In the spring of 2012, UT PGE lost a remarkable alumnus, Brian Jennings (BSPE ’84), at the young age of 52. He made quite an impact on the Forty Acres as a petroleum engineering student and alumnus - he stayed involved with the department as an industry advisor through the external advisory committee to ensure UT PGE students were well-prepared for the energy sector.
In the spring of 2013, the Brian James Jennings Endowed Chair was established thanks to a generous $1 million gift by his wife, Lisa Jennings and their two children, Olivia and Brian II. In January 2015, Dr. Carlos Torres-Verdin was named the holder of the chair.
Lisa said, “UT was really important to Brian, actually engrained in him, so he had been talking about setting up a chair for a while. I wanted to follow through with his idea to provide our children with a legacy at UT.”
Endowed chairs represent one of the most powerful tools that UT PGE calls upon to recruit new faculty and provide a strong incentive for the best professors and teachers to stay at the university. Named faculty positions provide the resources necessary to underwrite new lines of research, upgrade lab space, cover travel costs, or support undergraduate or graduate assistants.
In the spring of 2013 at a reception in Dallas to celebrate the establishment of the chair, Brian’s daughter Olivia wrote a heart-felt speech honoring her father, “My dad’s years at UT did not just stay with the person my dad was in the past, but continued to live in him. My family and I are so proud to underwrite a chair that will belong to a person specializing in giving students the tools to change the world.”
Brian Jennings led a successful career after receiving his diplomas from UT and the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business (MBA ’89). He was the president and chief executive officer of Rise Energy Partners, a natural resource focused acquisition company. Before establishing Rise in February 2009, Brian served as the chief financial officer of Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. and prior to that he served as the senior vice president – corporate finance and development and chief financial officer of Devon Energy Corporation, the nation’s largest independent oil & gas production company.
The faculty, especially Dr. Larry Lake, still remember Brian roaming the UT PGE halls.
“Brian was in one of the first undergraduate classes I taught – he was an excellent student, but more than that he was personable, alert, and prone to asking challenging questions in class,” said Lake. “Years later we became close again when Brian served on our department’s external advisory committee. He had a deep and lasting commitment to UT PGE and always knew how to mesmerize a room with his stories and sense of humor.”
Lisa believes the chair is important to the department as it will allow UT PGE to remain a leading petroleum engineering program. She also wanted to share Brian’s vision with current and future students.
“Brian would want to give the students inspiration that you can always learn from your mistakes,” said Lisa. “It’s not about what you did, but what you do moving forward.”
To view memorable photos of Brian or to see pictures of the Jennings family from the Dallas reception, visit their dedicated Flickr set. Also, read Olivia’s complete moving speech about her father, highlighting his Longhorn passion.
To learn more about endowed chairs and/or to support our faculty, please contact Heath Hignight at 512-471-3208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.