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Joe Fowler and Linda Fowler
Joe '68 and Linda Fowler | Image: Joe '68 and Linda Fowler

This year, at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), a Texas A&M University College of Engineering graduate, Joe R. Fowler ’68, will be awarded the OTC Distinguished Achievement Award for his leadership, entrepreneurship and contributions to higher education.

Fowler graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and continued his studies at Texas A&M, earning both his master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering as well. In 1972, Fowler co-founded Stress Engineering Services, where he and his co-workers problem-solved engineering inquiries. Most recently, Fowler served as Stress Engineering’s president before his retirement in December of 2014.

The Distinguished Achievement Award is awarded to outstanding leaders, and Fowler has certainly proved himself to be one. After founding Stress Engineering, the company received many awards, including The Aggie 100 (recognizing the 100 fastest-growing Aggie-owned businesses) and various “Best Place to Work” honors in Houston and other cities. As a leader he always tried to create a culture of excellence while making his employees happy.

“I think it is about getting everyone to ‘buy in’ to the mission of the company and to see the mutual advantages of internal cooperation,” he said. “Stress is an engineering problem-solving company and every client needs the ‘right answer on time.’ Wrong answers and late answers are worthless. Stress is a 100% employee-owned company and everyone shares in the profits. Working together becomes second nature because that is what wins in the marketplace. It is very, very similar to the culture of the Aggie spirit in many respects.”

Outside of work, Fowler stayed very involved in academic and professional societies. He even served on the OTC’s board of directors, which he said helped him see the true value of this award.

“Being board chair helped me realize the incredible depth and breadth of OTC and it was an honor and privilege to be entrusted with its leadership,” he said. “OTC is successful because the 400-500 technical papers and 2000+ exhibits work together to provide attendees the latest in equipment and technology. It is also the largest social ‘event’ of the oil and gas industry and one of the largest trade shows in the U.S. It has expanded to four shows, including OTC Houston, OTC Asia, OTC Brazil and Arctic OTC.” 

Fowler has had the opportunity to teach some of his leadership skills to young Aggies after his retirement. Several times in the last year he spoke to Engineering Entrepreneurship classes taught by Jim Donnell, professor of practice in the College of Engineering. This is just one of the many things keeping him busy postretirement.

“I am active on several nonprofit boards and talk to student groups about career choices,” he said. “My wife and I provide college scholarships for 39 students at Texas A&M and an inner-city church. Seeing these young people develop makes us very happy. I was chair of the advisory council of the College of Engineering from 2003-2020 and am happy had to have had the privilege of helping to make it better.” 

His advice to young engineers is to find work that they love. “There are lots of opportunities to get involved in research and service projects, and I urge students to take advantage of as many as you can,” he said “I found that I loved the consulting business by helping on professors’ consulting while I was at A&M.”