In Memoriam: Orville D. Gaither

Orville D. Gaither, 1990 SPE President and an SPE Foundation trustee, died 29 June. Gaither’s presidency was marked by the opening of several international SPE sections and his extensive traveling to visit members around the world. When recollecting his presidency, Gaither often used “Enroute” to sum up the year, in which he journeyed 25,000 miles in commercial airlines and the private jet that Amoco assigned to him to get to sections not connected through domestic airlines at that time. During his many section visits, he opened the first Asia Pacific Conference in Australia, attended the Appalachian Regional Conference, and addressed the Cairo Egypt Section three times.

His presidency also marked several steps toward SPE’s diversity initiatives. “I recognized that SPE needed to elect an international engineer as president and also that women were becoming more of a factor in engineering and Earth science professions. I’m pleased to say that the groundwork was laid to accomplish both objectives,” said Gaither in a 2007 JPT article about his presidency. In 1993, Jacques Bosio became SPE's first non-US president and DeAnn Craig took office as the first woman SPE president in 1998.

Gaither worked for Amoco Oil Corp. for more than 43 years. During his career at the company, he was involved in several domestic and international operations and retired as the president of Amoco International’s Africa and Middle East region. After his retirement, he founded Gaither Petroleum Corp. with two of his sons.

An honorary member of SPE and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Gaither was recognized as a Distinguished Engineer in the fields of mechanical and petroleum engineering by the University of Houston Engineering Society, and with the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award by the George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Rice Engineering Society.

A well-known philanthropist, Gaither was a founding member of the Spindletop International Charities, which aids social and educational causes such as child abuse prevention and drug abuse rehabilitation. He was also involved in the Boy Scouts of America all his life and was honored with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 2009, of which fewer than 2,000 have been awarded to date.

Gaither was a registered professional engineer in Texas and Louisiana. He held a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rice University, a master’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Houston, and was a graduate of the Stanford Business School.