Texas Tech Remembers Bob L. Herd
Distinguished petroleum engineer, philanthropist leaves legacy in the lives of students.
Texas Tech University System honored the life of Bob L. Herd, a proud Red Raider and graduate of Texas Tech University whose legacy to the institution included a momentous gift to name the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering as well as numerous gifts to support student scholarships and university priorities.
Herd, who died Dec. 13 at the age of 91, credited his Texas Tech education with launching a career that enabled him to give back to his alma mater and the city of Tyler, Texas, where he lived.
A native Texan and U.S. Air Force veteran, Herd attended Texas Tech University on the GI Bill and graduated in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering. Soon after starting his career, he moved to Tyler and founded Herd Producing Company. Early success drove the independent venture’s growth, and the East Texas company would eventually expand to own and operate hundreds of oil and gas wells throughout Texas and Louisiana.
Recognized for his work in the petroleum industry, Herd received the Pioneer Award in the Field of Energy from the Society of Petroleum Engineers in 1993. The following year, the Texas Tech Alumni Association honored him with the Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 1995 he was named a Distinguished Engineer by Texas Tech University’s Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering.
Committed to success at the highest level
Herd was an active member of the Chancellor’s Council, an organization that supports the priorities of the chancellor by investing in student success, rewarding faculty innovation and empowering the system to invest in new opportunities. Through annual membership gifts, Herd supported the organization continuously since 1992. A cabinet level member, Herd was committed to the system’s growth and success.
“Bob Herd made a difference in the lives of students across our universities.”
“Through his incredible gift to the department that bears his name and the decades of support he gave to the Chancellor’s Council, Bob Herd made a difference in the lives of students across our universities,” said Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell, Texas Tech University System chancellor. “That same desire to help others is at the core of what drives the Texas Tech University System. We are grateful for Mr. Herd’s example and for the lasting imprint his gifts will have on countless future students.”
Herd was instrumental in supporting the system’s priorities at the highest levels, advocating for causes he believed in personally. When the Texas Tech University System began planning Texas’ first veterinary school in more than 100 years, Herd was among the project’s staunchest supporters.
Texas Tech University made history in September when it broke ground on the School of Veterinary Medicine’s new facilities, located in Amarillo, Texas.
“The Texas Tech family will greatly miss Bob Herd, a true philanthropist who was genuine and a great example of the Texas Tech culture and the toughness of his generation,” said former Texas Sen. Robert Duncan, who previously served as Texas Tech University System chancellor. “Bob, and his grandson, Michael, were also tremendous advocates for us during our pursuit for the School of Veterinary Medicine. Bob Herd’s legacy and generosity will be remembered for generations in the future.”
Creating student opportunities
Herd spoke often about the opportunities that higher education created in his life and career, and he was committed to making those same opportunities available to current students through scholarships.
Through the Bob L. Herd Foundation, Herd and his wife supported a presidential endowed scholarship, Texas Tech University’s highest tier of student aid. He also established an undergraduate scholarship endowment in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and a graduate fellowship in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.
“Charitable giving is a selfless act that puts the needs of others first,” said Patrick Kramer, Texas Tech Foundation CEO and Texas Tech University System vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement. “Through his gifts, Bob Herd ensured that future students will have access to the same kind of education that made a difference in his life. He leaves a permanent mark at Texas Tech that will be measured in lifetimes, not years.”
In addition to supporting scholarships, Herd gave to numerous causes across the university, including Athletics. He was also a long-time member of the Texas Tech Alumni Association.
“Bob Herd’s pride in being a Red Raider was surpassed only by the generosity with which he gave back to Texas Tech,” said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech University president. “His career of accomplishment is what we hope for every graduate. However, his true legacy will be remembered in the lives of students that benefit from his investments across this university and in the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering.”
A transformative gift
While Herd’s generosity touched numerous areas of the Texas Tech University System, his greatest gift came in 2008, when he donated $15 million to name the university’s petroleum engineering department. The significant gift marked the first time Texas Tech had named an academic department in it’s 85-year history.
At the event announcing the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering, former Texas Rep. Kent R. Hance, then chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, underscored how unique it was to be naming a department for one of its former students.
“We are honored to name our successful petroleum engineering department after one of our distinguished graduates,” said Hance, now chancellor emeritus of the Texas Tech University System. “The generosity of alumni like Mr. Herd allows our institutions to continue providing excellent educational opportunities.”
The Mesquite High School graduate turned energy magnate, credited his experience at Texas Tech for the career of success that followed.
“My family and I are pleased that we are able to help Texas Tech provide the educational foundation for future petroleum engineers, like Texas Tech provided me many years ago,” Herd said, following the event. “It was this education that made this donation possible.”
At the time of Herd’s donation, the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering was responsible for producing 10% of all U.S. petroleum engineering graduates each year. U.S. News & World Report ranked the department’s graduate program 10th in the nation.
“Through his career and through his philanthropy, Bob chose to make a difference in people’s lives through engineering.”
The gift came with no restrictions, only the request that it support the department’s growth. Over the next decade, the program opened a spacious new building and improved its undergraduate program’s U.S. News & World Report ranking to no. 4 in 2018.
This year, the publication listed Texas Tech no. 5 among U.S. schools where petroleum engineering graduates earn the highest salaries.
“Texas Tech University is known for the high caliber of its engineering graduates because of outstanding alumni like Bob Herd,” said Al Sacco Jr., dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering. “Through his career and through his philanthropy, Bob chose to make a difference in people’s lives through engineering. I am grateful to have known him and for the difference he will continue to make in the lives of students and faculty in the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering.”
The last ten years have been a steady march of progress for petroleum engineering at Texas Tech. In 2014, the department opened a 42,000-square-foot building in the heart of the university’s campus. Conceived as a visual laboratory, the building tells the story of petroleum engineering across its classrooms, research labs and the two-story wall of geologic formations that dominates the building’s lobby.
Three short years later, administrators completed the Oilfield Technology Center, a 10-acre teaching and research facility located a short, 15-minute drive from campus. The university-owned facility boasts a 4,000-square-foot educational building, 4,000 foot test well, tank batteries, gas facilities and a functional drilling rig. It’s purpose is to better prepare students for the oilfield by giving them hands-on educational experiences.
It’s another example of the department’s commitment to student education that was magnified by Herd’s philanthropy.
“Bob Herd saw in his own life the difference that a Texas Tech education can make. It has been a privilege to know him and see the impact of his gift on our students and faculty,” said Marshall Watson, chairman of the Bob L. Herd Department of Petroleum Engineering. “We are forever grateful to him, and we will remember his legacy every day as we educate future generations of petroleum engineers.”
Creating opportunities for tomorrow’s students remains a recurring theme throughout Herd’s giving and in the stories told by those who knew him best. In front of family members, Texas Tech supporters and a throng of media in attendance, Herd himself summed up the reason for his gift at that news conference in 2008.
Herd was reluctant to speak, but Hance insisted. After some encouragement from his wife, the man of the hour begrudgingly approached the microphone to explain the reason behind his generosity.
Hance recounted the moment in a 2012 interview with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
“Thank you Texas Tech. You gave me the key.”
“When I called on him, he stood up — it was really a touching moment,” Hance said. “I wish everyone in the Red Raider family could’ve seen it. He stood up and came to the podium. He paused; he looked down at the ground. He was nervous.
“He said, ‘Thank you, Texas Tech. You gave me the key.’”
The words echoed through the audience. Herd sat down, finishing his remarks in only nine words.
“It summed it up,” Hance said. “He got an education here, and it gave him the key to do what he’s done. And he gave back.”