Thank You, It's Been a Great Ride

My year as your SPE 2018 president. Wow. One hundred twenty-four speeches and counting, 39 countries visited, millions of excited volunteers (estimated from good feelings that I have had).

Left to right: Playing piano with Baijayanta Ghosh, Tapas Kumar (TK) Sengupta (SPE international board member), Darcy Spady, Manav Kanwar, and Sunil Kumar.

My year as your SPE 2018 president

Wow. One hundred twenty-four speeches and counting, 39 countries visited, millions of excited volunteers (estimated from good feelings that I have had).

Life is grand. … My knees are ­really sore. There are bags under my eyes. What’s left of my hair is way grayer than when I started. I’ve busted two of my four accordions from travel stress, and I’m not sure if I have slept properly in about a year.

These are the thoughts that have run through my head as I have had the great honor, rather the great honor, of serving you as your SPE 2018 president. What a ride! I am so humbled.

As I prepare to pass the torch over to my eminently well qualified successor Sami al Nuaim, (a way smarter guy than me) I do so with an immensely thankful heart. I have learned so much. I have been surprised many times. I have been disappointed almost never. What a great bunch of members SPE is proud to call its own.

It is hard to describe the gravity and responsibility of leading this society. With almost 160,000 really great people—all contributing something unique, all are really smart and work really hard—it’s no wonder why we are an industry that is one of the most technical on the planet. There are a really smart bunch of folks working in it. From Kavala, Greece, to Adelaide, Australia, I have been constantly surprised with the wonderful people we call members. I am so unworthy to represent such a group. I only hope that I have chaired the board without prejudice and fostered the robust activities that we undertake.   

People—we, the SPE—set the standard that defines the process that provides the majority of the world’s energy needs. We are the global experts who give the planet home heating, products such as plastic, energy to power our cars, and a myriad of life improvements.

Sometimes our praise comes from unexpected sources, such as the clergyman who gave the sermon at the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May. You can decide if Presiding Bishop Michael Curry did indeed support our industry when he spoke these lines:

Anybody get here in a car today? An automobile? Nod your head if you did—I know there were some carriages. But those of us who came in cars: fire, the controlled, harnessed fire made that possible. I know that the Bible says, and I believe it, that Jesus walked on water. But I have to tell you that I didn’t walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that plane got me here. Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other. Fire makes all of that possible.

We are the people who provide the “fire” in most of the examples he gave, in front of royalty, the Hollywood elite, and a billion viewers around the world. Unlike the Rev. Curry, the public doesn’t very often thank us, but I will. Thanks for providing me with diesel fuel for my car, for gas as heat in my home, for asphalt on my road, for plastics in my life—from contact lenses to computer cases, and for fuel for my tractor and urea for my fertilizer so that I can efficiently grow wheat and barley that goes into my bread and cereal. Thank you, SPE members for being professionals in energy and giving me all these things.

What a great group of fellow board members I have had to keep me in line and join me on the road. Jean-Marc Dumas and I have lived the near-death experience of out-of-control driving across unnamed parts of central Europe, as well as survived some amazing food and karaoke music. Erin McEvers and I have braved the –30°C winter of North Dakota to meet some of the warmest students anywhere. Anton Ablaev and I have petted and posed beside reindeer in Siberia. Aizhana Jussupbekova and I have spent long periods of time in customs lineups in some former Soviet republics, and thank goodness her Russian language skills got us out of some taxi binds. TK Sengupta and I have had way too much fun at the Waterstones Club in Mumbai (that’s a really nice piano they have). Helena Wu took me to the amazingly normal student pub in Adelaide, where the floor was sticky with spillage.

Khalid Zainalabedin treated me like royalty in his hometown of Al Khobar, and I got to hang in his office for a while. Ramona Graves bought me the most ridiculous shorts ever in Ghana, and I was so uncouth as to actually wear them. Cam Matthews has been my faithful sounding board and friend, although he still cheers for the wrong hockey team. Karl Ludvig Heskestad smiled kindly every time I said his name wrong. Elizabeth Cantrell cheered on some really crazy music at Hemmingways in Midland, Texas.

Andrei Popa put up with endless stories of my adventures and opinions, then fed me like a king in California. Phongsthorn Thavisin threw the best party ever in Bangkok. Cesar Patino, who can possibly compete with his grooming and fashion skills? Dan Hill agreed with my opinion on prices—and we were wrong. Joe Frantz still makes me laugh at a little currency problem we had in Thailand, but for 25 years we have made each other laugh. Thanks, Joe.

Jeff Moss is always there with a convoluted and appropriate joke, and Tom Blasingame always laughs first at those jokes. Johana Dunlop is such a breath of fresh (Irish) air, especially for such a tough topic as HSE. Hisham Saadawi and Roland Moreau are the two pillars, guaranteed to have thought things through and speak so eloquently as they outline their reasons. Birol Dindoruk can’t sit still; every time I see him he is moving, doing, and thinking, or even stirring the pot. Adeyemi (Yemi) Akinlawon, the only time I have not seen that huge smile is in your official board photo. Every time I see you, I’m happy.

Speaking of happy, Chris Jenkins—you have been a rock through all kinds of job changes and industry changes, and you represent well the new generation that just moves along, professionally and competently, with a smile. Last but not least of my current board colleagues, Jennifer Miskimins, near the top of my short list of women who will rule the world someday: Measured, smart, skillful, but more often than not the one who closes the establishment with me after last call. Thanks for running shotgun for me in so many ways.

The members of the SPE international board are a great group, a hard-working and efficient group of volunteers who steer this organization and get little credit. Thanks all, it’s been a ride. All are my friends, and my door will always be open for you. Janeen Judah, after being Gulf Coast regional director, vice president of finance, 2017 president and having served 9 years on the board, you, my friend, have earned your place in SPE lore. A special shout-out to you for all your incredible service and years of hard work. You are one amazing leader, and it has been difficult to follow in your shadow. Thanks.

Posing with a reindeer in Surgut, Siberia, Russia.


What a great group we are as SPE members. Much more than just work colleagues and technical collaborators; we are fraternal friends who really can have an enjoyable time and be real humans. This is actually what the world wants to see, a bunch of engineers with a social side.

And last but not least, I want to thank the staff. I can’t name names (well not too many), but you have been unbelievable in managing and coordinating my schedule. You have been so patient with me. You have smiled when you would have liked to have said what you really thought. I really need to give a few shout-outs to my favorite staff who have made my life easier, and I know that I am missing many of you in singling out the few: Jackie Hoffman in Dubai, Jill Thomas in Calgary, Yaroslava Orlova in Moscow, and Blaine Horner in London/Calgary (Ola—you have big shoes to fill) on the member programs side who made my travel a dream. Melissa Schultea, SPE’s secret weapon who taught me more about business development and member growth than anyone—kudos to you. Katie Krug and Irene Hannum, who although nobody knows it, were first on my speed dial list when I was in trouble; thanks for covering all of the little (important) things. And of course to Liz Johnson, who is editing this column; she always made me sound sensible.

So to the incredible members of SPE, and to the incredible group of employees who keep all of the members organized, I say a heartfelt thank you. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for making me look good. Thank you for believing in our organization and its mission. Thank you for letting me represent you as your 2018 president. We’ve done great things this year. It’s been a great ride,