By Gerard O'Brien
Jerry Schuyler was a long-time, successful Atlantic Richfield Co. executive when something happened that convinced him to start planning his exit from the company and strike out on his own.
"It was in Karachi, Pakistan. I was the president of Arco for the region and we had just purchased a company that had a large operation in Pakistan. It was my first visit to Karachi and there was a lot of political unrest at the time. I flew into the airport late at night and it looked abandoned. All of a sudden, a Pakistani man came up to me with a sign that had my name on it, grabbed my bag, then grabbed me by the nape of the neck and said, ‘We got to move fast, let's go.' "
"We jogged about a half-mile through the airport to the front entry where there were two cars waiting for us. There were armed guards with machine guns in both vehicles. I dove in and we drove at breakneck speed through marketplaces and winding roads and out of the city.
"I was pretty groggy from traveling, but I suddenly realized that I had no idea who these men were. They could be friends or kidnappers. Six months earlier, a car of company employees from the firm we had acquired had been ambushed and gunned down Bonnie and Clyde style.
"It wasn't until we reached the company "safehouse" with armed men at the gates and on the roof that I saw another Arco worker and I relaxed. As I was lying in bed that night, I thought to myself, ‘I didn't go to Montana Tech for a petroleum engineering degree for this!'" said the Roberts native.
What Tech did provide Schuyler, (pronounced Skyler) was a stellar career in Arco, several other oil firm startups and now with a new start-up company called Laredo Petroleum in Tulsa, Okla., where he is president and chief operating officer.
Q. When did you attend Montana Tech? What degree?
A. 1973-1977 with high honors with a BS in Petroleum Engineering, with high honors.
Q. What was your reason for choosing Tech?
A. I wanted to pursue a career where I could utilize my math and science skills, find a job I enjoyed when I graduated and make a decent living. However, I wanted to maintain the option to change my curriculum into things such as medicine, law or math or science teaching as long as possible. The college had to be affordable. The petroleum engineering choice preserved all of these options.
When I graduated from high school, I was offered a four- year Air Force ROTC scholarship. With this scholarship I could attend any college in the U.S. that had an Air Force ROTC program, and it was tempting. However, Montana Tech has an impressive job placement record and was a small college, and students have good access to professors. In addition to an excellent permanent job placement record, they also placed most engineering students in summer internships. I thought the intern program was a great opportunity to work in the field you were studying and validating it with a field of study you would enjoy. Montana Tech also did not require that I spend six years active and eight years reserve duty in the Air Force!
Q. What is your proudest moment in your career?
A. When I was asked to become the first and only president of the Middle East for Arco. Arco had never had this level of position based in the Middle East, and they had recently signed a complex concession which we hoped had the potential to add significant value to the company.
There was no one in the executive ranks in the entire corporation who had ever done the job they were creating. They were somewhat "betting the farm" on the trust I had earned of the executive management team in Arco in my first 17 years with the company. Their choice was somewhat a reflection of a trait I think Montana Tech graduates are known for: being trustworthy, resourceful and willing to do just about anything. I think it comes with the rural roots that are so common of a large percentage of Montana Tech grads.
Q. What goals did you accomplish, or a project of which you are most proud?
A. I've always wanted to be a good son, good brother, good husband, good father, a valued member of a highly respected company and an active and respected member of the community. I feel I'm gaining on all of the above, but I'm certainly not there, yet.
A couple of things I am most proud of are:
1) Julie's and my three children are all now adults and have always had a tremendous work ethic, and I have no concern about them being able to make it on their own — I like to think this is somewhat a result of some good things Julie and I did as parents;
2) My parents are both in their 80s and are able to maintain a good quality life on the place where they have lived since 1961— this has been possible to some degree because of a high level of involvement of my brother Alan and myself since the early 1980s;
3) I was awarded a Montana Tech Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004 — this was probably somewhat a result of years of active participation in the Montana Tech Industrial Advisory Board and now the Montana Tech Foundation;
4) I now am in the fourth company of my career (they have all been great, ethical companies) and I enjoy a large network of people across the industry with whom I believe I share a high degree of mutual respect.
