I woke up Sunday morning, the 21st of July, to learn that Marvin Gearhart had died the day before.  Everybody who knew him had a story about him. Here’s mine:

In my senior year at Oklahoma State University (1979) I had just realized that I didn’t actually want to work as an Ag Engineer for John Deere, so my dad suggested I apply for openhole logging engineering jobs at Schlumberger and at Gearhart-Owen, two companies with whiz bang wireline services around the world.  

I interviewed with both companies and was offered jobs upon graduation at both companies, but the engineering job at Gearhart came with a twist:  Before coming to work I had to take a psychological profile exam. It seems that Marvin Gearhart had looked at his best field engineers and had hired a doctor of some sort to identify the key characteristics of those best field engineers and then test prospective new hires for those same key characteristics.  At the appointed time I met with the doctor and took the timed, written exam.

Perhaps I’m naïve, perhaps I’m not very cunning, perhaps I’m not very aware of my surroundings, but I took that test as honestly as I could, bearing in mind that I had just been awarded Oklahoma’s engineering student of the year and I was clearly something special.  

One question the doctor’s test asked was (and I’m paraphrasing), “When preparing for a vacation, do you a) meticulously plan out the trip and pack the car accordingly, or b) throw crap in the back and just take off?”  I was 23, tired of school, footloose and bulletproof, so I answered the question honestly: Throw crap in the back and take off… because that is how we did it.

A couple weeks later a letter arrived from Gearhart that said, not only are you not a good candidate to be a field engineer for us, you should seriously reevaluate your desire to be an engineer working in the oilfield.


Schlumberger offered me the job, plus Halliburton offered me a job.  I took the Halliburton gig and celebrated 40 years in the industry a month ago.

But in about 1988, I finally met Marvin Gearhart on a riverboat that was floating down the Mississippi River.  I was carving out a career in the oil & gas industry, doing pretty well in my 10th year, and I wanted to alert Mr. Gearhart to how wrong his stupid psychological profile exam had been.  He listened impatiently and then stated, “You’d have never made it working for me.” End of conversation.

Ouch a second time.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about those two encounters with Mr. Gearhart.  At first I was hurt, then I was mad, then I was determined to prove him wrong. The thing is, with hindsight gained from hard experience, I’ve come to realize that he was actually right all along – I would have made a terrible openhole logging engineer for Gearhart-Owen.  He saved me from a miserable first job in the oilfield because, well, he needed guys who meticulously planned out the trip and packed the car accordingly. And, he was smart enough and sure enough to know it.

Rest in peace, Mr. Gearhart.