Nathan Meehan, 2016 SPE President
Wealth is not new. Neither is charity. But the idea of using private wealth imaginatively, constructively, and systematically to attack the fundamental problems of mankind is new.—John Gardner
Historical philanthropy was primarily driven by religious convictions or the desire to remain in power. Around the time of John D. Rockefeller, something remarkable occurred as the great wealth created by industrialization ushered in a different sort of giving, targeted at improving people’s lives. Rockefeller started as an office clerk at age 16, creating his own firm 4 years later. His success in building Standard Oil was unprecedented—the firm would eventually be broken up into more than 30 individual companies that would grow to become Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Sohio, and others. He gave away most of his wealth, founding the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University, but much of the giving was targeted at achieving specific goals. One example was focusing on eradicating hookworm disease across the southern US. Oil industry leaders have a long tradition of philanthropy, just one more way our industry serves the public good.
SPE has set aside a modest amount of money for disaster relief in areas where our members reside. To date, we have contributed more than USD 100,000 to various efforts including USD 10,000 each to relief efforts following this year’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador and the Fort McMurray wildfires in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada.
Most of us donate to charities according both to our abilities to do so and our convictions. One of the things I have been most pleased to see is not the donation of money, but the time and energy SPE members have contributed to charitable causes. I joined SPE in 1975 and one of the first activities I participated in was a section activity to raise money for scholarships, one of the most common areas for giving. SPE members have often been ready to volunteer for many efforts designed to benefit the public or deserving individuals or groups. I am thrilled to see sections and chapters around the world contributing their time and efforts to a wide variety of activities.
In June, the SPE Board of Directors adopted “SPE Cares” as the name for global SPE volunteer initiatives, thereby promoting community service worldwide while bringing together students and young and experienced professionals. We can shed a positive light in the oil and gas industry and make a difference in our community outside our careers.
While members have been actively engaged in such activities for many years, SPE Cares began in its current form in 2015, when Aniruddh Guru, a senior at Penn State University, and Yogashri Pradhan, a production engineer for the Texas Oil and Gas Institute, piloted the initiative in Galveston, Texas.
They collaborated with the local SPE Gulf Coast Section’s annual Galveston Beach cleanup, which happened the Saturday before ATCE in Houston. Participation at this inaugural event was three times the expected number of volunteers, thanks to the local Gulf Coast Section members.
The initiative’s early success led to SPEI adopting SPE Cares this year. Members in all sections can include the hashtag #SPECares when posting community service efforts on social media platforms. As an example of a recent project, Pandit Deendayal from the Petroleum University student chapter in Gandhinagar, India, organized a beach cleanup.
SPE Cares will officially launch during ATCE Dubai with a “Give a Ghaf” tree planting ceremony. This environmental project will help preserve Ghaf’s cultural and ecological heritage. The Ghaf tree is an indigenous species, specifically of the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. It is a drought-tolerant, evergreen tree that can survive a harsh desert environment. Volunteers hope to plant 200 Ghaf trees.
SPE members have also been generous in supporting our society financially. Many of you give to the SPE Foundation which was established in 1977. All living past presidents of SPE serve as “trustees” of the foundation and have a single purpose: to support and augment key Society programs. DeAnn Craig, former president of the SPE Foundation and 1998 SPE president, described the role of the foundation in this JPT article (http://www.spe.org/jpt/article/9477-spe-foundation-funds-significant-initiatives/), which I would encourage you to read. Those of you who are able to give generously may wish to consider joining the Omega Association at one of various support levels. Most of all, I encourage you to give your time and efforts in supporting SPE in its mission to collect, disseminate, and exchange technical knowledge concerning the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas resources and related technologies for the public benefit and to provide opportunities for professionals to enhance their technical and professional competence.
Finally, on a personal note I want to express my gratitude for all the hours that go into organizing activities, writing and reviewing papers, leading section and chapter activities, raising funds for scholarships, and the countless other efforts SPE members support. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in my current role, and I remain humbled to see how committed our members are to this society.