Texas Exes have plenty of ways to stay connected to their alma mater, from socializing with fellow alums to supporting favorite academic programs to cheering on the Texas Longhorns. Life Members Lois and Richard Folger of Midland like to do all of the above, with gusto.
They can be found at Royal-Memorial Stadium on game days hosting friends old and new, and they recently made a $1 million, first-of-its-kind gift to the Cockrell School of Engineering, where both earned degrees in 1984.
A sports enthusiast, Richard employs a football analogy to characterize his and Lois’ philanthropic engagement with UT. “It’s like being a fan, and it’s third down and two to go — you start yelling a little louder, because you’re engaged in your team’s success.” The team he and Lois are backing in this case is the Cockrell School’s Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering, which in academic circles is a national champion. U.S. News & World Report ranks the graduate PGE program first in the nation, the undergraduate program second. Students who make it through the rigorous programs are very much in demand in the energy industry.
Early in their careers — Lois is now president of Folger Energy, an independent oil and gas prospect development company, and Richard is president and CEO of Warren Equipment Company — the Folgers participated in the Friends of Alec annual giving program. Later, as their working lives flourished, they endowed a Friends of Alec scholarship, and then the Lois K. Folger Endowed Scholarship in Petroleum Engineering.
Their latest gift, the Lois K. and Richard D. Folger Leadership Chair in Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, is in another league entirely. Aimed squarely at ensuring continued excellence in the Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering, the endowment is the first in the Cockrell School to provide flexible, unrestricted funding specifically to a department head. It will give Professor Tad Patzek and future PGE chairmen — in perpetuity — the flexibility to meet critical needs within the department. Patzek says those needs currently include hiring new faculty, updating teaching approaches, and expanding research, particularly in unconventional oil and gas exploration.
Meeting through a mutual friend as PGE undergraduates, Richard and Lois quickly became more to one another than study partners. “He chased pretty hard, but I didn’t run very fast,” Lois says. Richard had already earned a BBA in finance and petroleum land management in 1981 when he returned to UT intent on becoming a petroleum engineer. Both left the University with bachelor’s degrees, and they married in Richard’s hometown of Midland a year later. But they didn’t wait that long to put their UT-acquired proficiencies to work.
Lois, originally from Houston, started her career as a field engineer with Texaco. After 13 years with the company she joined Concho Resources and stayed with that start-up until its sale in 2004. A registered professional engineer, she also earned an MBA from UT Permian Basin in 1988 and came back to the University for one more degree, an MSE, in 1995. She was awarded the Cockrell School’s Outstanding Young Alumnus Award in 1996 for her achievements in the oil and gas industry. Richard, meanwhile, joined a bank as an evaluations engineer and energy lender. In 1992 he moved to Warren Equipment subsidiary Compressor Systems Inc. and soon became that company’s president. Leading the entire Warren Equipment Company for the past ten years, he now presides over seven subsidiaries that collectively rank among America’s largest private companies.
Reliving the college experience through the eyes of their teenagers, the couple sees a bit of their younger selves. “When you’re an 18-year-old in college it seems like the world revolves around you,” says Richard. “And you may not think much about what a university’s resources are all about — where they come from, where they’re going, and what significance that might have. But as you get older you get more engaged, and you start to understand the institution’s mission. You want to see it thrive. For Lois and me, that’s what changed our sense of philanthropy at UT. For us it has everything to do with the success of the PGE program and wanting to be part of it.”