Industry insight with Tony Vaughn

Tony Vaughn’s (BS ’82) college experience began as a tennis player at Oral Roberts University and ended as a petroleum engineering graduate from The University of Tulsa. A part-time job at a small engineering firm introduced Vaughn to the field, and he never looked back. Today, he serves as executive vice president of exploration and production at Devon Energy Company in Oklahoma City.

Tony VaughnVaughn was an ORU business management student on a tennis scholarship when family-owned Hudson Consulting in downtown Tulsa gave him the opportunity to explore a technical skillset. He discovered how much he loved the engineering discipline and decided to apply to TU. Although his math scores were low, persistence at TU paid off.

“After about the fifth or sixth time I visited the admission office, I was told, ‘OK, if you finish your degree at ORU, we’ll give you a shot,’” he said.

Seven years later, Vaughn completed the second degree and began his petroleum engineering career at Amoco Production Company in the Rockies. Later, he moved to Kerr-McGee where he worked in its offshore business while working in a reservoir engineering capacity.

“I reported to the production division while working in the exploration division.  This combination provided a good technical foundation,” he said. “It was exciting work.”

When Devon offered Vaughn an interview in 1997, he seized the opportunity to join a new crop of engineers excited to revolutionize the industry. In a time when Devon was growing through mergers and acquisitions, Vaughn served in separate roles as an operations supervisor and reservoir engineering manager. He transitioned to Devon’s strategic planning group and also managed its offshore ventures in ultra-deep water. Vaughn previously served as an executive vice president and was promoted to chief operating officer in February 2016.

One of his favorite parts of the job remains interacting with Devon employees in the field. Many graduates from the TU College of Engineering and Natural Sciences and the energy management program in the Collins College of Business have been hired by Devon.

“The most fun I have is when I’m with the guys working directly on projects and witnessing the creative solutions they have,” he said. “I especially enjoy seeing those ideas come from young people with fresh ideas.”

Vaughn’s broad range of work experience and technical skills allow him to easily connect with younger engineers as a valued mentor. He’s a trusted leader within the company and a voice of reason when oil and gas prices show instability.

Excited about the company’s future, Vaughn said Devon has grown 20-fold in less than 20 years and has built new resources and production growth through ingenuity, technology and creative thinking.

“In tough times, companies back off spending on major projects,” he said. “Look beyond the current short-term business environment, and the industry will be robust and growing.”