Charles D. Davidson

President, CEO, Chairman
Noble Energy Inc.
BSChE ’72

For his outstanding accomplishments and leadership in the oil and gas industry, the College of Engineering is proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Charles D. Davidson.

Noble Aspirations

“I knew I wanted to become a chemical engineer in about the eighth grade,” Charles Davidson says. “I was attracted to the science of it, but also the engineering aspect. Ever since I was a small child, I was either taking something apart or putting something together.”

Since that time, Davidson has put together deals that unite his love of science with the art of business.
“My whole career has been gas,” Davidson jokes, but what is no joke is his track record of moving the business of energy production in new and innovative ways.

Davidson has spent over 30 years in the oil and gas business. From 1972 to 1993, he worked in a number of top executive positions for Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO). In 1994 he was part of the team that formed Vastar Resources Inc., a company that branched out from ARCO into one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies in the lower 48 states. During his time with Vastar, the company was active in more than 100 producing fields, which included deep-water exploration off the Gulf of Mexico. Following the merger of ARCO (and Vastar) with BP in 2000, Davidson assumed the position of CEO and chairman of the board for Noble Energy, a company that has been engaged with the exploration, production and marketing of oil and gas since 1932.

Noble Energy is an international player, with operations in locations including Argentina, China, Equatorial Guinea, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea and Ecuador. Under Davidson’s lead, the company doubled its income in 2004 and expanded its operations.

“I guess I’ve always approached business as an opportunity to learn new things,” Davidson says, “to help develop organizations and people while looking at things from a fairly broad perspective—I was always open to trying new things, and so I got an opportunity to do new things.”

Stranded Gas

Davidson’s mother, Hazel Marguerite Terrell, graduated from Purdue in 1925, and he followed in her footsteps, graduating from Purdue with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1972. He then traveled to the Lone Star State, where he received a master’s degree in management from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1980.

“The engineering background helps one to understand the technical complexity of the projects—what we are physically trying to do,” Davidson says. “Then you combine that with management training, which helps one understand the business side of it. I enjoyed project management,” Davidson says, “and that began to move me away from doing specific engineering work to projects involving management and working with people.”

Davidson’s recent forte has been finding reserves of “stranded gas”—gas that is too remote or that is extracted in conjunction with oil and then not used—and turning these unexploited resources into viable assets. His company’s commercial conquests have included a methanol plant in Africa, an electrical power plant in Ecuador run by natural gas, and the discovery of a gas field in Israel that now provides power to an Israeli electrical company.

“We have found places in the world where there is no ready market for natural gas,” Davidson says, “and we’ve found ways of developing these markets.”

At the heart of his management theory, however, is the human touch. “I’ve always enjoyed working with people and helping other people in the organization realize their potential,” Davidson says.

Serving His Community

In addition to his success in the business world, Davidson serves on a number of industry, academic, and community service organizations. He has memberships in the Society of Petroleum Engineers and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and he is currently serving as chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Offshore Committee, among others. He also serves on the University of Texas at Dallas Advisory Board, and he works with several Houston, Texas, community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, the Society for the Performing Arts, and Spindletop International, an oil industry youth charity. In 2002, the University of Texas at Dallas’s School of Management named Davidson and his wife, Nancy, Distinguished Alumni.

“In my view, we truly believe that alumni are there to continue to support our schools long after we leave,” Davidson says. “We all recognize that we only pay for a fraction of our education, and without alumni help I would not have encountered the quality of education I received at Purdue.”

A Special Congratulations

“I would like to offer my congratulations to the other DEAs that are being recognized,” Davidson says. “I am very proud to be a part of this esteemed group, and I’m humbled by the honor.”

Career Highlights

2002 Distinguished Alumnus, University of Texas-Dallas, School of Management
2000– President and CEO, Chairman, Noble Energy Inc.
1997 President and CEO, Vastar Resources
1994 Director, Vastar Resources
1993 Senior Vice President, Vastar Resources
1992 Sr. Vice President, Eastern District, ARCO Oil & Gas
1988 Engineering, operations, and executive assignments, ARCO Alaska
1972 Engineering, operations, and executive assignments, ARCO Oil & Gas

BSChE ’72, Purdue University
MS ’80 Management, University of Texas-Dallas