Until recently, Charles D. “Chuck” Davidson had spent most of his life in engineering.
As a child growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he would often develop his own projects. “Starting before I even entered middle school, I was constantly either taking something apart or putting something back together,” Davidson said.
His mother, Hazel, graduated from Purdue University’s School of Home Economics in 1932, so Purdue was always top of mind for Davidson.
“She never pressured me to go to Purdue,” he noted. “I did some research and determined that Purdue was the best fit for me."
Davidson decided to study chemical engineering because it offered the opportunity to combine his love of chemistry with his innate desire to design and build things.
“I arrived at Purdue knowing that chemical engineering was the right engineering discipline for me,” Davidson said.
Upon graduating from the School of Chemical Engineering in 1972, Davidson received several job offers. “At that time, I thought I wanted a job at a petrochemical or refining research-type facility so I interviewed for a position with Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) at their Harvey Technical Center outside of Chicago,” Davidson said.
“Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there were no openings there, but ARCO did offer me a position in exploration and production (E&P) in Dallas working in natural gas processing. I spent several years in that group doing early feasibility and conceptual studies. My time there turned out to be a good way for me to transition into the upstream part of the oil business.”
In 1980, Davidson decided to pursue a master’s degree in management and administrative sciences from the University of Texas at Dallas. “I had started to gain an appreciation for the management aspect of the business,” Davidson explained.
After surviving the crash in oil prices in the mid-1980s, Davidson embarked on a new adventure in 1988 when he was transferred to Anchorage, Alaska, where he ultimately worked in three different executive positions, including Vice President for External Affairs for ARCO Alaska. From a career standpoint, that turned out to be quite a transition as well.
“I was forced out of my comfort zone,” Davidson said. “External affairs basically meant doing lobbying, politics and public relations and all were very new to me – particularly the politics. It was a real change and caused me to think about things very differently.”
In 1993, Davidson relocated to Houston and was part of the team that formed Vastar Resources Inc., a publicly owned subsidiary of ARCO that ultimately became one of the largest independent E&P companies in the nation. During his time with Vastar, Davidson was Chairman, President and Chief Executive.
Following the merger of ARCO and BP in 2000, Davidson assumed the position of CEO and Chairman of the Board for Noble Energy, an E&P company that grew to become a member of the S&P 500 and one of the nation’s leading independent energy companies. In 2005 he received both a Distinguished Engineering Alumni award from Purdue's College of Engineering and an Outstanding Chemical Engineering Alumni award from the School of Chemical Engineering. He retired from Noble Energy in May 2015.
Retirement was short-lived. In August, Davidson joined Quantum Energy Partners as a Venture Partner where he works with the investment team to steward the firm’s capital. He also works closely with a select number of the firm’s portfolio companies on strategic and operating initiatives.
Looking back on his career, Davidson acknowledges that the education he received as a student in the School of Chemical Engineering has played a critical role in his success.
“The chemical engineering background helped me understand the technical complexity of the projects—what we were physically trying to do,” Davidson said. “Purdue continues to do a number of wonderful things and employers continue to be excited about hiring Purdue students, which is great to see.”