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Ken Thompson kindly sat down for an interview before the ARCO Alumni happy hour in Anchorage as part of our tribute to Marlan Downey. Click to watch the video interview. Below, Marlan’s colleagues and friends share what made Marlan so special. Please share your own memory of Marlan by clicking to add a comment.
Marlan was my favorite “boss” in my whole life,” shares Mary Sculley. “When Marlan joined ARCO International we were all intrigued by his quiet demeanor and slow conversational style. He would listen, ask questions rarely, and then point out a ‘missed’ connection that would send everyone back to the drawing boards,” recalls Mary, HR, ARCO 1989-1996.
In an attempt to pull all the teams together in the International headquarters office, Marlan started the Chili Cook Off which became a competition between driller, geologists, finance, etc.
Recalls Phoebe Wood who worked with Marlan on the finance side at ARCO, “Marlan Downey possessed a graciousness and humanness that complemented a towering intellect and business acumen. So many of us (as well as ARCO) benefited from being able to observe and emulate him,” said Phoebe.
Not a morning person
“Knowing that he was not a morning person endeared him to us, just as knowing that his disagreement with you would come with a smile and a head shake and excessive politeness. His commitment to caring about an individual was on display every year when he hand wrote personal letters to us. I will miss hearing from him,” -- With deepest sympathy, and enduring admiration , Phoebe Wood ARCO 1976-2000.
His commitment to caring about an individual was on display every year when he hand wrote personal letters to us. I will miss hearing from him. - Phoebe Wood, ARCO 1976-2000
Marlan’s wife Marea helped get Marlan out the door early every day. She would fix his coffee, hand it to him with his briefcase and coat, raise the garage door, hand him his keys and kiss him goodbye. One day, Marea forgot to raise the garage door and Marlan backed right through it,” said Mary. This was a story retold many times.
Marlan was my mentor, my confidant, my hero and my friend. –David Nicklin
Whether talking to someone for a story or at an ARCO Alumni event, the over-riding theme is that people recognize ARCO was second to none when it came to technical expertise. And as Ken Thompson shared, the upside of ARCO being acquired was that this talent dispersed around the globe to support companies large and small.
Talking to former associates, it is evident that Marlan played a huge role developing ARCO’s technical expertise. “It certainly has been my experience that the technical talent at ARCO was pretty unparalleled,” said David Nicklin.
Marlan set out to form a bridge where technical expertise superseded the regional territorial business units. His mission was to strengthen the technical staff.
First Impressions: Marlan’s first appearance on the ARCO scene was at the Management summit in Ojai California around 1990. David recalls showing up at the meeting with a big chunk of core from a well ARCO had just drilled in Indonesia. “It was all the excuse Marlan needed to get away from the clamor and go somewhere quiet to see the core and talk geology. It proved to me that the reputation that preceded him was correct: he was fundamentally a rock guy and always open to discussing the technical fundamentals,” remembers David.
Marlan was fundamentally a rock guy and always open to discussing the technical fundamentals. -David Nicklin, ARCO 1981-1999
Galen Treadgold found that Marlan was the most approachable senior manager he ever had the good fortune to work for. “Marlan seemed to always anticipate the next problem with a technical argument that may have taken us weeks to recognize. When we headed in the wrong direction he'd gently push back with "that all sounds fine as long as we're not constraining solutions to those that obey the laws of physics..." He was the only one that could call a room full of 40 and 50 year old geoscientists "kids" and we'd feel very comfortable with the classification. He will be greatly missed by this kid.,” said Galen Treadgold, ARCO 1985 -2000.
Mary Sculley also recalls Marlan sitting in a meeting, listening respectfully, allowing multiple questions and answers and then saying, “well, kid, your team did a good job, but I have only one question.”
Putting your money where your mouth is: David left Arco at the end of 1999 to form his own company. Marlan agreed to be an Advisor to the Management Committee and an investor. David was aware that Marlan had made similar offers to others as well. “It was the person he was,” said David “The most important advice he gave me and my colleagues was this: “Kids, if you want to be successful in this business, you have to be committed, you have to put your money where your mouth is, and ALWAYS pay the investors back first!” This advice has helped structure every deal I have done since and I don’t regret a single cent of my own investments, because Marlan was right there with us, walking the talk,” said David.
Frank Kryza and Marlan loved to talk about books and writing. “Marlan was an able critic of first drafts and, with hindsight, I cannot think of any subject that he couldn't discuss without teaching me something. And he was a lot more fun than an encyclopedia,” remembers Frank, ARCO 1982-1998.
