Petroleum student organization celebrates 83 years

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(from left to right) Dan Hill, department head; Lindsay Kalberer, TAMU SPE vice president; Ding Zhu, professor; Jennifer Wisler, TAMU SPE president, and Steve Holditch, former department head

The Texas A&M University student chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineering (TAMU SPE) recently celebrated its 83rd anniversary, marking its history as one of the oldest student organizations on the campus.

When the chapter members originally began to make plans for the celebration, they thought it was for the organization's 25th anniversary, the number provided to the student officers by the national SPE office.

The members quickly learned that the organization had been active for much longer as former students who received invitations to the celebration informed them the organization had been active on the campus for a far longer period of time.

After much research, and speaking with previous chapter advisors, the current officers found out the chapter is one of the oldest student organizations at Texas A&M. Prior to its affiliation with SPE in 1978, the organization was simply known as the Petroleum Engineering Club, starting in 1940. Before that, beginning in 1932, it was known as the Petroleum Engineering-Geology Club. Some of the oldest former students suggest that there may have been a petroleum engineering student organization from the inception of the petroleum engineering degree in 1928.

On February 26, the SPE student chapter held a celebration honoring its 83rd anniversary and the history behind it. The celebration at the Memorial Student Center was attended by former students and current students, and featured distinguished speaker Dr. Stephen Holditch, former head of the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M. There was also a slide show of memorable moments contributed by former and current students. 

Jennifer Wisler, the president of TAMU SPE, gave a talk during the celebration regarding the history that occurred during the life of the chapter. The organization had an auspicious start in 1932. The era of "Texas Tea" was just beginning, with such oilfield discoveries as Seminole, North Cowden, Goldsmith, Slaughter, Pearsall and Tomball. It was also the era of the Great Depression, though, with unemployment at an astounding 24 percent and the cost of a gallon of gasoline at 10 cents.  Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean and Texas A&M had already been instructing students for 56 years.

Now, eight decades later, the current student organization has over 1,300 members, making it one of the largest student organizations on campus and the second largest SPE student chapter in the world. The TAMU SPE student chapter has won recognition many times as the "outstanding" SPE Student Chapter. Its members are involved in many community organizations and the chapter provides resources to student scholarships via its fundraising. In addition, the student chapter continues to provide opportunities for students to enhance their technical and professional competence by learning from and networking with current professional engineers.