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2014-Tom Tinker

Tom Tinker (BS’54, MS’55) is the second awardee of the Department’s Distinguished Alumni Award.  This award is given by the Department to recognize past and continuing contributions of our alumni to industry and the University.   Though Tom considers himself to be “a very lucky man,” we are the lucky ones; Tom is most deserving of this honor.  Here are some excerpts from his lecture. 

Lucky because, until I found Geology, I was barely making it through the University of Michigan. It took me two tries plus a summer school to even meet the foreign language requirement!

Lucky to even receive a BS degree because the 1954 Commencement was abandoned in a deluge when President Harlan Hatcher told us he was conferring all degrees “en masse” and to “go home, dry out and do good!”

Lucky to have been accepted by the Horace Rackham School of Graduate Studies only because Dr. Goddard and Dr. Briggs took a big chance and intervened on my behalf to pursue a Master’s Degree in Geology.

Lucky because after four losses in a row, I finally got to see us beat Michigan State.

Lucky, above all, to have reconnected with Janice whom I had known since seventh grade, who had just graduated from Michigan State College and was teaching at Fordson High School in Dearborn.

All of this good fortune, which began here in Ann Arbor, resulted in a fulfilling professional career that spanned four decades, produced three children and nine grandchildren, and 20 years of satisfying retirement. Who could be luckier than that?

Lucky perhaps, but Tom’s history encompasses a long list of experiences that helped shape him and those fortunate to work as his associates.  He began his profession with Shell Oil Company in Houston,  where he continued his training in the details for petroleum exploration, production and reservoir engineering. While there, they turned him into a computational powerhouse with the issue of an advanced circular slide rule.  Following this “learning” stage, he then entered the real business of finding and producing the good stuff.  This took him to new places and exploration challenges, in southern Illinois, Denver, Oklahoma and finally New York where he was chosen to manage people rather than rigs as the new head of employee relations.   Finally getting back to what he really loved, he worked on problem fields ranging from Montana, Utah and eventually to Michigan where new slant-hole drilling was coming to be.  These final years in his career were very rewarding; in his work, he made “Michigan as good as it could be.” Tom retired after 40 productive and exciting years in the business.  Tom shared these thoughts for success that he has learned from his odyssey: 

1) Be very careful how you communicate and use language.

2) Be involved in your professional societies (“each of you is destined to be ... the Leaders and Best”).

3) Stay involved with your University - “Share your wealth and never forget it all started here!”