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At 67, Bob Zinke Continues Channeling Energy into Price Students

At 67, Bob Zinke Continues Channeling Energy into Price Students

By Jerri Culpepper

It was perhaps inevitable that Robert “Bob” M. Zinke would pursue a career in the energy business. He was born Sept. 16, 1952, in Texas (Midland, to be exact), which was shortly to become a bastion of the nation’s burgeoning oil and gas industry. And he was the son of a petroleum geologist and independent oil and gas operator, to boot.


As a boy, Zinke often accompanied his father to the oil fields of the Permian Basin. This had a profound influence that remained throughout his life, education and career. During his high school and early college career, he worked as a roustabout in the Midland Basin and several seismic acquisition companies.


What wasn’t necessarily foreseeable from the start was that Zinke would become a major player, worldwide, in the field of oil and gas exploration and production.


“Even as a young man, I aspired to build and run an oil and gas exploration and production company,” Zinke said. “I was extremely focused on that goal from an early age.”


Zinke started classes at the University of Oklahoma in 1971, where he majored in Petroleum Land Management program, the first program of its kind when it was established in 1958, as an OU Student.  He served in several capacities, including president, of the program’s student association.

“I have very fond memories of my time at OU,” Zinke said. “I graduated in 1975, at a time when OU won national football championships in 1974 and 1975. I had many fabulous professors and counselors, but my favorites were Dr. Daniel Wren and legal studies professors (Jim) Mauser and (Forest) Frueh. The business school community was robust and dynamic during my years at OU, and I established many close friendships that have endured to this day.”


Zinke began what was to become a long and distinguished relationship with OU’s Petroleum Land Management program, the first program of its kind when it was established in 1958, as an OU student. He served in several capacities, including president, of the program’s student association.


Following graduation, Zinke worked the next five years in various positions with ARCO, Northern Natural Gas Co. and Hawkins Oil and Gas Co. before going out on his own. He started what has become Zenergy Inc. in September of 1980 with his partner David B. Trumbo, serving as president/CEO for the majority of its history. He has been responsible for most of the company’s E&P activities, including prospect generation, leasing, drilling programs and operations. He was instrumental in leading the company’s growth from a small two-man prospect generation company to the 80-employee, fully integrated, upstream and midstream oil and gas independent of today.

During those career-building years following graduation – and beyond – Zinke has continued his involvement with OU’s Petroleum Land Management program, which in 1999 changed its name and expanded its focus to energy management, in so doing pulling together the curricula of OU’s four core energy colleges: the Michael F. Price College of BusinessMewbourne College of Earth and EnergyCollege of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, and College of Law. He returned to campus on numerous occasions to speak to the Energy Management Student Association and was a founding member of the EM Board of Advisors, serving as chairman for multiple terms.


Zinke considers his greatest accomplishment to be “building one of Oklahoma’s most significant and successful upstream and midstream oil and gas companies, which has allowed me to give back to OU in a meaningful way.”


Steve Long, who is retiring as director of the Zinke Energy Management Program this spring, emphasized Zinke’s philanthropic nature. “Bob Zinke is the personification of an energy management alum with his passion and pay-it-forward attitude,” Long said.


Indeed, Zinke openly and repeatedly credits OU and, specifically, Price College as the wellspring of his success.


Price College Dean Daniel W. Pullin said Zinke’s generosity has boosted the college’s overall success.


“Bob Zinke is a leader who knows how to invest in a winner,” Pullin said. “He’s done it with great success in the private sector and he’s brought that same mentality to his philanthropy to OU’s energy business programs. He has inspired generations of students by providing important support to ensure students have access to an exceptional program and career opportunities. In many ways, Bob has been the catalyst that activated the Price College of Business to build the most comprehensive collection of quality business energy programs of any school in the nation.”


In an interview for Price Magazine in 2011, Zinke wrote, “My years at the College of Business at OU were really the spark that lit the fire that ultimately became my experience at OU with the tools that have enabled me to critically think and assess – and ultimately become a successful entrepreneur. For this, I will be forever grateful.”

Zinke has given back to the college in a myriad of ways, including service as chairman of the Price College Energy Management Advisory Board and a member of the Price Board of Advisors. He has made several major gifts to OU’s Energy Management Program, which was named for him in 2006, funding the Robert M. Zinke Chair for Energy Management and establishing an endowment to support the program and its directors. He has generously funded scholarships every year. He also is a founding member of the Arthur B. Adams Society.


He was awarded the Price College Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008 and an OU Regents’ Alumni Award in 2012.


Mike McConnell, incoming director of the Zinke Energy Management Program, said Zinke himself was an important inspiration when McConnell considered joining Price College.


“I’ve had the privilege to be around Bob for many years, both in the industry and on two OU boards,” McConnell said. “His passion and commitment to the Energy Management Program has influenced so many students and transformed the program. His involvement played a big role in my decision to leave the corporate energy world to join OU as the new director of this program. His passion is very inspiring and draws you in to work and be part of the program. I am so proud to be the upcoming director of the program and be associated with him.”


Zinke has high hopes for OU’s Energy Management Program in the years ahead, and he stands committed to giving back to the program that helped make him the success he is today.


“As the energy industry worldwide pivots partially to renewables and grows its investment in natural gas and LNG, it is my hope to help mold the program’s curriculum to maintain relevance and value to our students and the companies that hire them,” Zinke said. “I enjoy giving back with my time and money. Our program is Best-In-Class and I want to help keep that standard. I realize that the EM students are our future. Our EM program is elite, and it is my desire to keep it that way.


“Price College, under the leadership of President [Jim] Gallogly and Dean Pullin, has been and continues to be highly supportive of our Energy Management Program, allowing it to be the real ‘one and only’ true energy management program in the nation.”