SMU remembers global energy entrepreneur Jerome M. Fullinwider ’51

Ross Perot, Jr., Sarah Fullinwider Perot ’83, Jerome “Jerry” M. Fullinwider ’51, Leah Young Fullinwider ’61 and SMU President R. Gerald Turner celebrate the Jerome M. Fullinwider Centennial Chair in Economic Freedom at a 2011 ceremony held at the SMU Cox School of Business. The Perots established the chair to honor Fullinwider’s interest in free enterprise.
Ross and Sarah Perot, Jr., Jerome and Leah Fullinwider, and Dr. Turner celebrating the establishment of the Jerome M. Fullinwider Centennial Chair in Economic Freedom at the SMU Cox School of Business.

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU mourns the loss of Jerome “Jerry” M. Fullinwider who passed away on July 21, 2022, at the age of 93. Fullinwider is remembered for his passion for economic freedom, long and distinguished career in the global oil and gas industry, civic leadership and philanthropy.

 “Jerry Fullinwider’s entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to family and strong faith inspired all those who knew him,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His can-do drive, dedication to free enterprise and thoughtful leadership made him an industry legend. His example will live on for generations through the teachings of distinguished faculty and the success of our students.”

Born in Dallas, Fullinwider was a champion swimmer at Highland Park High School. While a student at SMU, Fullinwider was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and played the trumpet for the Mustang Band and his dance orchestra, the Southernaires. Reportedly, the famed clarinetist and band leader Jimmy Dorsey invited the young musician to join his band, but Fullinwider declined in order to stay at SMU to complete his BBA in 1951. He later graduated from the U.S. Naval School of Justice in Newport, Rhode Island, and served as a U.S. Navy officer in Korea and Japan until retiring as lieutenant USNR.

Fullinwider, co-founder and vice chairman of Hillwood International Energy and vice chairman of HKN Energy Ltd., was a fifth-generation Texan who built an accomplished career in global oil and gas exploration that spanned nearly 60 years. He supported SMU’s O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, a free market think tank created to study the impact of competitive market forces on freedom and prosperity in the global economy. Fullinwider was a founding board member and the board chair for the O’Neil Center at the Cox School of Business. Currently, the Bridwell Institute at SMU is continuing and expanding the mission of the O’Neil Center.

In 2011, SMU Trustee Sarah Fullinwider Perot ’83, and her husband and former SMU trustee, Ross Perot, Jr., established the Jerome M. Fullinwider Centennial Chair in Economic Freedom at the SMU Cox School of Business. The gift honored her father’s interest in free enterprise and global business relationships and celebrated the continued leadership support he provided to his alma mater.

The gift made history for SMU as the school’s first endowed centennial chair during SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign. In 2013, the Perots went on to establish a second endowed centennial chair at SMU, the Leah Young Fullinwider Endowed Centennial Chair in Music Performance in Meadows School of the Arts, in honor of Sarah’s mother who also attended SMU.

Fullinwider’s passion for economic freedom was sparked as a teenager and continued throughout his life. In 1961, Fullinwider helped found the pro-free enterprise Institute for Humane Studies, now at George Mason University.

He began his career working in several cities for Standard Oil of Ohio and the Dallas-based independent oil and gas producer A.W. Cherry. In 1964, Fullinwider capitalized on an opportunity to start his own business with a move to the petroleum-rich West Texas region. Soon, he and a business partner founded Midland, Texas-based V-F Petroleum Inc. In 1989, Fullinwider was among a group of oil company principals invited to Houston to meet with high-ranking Soviet energy officials to discuss oil production. He went on to found VF-Russia Inc. to explore oil in Siberia, Russia, and BaiTex LLC, which operated in the Baituganskoye oil field in Russia. In 2014, Fullinwider published a memoir of his experiences: The Greatest Curiosity: The Unlikely Adventures of a Texas Oilman Navigating the Russian Oil Business. In 2013, the Association of Private Enterprise Education honored him with its Herman W. Lay Award in recognition of his decades of philanthropy and service.

 “Jerry Fullinwider embodied the vision and determination that we hope to spark in all of our students,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad Cheves. “His passion and dedication will continue to inspire all of us.”

Fullinwider also owned Dallas-based McNair Investment. He was an elder at Highland Park Presbyterian Church where he taught Sunday School, assisted the choir and mentored several committees. In Midland, his civic and community board service included the Abell-Hanger Foundation, Midland Young Life and the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale. In DFW, he served on the board of Baylor Health Care System Foundation and Northwood University in Fort Worth, which recognized him with a Doctor of Laws honorary degree. He also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

Fullinwider is pre-deceased by his parents; his brother, Chester; and his sister, Virginia Boedeker. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Leah, their four daughters and their husbands: Ann and Ken Hankins of Midland; Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr. of Dallas; Nell and Shelby Bush of Dallas; Kate and Charles Ferguson of Abilene; and 13 grandchildren: Hankins family–Tripp and Porter; Perot family–Hill, Hunter, Sarah Catherine, Meredith and husband Rob Garvey; Bush family–Joseph, Hannah, Ellie and Abby; and Ferguson family– Mary Ellis, Louise and Henry. A memorial service will be held on Friday, July 29, 2022, at 2 p.m. at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas.