From an early age, Stephen W. Rector, PetE’72, MS PetE’73, knew the value of education, though he was uncertain what path he would take.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, but I knew what I didn’t want to be,” Rector says. “I grew up on the working end of a shovel. My mother and father owned a greenhouse and nursery in Lebanon, Mo. From an early age I worked in the nursery, before and after school, weekends and summers. It was back-breaking work that never seemed to end, and a powerful motivator for me to get a good education.”
Being an engineer is what Rector does best and he enjoys doing it, but he didn’t set out to become a petroleum engineer. At first, it was all about finding a means of financial support. Interested in UMR’s programs, Rector called on his brother who was a UMR civil engineering student at the time. “I asked him what department had the most money for scholarships,” Rector remembers. “He said ‘that’s easy, petroleum engineering.’ I didn’t know a thing about petroleum engineering but it sounded interesting.” It happened, he says, “almost by accident.”
That accident turned into a lucrative lifelong career that would take him far from the small-town comforts of southern Missouri. Semi-retired, Rector is currently president and co-founder of RIM Operating Inc. in Englewood, Colo., producing oil and gas properties in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Texas.
From his early beginning at Shell Oil, Rector has been a co-founder, president, and chairman of nine separate companies in the oil and gas business, traveling all across the western United States.
With a $1 million gift, Rector and his wife, Susan, are providing scholarships to petroleum engineering and geological engineering students. The decision to endow a scholarship is a testament to the life and career Rector has enjoyed, in large part, because he was also a UMR scholarship recipient. “That scholarship sent me down a path that I have enjoyed for more than 30 years, one that I have never regretted.”
Rector’s wife agreed with the decision.
“Susie has always had a passion for learning and has been a proponent of education at every level,” Rector says. “She also preferred to fund scholarships because of the opportunity to make a difference in a student’s life, and perhaps a difference in the world, with education.”
According to Rector, enjoying what you do is the most important thing in life, and that is the advice he would give to future engineers. “Enjoy the journey. A career is a big part of life’s journey and if you don’t enjoy what you are doing you will be disappointed with the outcome.”