UT petroleum engineering department renamed after $25 million donation

London Gibson

UT’s nationally ranked petroleum engineering department was renamed the Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering on Tuesday afternoon after receiving a $25 million endowment.

The gift will be devoted to funding new research and teaching technologies. It was given to the Cockrell School of Engineering by the Hildebrand Foundation, which was founded by Jeffery Hildebrand, vice chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, and his wife, Mindy Hildebrand.

Jeffery Hildebrand, who graduated from UT with a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s degree in petroleum engineering, said he made the donation to benefit the next generation of petroleum engineers.

“My time as a student here was, without question, the most transformative of my life,” Hildebrand said at the ceremony. “Once exposed to the great minds of the world-class petroleum engineers and geologists on the UT faculty, I left Austin (prepared) to make a real difference. And I have no doubt that the future leaders of the energy industry are right here, right now.”

Jeffery Hildebrand and his wife, both graduates of UT-Austin, continue to be involved with the UT System. Mindy Hildebrand studied management at the McCombs School of Business, where she now serves on the school advisory board as well as the University Development Board. Of the Hildebrand’s three children, two are currently enrolled at UT-Austin.

The Hildebrands said in a press release they made the donation to help inspire UT student engineers pursue a future in the energy industry at a  prominent and rising engineering department.

UT’s petroleum engineering graduate program was ranked No. 1 in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report’s most recent rankings released in September. The undergraduate petroleum engineering program fell to the No. 2 spot.

“The Hildebrand’s gift will strengthen this department … so that (this department) is No. 1 forever in petroleum engineering,” UT President Gregory Fenves said during the ceremony. “Those who start here and then go on to change the world often come back and change the University of Texas.”

Hildebrand is the founder, chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company, one of the largest private oil and natural gas companies in the United States. 

Jeffery Hildebrand said the professors and faculty at the engineering school were instrumental in his education, and that their counsel and teaching made it possible for him to reach the position he is in today. Petroleum engineering sophomore Marisol Najera said she has had a similar experience. 

“The knowledge that the professors have also helps a lot, because they work in the field and tell us all about it,” Najera said. 

Petroleum department chair Jon Olson said Hildebrand’s gift will add a surplus of funds to the department to bring alumni and events to campus for a more enriching learning experience. 

“We can use some of these resources to basically advance how we do teaching, get the best resources for that, use the best technology,” Olson said. “I think, both on the research and teaching side, this will be a transformative gift.”