Q. What is a memorable college experience?
A. Being the student body president my senior year. We had an active student body that year and accomplished several significant things. We finally got the current HPER building approved by the students. It had been put on the ballot several times in the previous 10 years and kept being voted down.
Another change that had been attempted for years and never approved was moving the college to the early semester calendar year. During our tenure, Coleman Moench, our ASMT Vice President, and I went to the faculty senate and lobbied hard for the change representing the student body. It was passed that year and implemented the fall after our graduation.
Q. Who is a favorite hero to you, mentor, public, private and why?
A. A fellow named Mike Wiley. Mike was a colleague I met and worked with several times in my 22 years at Arco. He was raised in humble surroundings in Tulsa, Okla., graduated from Tulsa University with a bachelor of science in Petroleum Engineering, worked for Arco for approximately 30 years where his last position was president and chief operating officer of the entire corporation. After the sale of Arco to British Petroleum he became the president, CEO and chairman of the board for Baker Hughes Corp. He retired several years ago and now serves on several boards of large successful companies.
He is one of the most ethical, confident and smartest men with whom I have ever worked. He always insisted on a high standard of respect among employees and truly believed in utilizing the collective knowledge in the room. His list of professional accomplishments is quite impressive, but the thing I respect the most in Mike is the fact that he accomplished all of these things while keeping his family first priority in his life.
I have the good fortune of having worked for Mike in several professional settings, some that were very trying, and I consider him a good friend.
Q. How has Tech served you in the past, or present?
A. My education at Montana Tech has opened the door for opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. It provided the foundation for me to grow and progress professionally as seen on my resume. We have lived in a multitude of places, met an incredible number of great people and seen a lot of the world. It provided me the credentials I needed to find and pursue a career that has been very fulfilling.
Q. How do you stay in touch with Tech?
A. I served on the Petroleum Engineering Industrial Advisory for years and still frequently consult the board and the Petroleum Engineering Department. I have played a role in helping introduce key members of the Montana Tech administration and teaching faculty to key industry representatives. The last several years I have been on the Montana Tech Foundation Board. I'm also active in local area alumni gatherings.
Q. What advice would you give high school students considering college?
A. There are literally hundreds of good colleges in the U.S. However, any student who has an interest in going to an engineering college should certainly check out Montana Tech. Montana Tech has a great reputation in the industry and it is known world-wide. Tech's record of placing summer interns and graduates is second to none. The college is truly one of the best values in the U.S. today.
About Jerry Schuyler
Age: 53, native of Roberts, Mont.
Occupation: President and Chief Operating Officer – Laredo Petroleum Inc.
Brief work history: 22 years with Atlantic Richfied Corp., Arco. Worked in Alaska; Lafayette, La.; Los Angeles; Houston, Texas; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Some of the key positions held while working for Arco: Manager of the Gulf of Mexico, Field Manager of Prudhoe Bay Operations, Worldwide Planning Manager for Oil and Gas Operations, and President and Managing Director of Arco Middle East.
After leaving Arco in late 1999, he joined Dominion Exploration and Production and was the senior vice president of onshore U.S. operations. After successfully growing the onshore portion of the E&P business, he retired and entered graduate school at the University of Houston. About halfway through the curriculum, he returned to the industry and joined St. Mary Land and Exploration as senior vice president of the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Coast and Permian regions. After 3½ years of helping St. Mary triple its market capitalization value, he took a job in Tulsa with a newly formed Independent Oil and Gas exploration company called Laredo Petroleum. Today, Schyuler is the president and chief operating officer of Laredo.
Family: Wife, Julie – Graduated from MSU. Julie is a registered nurse and also has a master's degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. She is licensed to practice in both. Daughter, Brianna – Graduated with a BS in physics from Johns Hopkins University, masters degree in physics from University of Wisconsin, currently 2 years into a doctoral program in neuro science at University of Wisconsin. Daughter, Alicia – Is a senior at the University of Texas-Austin with a major in biology. Son, Ryan – Is a sophomore in petroleum engineering at the University of Texas-Austin.