Marlan was an able critic of first drafts and, with hindsight, I cannot think of any subject that he couldn't discuss without teaching me something. And he was a lot more fun than an encyclopedia. - Frank Kryza, ARCO 1982-1998
“Throughout all the years of knowing Marlan, I can think of no one who, after meeting him, did not feel immediately uplifted. It was as if suddenly, the rest of your day was brighter and any problems you faced were suddenly smaller and more manageable. His smile and his warmth were infectious, his intellectual depth reassuring. He just made the world seem like a whole lot better place. Knowing him was one of the greatest privileges of my life.” –David Nicklin, ARCO 1981-1999.
“Marlan was a brilliant blend of technical and exploration talent. He showed me that one could be a hands-on explorationist and a generator of innovative technical advancements at the same time. One did not have to be one or the other in an oil company; one could be both. Marlan also taught the value of prediction over mere technical description in exploration. He emphasized that properly utilized technology should lead to predictable outcomes, not just be intellectually interesting. The warmth and good humor of his interactions with people were legendary. He was a friend and mentor, and I will miss him greatly.” – Jamie Robertson, ARCO 1975-2000.
Former ARCO and Vastar colleagues met in The Woodlands in January and North Dallas in February. We hope you will RSVP for Fratelli’s in Houston and enjoy networking on Wednesday, April 5.
Careers have broadened post ARCO and below are members looking for opportunities and some of the stories of what members are doing. If you are consulting, log on and make sure you have checked the box to share that you are available for consulting opportunities.
Kris Carpentier Wise is in her fifteenth year of real estate with Keller Williams. She did not make it to Pappadeaux as she teaches a real estate class on Thursdays in Denton.
ARCO played a huge part of my professional career because I joined right out of college. It set the bar high as to what a high functioning team felt like and I have yet to duplicate that. Good times.
Kris Carpentier Wise
Meredith Jones took a package from Hunt Oil and is looking.
Paula Wertman shared that she is looking for a full-time Administrative Assistant job in North Dallas. Contact her at PaulaW2014@outlook.com.
Howard Shearer was in IT at ARCO and when the function was outsourced to IBM with the BP acquisition, he mostly moved to supporting Financial Services.
Bob Anderson was at Crush Bar in The Woodlands and then drove North to Dallas. He used to work in the downtown ARCO office and knows any of the ARCO people who worked in Dallas. He and Gary McKiddy, now with Premier Nationwide Lending, worked together. Then Gary left ARCO, and Bob moved into a position with ARCO International. When Gary retured to Texas, Bob hired Gary back. The two were at the happy hour and planned to golf the next day.
J David Clyde accepted a position for one year with ExxonMobil and while they did not believe it, he kept his word and went out on his own after the year. David is President and CEO of Spinnaker Medical Consultants International, LLC. He provides Occupational Medicine advisory services for global oil and gas companies. David has a special interest in planning, organizing and evaluating medical support for companies beginning operations in developing countries.
Tom Dolence is looking for his next opportunity. He has over 25 years of drilling and completion engineering experience in the Gulf of Mexico with 14 of the those years performing drilling and completion turnkeys for ADTI (Applied Drilling Technology, Inc).
John Gillespie was consulting for Chevron in petroleum engineering, well engineering, operations and production and is now consulting with Sierra Energy. He enjoys working remotely and can take calls and log onto his computer in the passenger seat as his wife Barbara drives to their weekend get-away. Life is good!
Tom Maunder is back from his second ‘80s music themed cruise and available for petroleum engineering and well engineering consulting.
Becky Olsen is seeking a geophysicist position in the Houston area. Becky was with SWN (Southwestern Energy) 2010 - 2016, working the Fayetteville and Marcellus Shales. After ARCO, I went from Seagull (now Devon), to UNOCAL (now Chevron), and to Blackpool (part time consulting, BecTech Geophysical Consulting, LLC) and finally to SWN. www.linkedin.com/rebeccabeckyolsen
Around the world
While Tony Lawrence has authored numerous technical publications over the years in his career as a petrophysicist, he shares that he has a series of eBooks annotating “his amazing personal life experiences while traveling the world”. “Much like the path of a dragonfly, from one place to the next, this is the story of my life”, says Tony. Follow Tony as he integrates business with pleasure during his career in fulfilling many items on his "Bucket List.” The stories found inside are based on true life events that are often ironic and funny and which, occasionally, border on the "believe it or not" category.
Much like the path of a dragonfly, from one place to the next, this is the story of my life.
While Tony was unable to attend the DFW Happy Hour because he is working in Indonesia, he shared that his second eBook, The Single Dragonfly Book 2 – California Alaska and More Here I Come is currently hot off the Lulu press at the following link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/tony-lawrence/the-single-dragonfly-book-2-california-alaska-and-more-here-i-come/ebook/product-23078716.html
“There are several interesting stories in Book 2 about ARCO people with whom I have worked over the years in California, Alaska, Plano, Dallas and Houston,” said Tony.
