Until recently, Charles D. “Chuck” Davidson had spent
most of his life in engineering. As a child growing up
in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he would often develop his
“Starting before I even entered middle school, I was
constantly either taking something apart or putting
something back together,” Davidson said.
His mother, Hazel, graduated from Purdue University’s
School of Home Economics in 1932, so Purdue was
always on top of mind for Davidson.
“She never pressured me to go to Purdue,” he noted.
“I did some research and determined that Purdue was
the best fit for me."
Davidson decided to study chemical engineering
because it offered the opportunity to combine his
love of chemistry with his innate desire to design
and build things.
“I arrived at Purdue knowing that chemical
engineering was the right engineering discipline for
me,” Davidson said.
Upon graduating from the School of Chemical
Engineering in 1972, Davidson received several job
offers. “At that time, I thought I wanted a job at a
petrochemical or refining research-type facility so
I interviewed for a position with Atlantic Richfield
Company (ARCO) at their Harvey Technical Center
outside of Chicago,” Davidson said. “Unfortunately,
or maybe fortunately, there were no openings there,
but ARCO did offer me a position in exploration and
production (E&P) in Dallas working in natural gas
processing. I spent several years in that group doing
early feasibility and conceptual studies. My time there
turned out to be a good way for me to transition into
the upstream part of the oil business.”
In 1980, Davidson decided to pursue a master’s
degree in management and administrative sciences
from the University of Texas at Dallas. “I had started to
gain an appreciation for the management aspect of the
business,” Davidson explained.
After surviving the crash in oil prices in the mid-1980s,
Davidson embarked on a new adventure in 1988
when he was transferred to Anchorage, Alaska, where
he ultimately worked in three different executive
positions, including Vice President for External Affairs
for ARCO Alaska. From a career standpoint, that turned
out to be quite a transition as well.
“I was forced out of my
comfort zone,” Davidson
said. “External affairs
basically meant doing
lobbying, politics and
public relations and all
were very new to me –
particularly the politics.
It was a real change and
caused me to think about
things very differently.”
In 1993, Davidson
relocated to Houston
and was part of the team that formed Vastar Resources
Inc., a publicly owned subsidiary of ARCO that
ultimately became one of the largest independent
E&P companies in the nation. During his time with
Vastar, Davidson was Chairman, President and Chief
Following the merger of ARCO and BP in 2000,
Davidson assumed the position of CEO and Chairman
of the Board for Noble Energy, an E&P company that
grew to become a member of the S&P 500 and one of
the nation’s leading independent energy companies.
In 2005 he received both a Distinguished Engineering
Alumnus award from Purdue's College of Engineering
and an Outstanding Chemical Engineer award from
the School of Chemical Engineering. He retired from
Noble Energy in May 2015.
Retirement was short-lived. In August 2015, Davidson
joined Quantum Energy Partners as a Venture Partner
where he works with the investment team to steward
the firm’s capital. He also works closely with a select
number of the firm’s portfolio companies on strategic
and operating initiatives.
Looking back on his career, Davidson acknowledges
that the education he received as a student in the
School of Chemical Engineering has played a critical
role in his success.
“The chemical engineering background helped me
understand the technical complexity of the projects—
what we were physically trying to do,” Davidson said.
“Purdue continues to do a number of wonderful
things and employers continue to be excited about
hiring Purdue students, which is great to see.”
Alumni Profile: Charles D. “Chuck” Davidson (BSChE ’72)
by David M. Williams
Charles D. Davidson