Callie Mitchell

At first glance, Callie Mitchell's road from past to present seems like just another success story.

When Mitchell graduated from The University of Tulsa in 1977, she took her bachelor's degree in business management and - like thousands of other newly-minted college grads - struck out on her own to find employment in her chosen industry. And like thousands of other smart, driven, high-achieving types, success and accolades soon followed.

But that's where the similarities end. Now the vice president of enterprise services for the Williams Companies, Mitchell has carved out a 30-year career in the male-dominated, rough-and-tumble world of the oil and gas industry.

"In the late '70s it was tough on all women in any industry," recalls Mitchell. "But I went into an industry where I was one of three, maybe four women in my area. I learned quickly to understand the differences between the guys who had been in the industry 30 or 40 years, and myself, a woman just out of college."

For Mitchell, it was just one more challenging opportunity in a career full of them.

"I was able to start at a time when women could really make a difference, and not just in this industry," says Mitchell. "The whole world was changing its viewpoint on diversity, not just toward women but also with different ways of looking and thinking about everything. And I was also blessed with great bosses and mentors."

For Mitchell, the skills necessary to navigate the sometimes-treacherous waters of the energy industry were honed during her time at TU. Mitchell, who grew up in Minnesota and Illinois, came to TU, having never before seen Tulsa.

"I came down here and just fell in love with the place," she recalls. "The city, the school, everything. Tulsa was probably the best thing to have happened to me at that time to prepare me for my career. It was small, they treated everyone equally, and they instilled a sense of confidence in us that I didn't see the big state schools doing for my friends."

Mitchell majored in business management, graduated in 1977 and attended graduate school for a year until she got her first shot at a job with Mid-America Pipeline, a Tulsa-based natural gas liquids pipeline company. From there, she went to work for a natural gas liquids trading company before becoming part owner of a marketing company.

Along the way, Mitchell managed to juggle family and career with equal aplomb. She met and married husband Murphy (BA '77), a "huge TU fan" and football letterman, while at TU and raised two daughters.

"I actually kind of retired with my girls a couple times," Mitchell says. "But eventually I ended back at Getty, which subsequently was bought out by Texaco."

Mitchell stayed with Texaco for almost 11 years, but after a transfer to Houston, Mitchell knew what she really wanted was to come home to Tulsa. When a job with Williams came open, she jumped at it.

"The rest," she says, "is history. I've been here almost 11 years."

In her job as vice president of enterprise services - a position she's held for four years - Mitchell oversees a corporate group with approximately 100 employees, a budget of million and responsibilities that include the company's real estate, supplier contracts and community relations. She also serves as president of the Williams Foundation, the company's philanthropic organization.

For her many accomplishments, Mitchell was named a 2006 TU Distinguished Alumna, an honor she holds as dear as any she's earned.

"I was really surprised and honored to be named one of the three distinguished alumni," says Mitchell. "I didn't know anything about it. They surprised me at a luncheon."

Mitchell says while some may see the award as an affirmation of a successful career, she sees it more as an affirmation of her love for TU.

"Now that I'm at a point in my career where I can do more for TU, I want to be involved more," she says. "The bottom line is that I love the school and I love Tulsa. We have a lot of partnerships going on with the University, and I want to continue those endeavors."

In essence, says Mitchell, the award says just as much about TU as it does about her.

"During the '70s there were a whole bunch of very successful women that TU cranked out," recalls Mitchell. "I think it was just the magic of that time, the sense of possibility. We were very lucky."

As for any future distinguished alumni still to achieve greatness, Mitchell has a few words of advice:

"It's been a neat ride to have lived through and experienced almost 30 years of the evolution of this industry," says Mitchell. "It's a roller coaster. It can be frustrating, but the good news is it makes you stronger, it makes you wiser, and you learn who your friends are. I work with these young kids just out of college and tell them 'enjoy this - savor every moment of it.'"