Michael Wiley

Michael Wiley learned the oil and gas business from the ground up - literally.

As a University of Tulsa petroleum engineering major from Jenks, Okla., he spent summers working for the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) as a roustabout: cleaning tanks, overhauling engines and digging ditches in the oilfields of West Texas.

"It sure gave me an appreciation of what they do and why I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life," says Wiley. "It helped motivate me to study hard."

Wiley has a scholarship program established by two longtime TU faculty members - Kermit Brown and James Brill - to thank for his eye-opening summer experiences. In keeping with their collaborative vision uniting academia and industry, Professors Brown and Brill recruited oil companies to sponsor TU petroleum engineering undergraduates, providing both scholarship support and summer jobs. Wiley's benefactor was ARCO, and the relationship between the company and its young protégé endured for the next 30 years.

"ARCO consistently provided their young engineers with many opportunities," Wiley said. "For me, this included assignments in the Gulf of Mexico, Iran, Indonesia, the North Sea, Greenland and Alaska, all in my first 10 years with the company. It was an invaluable experience."

As an undergraduate, Wiley took classes on TU's North Campus, located two miles north of the main campus on Lewis Ave. TU's petroleum engineering research consortia remain headquartered on the North Campus today.

"We were a little isolated, but it drove us together," says Wiley of the camaraderie that developed among petroleum engineering majors. As an undergradate, he was also active in the TU student chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, an international professional organization that continues to provide students with career development opportunities through field trips, guest speakers and conferences.

Wiley graduated from TU in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering and promptly moved to Lafayette, La., to work for ARCO as a junior engineer. During the first two decades of his career, Wiley held a variety of ARCO engineering and operations positions in the United States and abroad: petroleum engineer, senior drilling engineer, staff operations manager, production manager, and manager of planning and evaluation. He also earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Dallas.

Wiley was named vice president of ARCO in 1989 and advanced into executive positions of increasing responsibility until he became president and chief operating officer. During the 1990s, Wiley spearheaded a period of tremendous growth for ARCO, including a landmark joint venture with the Russian oil company, LUKOIL, one of the first business associations of its kind in the industry. He also oversaw the spin-off of Vastar Resources, an ARCO subsidiary, into an independent oil and gas company, serving as Vastar's first president and chief executive officer and later as chairman.

After three decades with ARCO, Wiley took the helm of Baker Hughes, a Houston-based oil services company, when British Petroleum merged with ARCO in 2000. During his four years as chairman, president and CEO of Baker Hughes, Wiley brought the company back to life following a period of decline. He semi-retired in 2004 but remains involved serving on several public and private company boards.

In a distinguished career stewarding oil and gas assets from West Texas to the Caspian Sea, Wiley has always attributed his success to TU's program in petroleum engineering. "Under the leadership of E.T. Guerrero (longtime dean of TU's engineering college), and professors like Kermit Brown and Jim Brill, it was one of the most recognized programs of its kind in the nation," he says.

Wiley has also remained committed to strengthening the partnership between academia and industry, serving on TU's Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board for 10 years and as a member of the TU Board of Trustees from 1999-2005. He was inducted into the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences Hall of Fame in 1998.

On the personal front, Wiley and his wife, Laura, have two children, Sara, a graduate of Syracuse University and TU, where she earned a master's degree in computer science; and Richard, who is an undergraduate at the University of Kansas. The Wileys are members of TU's Circle Society and support the Annual Fund for the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences as Challengers. Wiley was also instrumental in establishing TU's Baker Hughes Presidential Scholarship in Mechanical Engineering.

While Wiley's early oilfield lessons as a TU undergraduate proved invaluable, he cites another experience as uniquely instructive. During college, he worked part time for Montgomery Ward repairing washers, dryers, air conditioners and lawn mowers. When the company announced cutbacks, Wiley, who had just been named his store's number one serviceman, was on the hit list.

"I got the award on a Saturday and they laid me off on Monday," he says. "That's life."