Petroleum and Energy Trust Partners. He currently serves on the board of Rock Oil Company and is vice president of the joint venture, Blue Eagle Energy. He is also a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Dr. Omar J. Varela

Dr. Omar J. Varela
M.S. '99, Ph.D. '03

Varela began his engineering education in Columbia at America University, where he earned a bachelor's in petroleum engineering. He then went on to study geology at the National University of Columbia. Motivated by his thesis adviser, Varela applied to UT and was accepted into the petroleum engineering graduate program. From there, he went on to receive his Ph.D. while holding several summer jobs in the oil and gas industry and getting published in scholarly journals. Varela now supervises a team at ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company (URC) in Houston, and is involved in teaching, recruiting and community volunteer programs at URC.


A special thanks to the evening's sponsors:

Underwriters: Chevron, CH4 Energy – The Brannon Family, ExxonMobil, Hilcorp, Tad & Sheila Mayfield, Terry & Susan Perkins

Premier Sponsors: Afren Resources USA Inc., Anadarko, Fancher Resources LLC, Marathon Oil, Tim & Barb Saxman, Jerry & Cherry Windlinger

Sponsors: Carrie Colbert, Discovery Operating Inc., Lois & Richard Folger, Heather & Russell Parker, Steve & Debbie Pruett, Platt, Sparks, & Associates Consulting, Sunflower Oil Inc., Strand Energy LC

Support the Caudle Campaign

A group of former students surprised Professor Emeritus Ben Caudle at the Distinguished Alumni event when they announced a $1 million campaign to renovate and name the department's student learning center in his honor. More than $640,000 has been raised toward the goal.

Download a pledge form to make a gift today to the Ben H. Caudle Student Learning Excellence Center.