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K-State Today

February 23, 2012

Geology scholarship strikes oil, offers a well of opportunity for K-State students

Submitted by Andrew Zender

How many people discover their passion – their career – at 17? And in today’s world, how many 17-year-olds find that passion on an oil rig? It might seem unusual, but in the case of Gary Sandlin, it was his teenage experience as a roughneck that sparked a lifelong interest in geology and the oil industry.

Sandlin, who grew up in Palco in Graham County, graduated from K-State’s College of Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in 1955 and a master’s in 1957. He started his professional career in Casper, Wyo., working for a small, independent oil company. But after nine years in the operation, he was ready to branch out. He formed his own company and has been on his own ever since.

Today, Sandlin and his wife Kathie run Sandlin Oil Corp. in Denver, Colo., where he serves as president. The Sandlins live in Longmont, Colo., raise Tennessee walking horses and enjoy going to horse shows, skiing and traveling.

Also among their passions is philanthropy. Most recently, they established the Sandlin Geology Scholarship at K-State, which Gary Sandlin hopes will bring more students into the field.

Recently Gary Sandlin shared reflections on his K-State experience and what it means to be philanthropic.

How has K-State been an influence on you personally and professionally?

I’ve been an oil guy my whole life – I started when I was 17. But it was the professors and the education from K-State that really helped me become successful in finding oil. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my geology background from K-State. I have many wonderful memories from going to school there and enjoy camaraderie with other geology alumni today. It’s great to get together at the annual advisory council meetings and see old friends I was in school with.

Why did you choose to establish a scholarship?

I felt that the department might be able to attract students that would otherwise go a different direction and bring them into the geological profession. Students arrive at K-State and may not know what they want to do — but if they’re good students, we’d like for them to enter the geological field.

In your own words, what is philanthropy — and why is it important?

Philanthropy is important to all of society; it promotes advancing the well-being of others. It allows people to be generous and help those in need — and hopefully those who benefited will look back, appreciate that help and do the same for other people. I will continue as I’m able to be generous to K-State and would like to encourage other geologists from the K-State community to do the same.