Morgan J. Davis Centennial Chair in Petroleum Geology

Jul 1, 1980 | Chairs

The Morgan J. Davis Centennial Chair in Petroleum Geology was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on July 14, 1980, for the benefit of the Jackson School of Geosciences. Gift funds were provided by Mrs. Laura T. Barrow of Houston, Texas, a 1923 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences; Thomas D. Barrow, Ph.D. of Houston, Texas, a 1948 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences; Mrs. Veta Moore Davis of Houston, Texas; Mr. William E. Gipson of Houston, Texas a 1949 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences; and Mr. John L. Loftis, Jr. of Houston, Texas, a 1940 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences. Eulogized by the Houston Post for “a life distinguished by vision and action for the common good,” Morgan J. Davis accomplished much during his 81 years as a geologist, leader of one of the world’s great oil companies, banker, and civic booster.

Born in Anson, Texas in November 1898, Davis attended Texas Christian University before service in the armed forces during World War I interrupted his studies. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1925 with a BA in geology. A year later, he married Veta Clare Moore of Claremore, Oklahoma, a born registered member of the Cherokee Nation (and later the first woman in the state of New Mexico to receive her pilot’s license). They had two sons, Morgan Jefferson Davis, Jr. and James Harrison Davis, both of whom graduated with MA degrees in geology from UT Austin in 1953 and 1960, respectively. Mrs. Davis passed away in July 1992; Mr. Davis, Jr. in November 1997.

Morgan J. Davis

Upon graduation, Davis joined Humble Oil and Refining Company as a field geologist in Roswell, New Mexico and for the next 32 years worked internationally and domestically up the company ladder to its presidency in 1957. When Humble was renamed as Exxon Company, USA three years later, he was named its president. Davis retired as chairman and chief executive officer in 1963. Davis served as a Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (1961-63) and Director of the First City National Bank of Houston. His civic pursuits included memberships with the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, Philosophical Society of Texas, and Texas Historical Association. In addition, he was a Mason. Among his professional affiliations, Davis was president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (1952-53) and president of the Geological Society of America (1968-69).

For 23 years, he was a member of the Geology Foundation Advisory Council and served as its first chairman from 1955-62. His association with UT Austin also included memberships on the Chancellors Council and President’s Associates.

The Davis Chair was created after Morgan Davis’s passing in December 1979. “My father,” says his younger son, James, “would have felt very humble that a Chair in Petroleum Geology was established in his name. Of all the honors that he received during his life, this one…would have been the crowning event.”

The endowment, he feels, “reflects that part of my father’s life that he dedicated to teaching others about the use of earth sciences to generate economic growth.” James Davis asserts, however, that while his father believed that the teaching of the geosciences be used for the general economic good, it was not for the aims of accumulating wealth or collecting accolades and honors. To contribute to ensure that the UT geology school be “…the very best in the nation, if not the world!” would have been one of his top goals, declares Davis. And like his father would certainly be, he is pleased that the Davis Chair, which attracts high quality teachers who are today passing on to new generations truly significant discoveries about sedimentation and hydrocarbon accumulations, so benefits the Jackson School.

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