I recently had the honor of attending the Pioneer Natural Resources gift recognition ceremony on UK’s campus. The Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences (EES), in partnership with UK alumnus and Pioneer’s Vice President of Technology Tom Spalding, accepted a $600,000 gift from the company. The gift, which is intended to be spread over the next three years, will fund the Pioneer Natural Resources Research Professorship in Stratigraphy, as well as a three-year recruiting fellowship. Ellen Kaiser a first-year student in EES is the first recipient of this award. Pioneer is a large independent oil and gas exploration company based in Dallas, with operations in Texas, Colorado, Alaska, and South Africa.
In his presentation of the gift, Mr. Spalding meditated on his own education at UK. He challenged students to pursue careers in areas where they are passionate. He credits his time at the university as not only cementing a life-long love for UK basketball, but also, more importantly, for fueling his passion for the science of geology. He waxed eloquently about his outstanding mentors he had in EES. Mr. Spalding also remarked about the quality of the students in the department, several of whom have gone on to very successful careers with Pioneer. He credited this sense of connection and a desire to give back as a major motivating factor behind the gift.
In accepting this gift, President Capilouto highlighted the importance of creative public-private partnerships for the future of our University. He thanked Pioneer Natural Resources for its investment in the future of Geology and our Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
I had the opportunity to visit Pioneer this past summer and meet with our alumni employees. I was fascinated to see the integrated use of research data and visualization/simulation tools. The visit gave me an eye on the type of high-tech careers for which we are preparing our students. Equally important, it was clear that our students need to leave UK with strong written and oral communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively in teams with individuals with widely diverse areas of specialization and academic backgrounds. This type of engagement with our alums and the companies that they work for benefits the College and our students in innumerable ways.
I am very thankful to Tom Spalding and Pioneer Natural Resources and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership.