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By: Melissa Silmore (TPR'85)
Wilton Scott squints into the bright New Mexico sun. Beside him is his five-year-old son, Sherman, who looks up at his father expectantly. Like many young boys, Sherman loves machines; and, today, he and his father are headed toward a really big one. In front of them, stretching toward the sky, is a drilling rig. They can hear the roar and smell the acrid air as the drilling rotary turns the bit.
Sherman’s father is a geologist, and he loves the life—the travel, the excitement of exploration—all in the hunt for oil and gas. It’s 1949, and New Mexican drilling is booming. Wilton, 36, was born one state away on his grandparents’ Texas farm and raised nearby. As an adult, he followed the oil to New Mexico, married, and started his own family. The oldest is Sherman. Back home on this day is Sherman’s younger sister, Susan, and his mother, Loradean. Wilton knows how much his son loves tagging along to see the rigs and he, in turn, enjoys exposing Sherman to the “real world.”
Of course, there are also times that Wilton is away for weeks on drilling locations, where he will analyze samples that, ideally, will divulge precious clues to what lies beneath the surface. Naturally, Sherman misses his father, but the Scott household runs smoothly, thanks to his mother.
When Sherman gets older, his father starts to include him in a number of other outings, acquainting him with both the world of oil and gas production and the larger world of business. One of Sherman’s favorite activities is oil-rig fishing—a little-known pastime popular with energy insiders. Apparently, an offshore oil rig provides shelter for fish in otherwise open water, and the resulting ‘reef’ provides a bonanza for deep sea enthusiasts. While Sherman enjoys the sport, he’s also becoming even more familiar and comfortable with the massive offshore structures.
More than a half-century later, those days haven’t been forgotten. “I grew up in the oil and gas business at my father’s knee, and I was fortunate that he always exposed me to what he was doing,” recalls Sherman. “You couldn’t do it today, of course, because regulation would preclude it, but it gave me a true appreciation for the efforts undertaken to discover and produce oil and gas.”
When Sherman is 11 years old, his father decides to relocate the family, which now includes a third child, Sarah. The Scotts return to Wilton’s home state of Texas, where he can begin a position with Tenneco, an oil and gas production company. Although Wilton has an adventurous spirit and “probably would have been a great entrepreneur” according to his son, nothing is more important to him than being a consistent breadwinner for his family. Perhaps it’s because he was a child of the Great Depression; he finds peace of mind in the financial security a corporate life can provide. So, the family settles in Houston for Sherman’s formative years.
In school, he develops a love for math and science, particularly chemistry. And when the time comes to consider college, he is pragmatic, just like his father. He wants an education that can translate into solid employment. With Wilton’s encouragement, he decides to study chemical engineering at a “top-notch” school—Carnegie Tech. And there’s an added bonus. “Having grown up in the southwest I was interested in doing some exploration of what I thought was the east coast. When I got to Pittsburgh, though, I found out that most people thought they were out west!” Sherman says now with a chuckle.
While Sherman Scott is charting his future, Joyce Bowie, 1,400 miles away, is doing the same thing. Bowie is from Sharon, a small Pennsylvania town on the Ohio border, where heading to Cleveland is a trip to “the big city.” She knows she’ll be an artist—it’s what she’s always been. The family regularly attends theater, and her mother, an amateur musician, delights in telling the tale of two-year-old Joyce, intent at her small table, crayons in hand. Talented Aunt Dena adored attending nearby Carnegie Tech as a drama major and it seems natural for Joyce to enroll there as a printing and design major.(Continued …)