Log on and update your profile, click on Search to search for a specific person, or select the consulting box to see who is consulting.
Norman Nadorff shared with us that the ARCO International Legal Department produced several lawyers who made their mark. In this story we talk to Harry Sullivan, who has an interesting career spanning private and public work.
Harry Sullivan currently works at Kosmos Energy in Dallas, and since 2013 he has also taught oil and gas law specific courses at SMU Law School and Texas A&M Law School in Fort Worth.
“When I went to law school,” said Harry, “you picked up writing and contract negotiations skills once you were practicing. Now the firms want the applicants to arrive with these skills. I am teaching basic oil and gas law this semester at Texas A&M Law School and International Oil and Gas Negotiations at SMU Law School. Oil and Gas Negotiations is a hands-on course where students negotiate oil and gas specific issues with one another using different simulations such as joint operating agreements or contracts with the government of Tanzania. Students play the roles of government and oil companies,” said Harry.
Harry brings in guest speakers at different times. He finds that students like guests, and team teaching and seminars allow for some great chemistry. “It is nice too,” shares Harry, “if people disagree on an approach. That is real life. It is good to see these different approaches. I like teaching a lot, but I don’t wish to be a pure academic. I like bringing some real life experience into the classroom setting. You can get rusty very quickly out of industry. For people like me teaching from a practical perspective, you must keep your hand in the business,” said Harry.
I see teaching as a way to help the next generation of oil and gas lawyers and to give back some of the great experience and learnings from my careers at ARCO and COP
“The main complaint companies have of new graduates is that they don’t write well,” continues Harry. “Texas A&M has taken that on board and has specific courses to make sure graduates can write a contract. Course offerings now include an oil and gas contracts drafting course, a real estate drafting course, intellectual property drafting courses, and other courses which focus on practical teaching.”
Universities are focusing on the idea of experiential learning. Harry has found a niche teaching students to draft agreements, clauses in agreements, tailoring agreements, and writing letters. “Frankly,” finds Harry, “most law schools teach you about disputes, but they don’t teach much about doing transactions, which is where most of the real-life negotiating occurs.”
Harry has been doing gas work throughout his career. He was with ARCO from 1984, and then he transitioned to Phillips about six months after the BP acquisition of ARCO. Harry travelled frequently, and has had his home in Dallas since 1989. With COP, he commuted from Dallas to Houston and travelled frequently and for long periods of time. COP graciously allowed Harry to work from home while teaching at SMU. In 2014, Harry retired from COP to teach more and joined Kosmos on a part-time basis, ending his commuting lifestyle.
The change from COP to Kosmos was "night and day".
The change from COP to Kosmos was “night and day” said Harry. “Kosmos is 200 employees or less worldwide. Kosmos is focused on exploration and creativity. Their initial success was in Ghana. That was phenomenal. I joined them right before they drilled a significant gas discovery well in Mauritania and then in Senegal. I am supporting the effort to monetize the gas discoveries in Mauritania and Senegal. Steve Sills (ex-ARCO) is our engineering expert and in addition Kosmos hired Greg Beard (ex-ARCO). I did gas sales contracts with Greg in Indonesia and China in the ARCO days. Greg left Noble in 2015 and helps Kosmos with gas marketing which has been his expertise since the ARCO days.” remarks Harry.
Harry’s ARCO memories include the many international projects in Indonesia and China., as well as LUKARCO projects. Harry was involved setting up a joint venture in 1995 between LUKoil and Arco called LukARCO. LUKARCO had an office in Moscow and Amsterdam. ARCO sold its LUKoil stock before BP took over, but the LUKARCO enterprise stayed. BP acquired the joint venture when it bought ARCO and gradually sold out to LUKoil. COP did almost the same thing as ARCO and bought LUKoil stock in the early 2000s, and had a seat on the board.
Looking at his role, Harry finds that the challenges have definitely changed. With the downturn people are looking much more carefully at contracts and ways to get out of contracts. It is also an interesting time in the LNG long term sales business as it faces a number of significant challenges, including the emergence of a shorter-term commodity business. “Contract drafting is not a static thing.,” explains Harry.
People dream up new ideas all the time. You have to be on guard all the time and understand what contracts are doing and any unintended consequences
“While I was at ARCO, I took a great course at SMU when working on my law master’s degree,” remembers Harry. “It looked at science, technology and law. Law is always behind technology. The law relies on principles which often have to be adapted to meet evolving technology. As an example, when oil was first discovered in the mid-1800s, the law was behind in addressing this new technology. Courts adapted existing principles to create the rule of capture. This empowered the oil industry.” shares Harry.
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