Cities Service Foundation - Chapman Legacy Society
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Gifts Established:

  • Cities Service Fund Distinguished Lecturer | Est. 1975
brick engraved with name Cities Services Foundation

Cities Service Foundation

Cities Service Oil Company, now known as Citgo, has a long and storied history. The University of Tulsa has an equally long and storied history in its decades-long and deeply beneficial relationship with this oil industry giant.

Cities Service Company was founded in 1910 by Henry Latham Doherty. The company would ultimately become today’s Citgo.  It was one of the first to supply gas and electricity to public utilities in the United States. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, in 1912, Cities Service purchased the assets of a remarkably successful oil operator named Theodore N. Barnsdall. Mr. Barnsdall was based in Oklahoma, and he had large holdings in what was known as the Mid-Continent Region.  In 1914, Cities Service expanded in the region, beginning extensive production in the rich oil fields located in the state of Kansas. The company created a new subsidiary, the Empire Gas and Fuel Company, and placed the main office in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

By 1918, Cities Service was active in nine Oklahoma oil fields, and it was operating seven oil refineries, five of which were in Oklahoma. It was also a major player in the war effort of the United States, with the company’s subsidiaries producing half of the oil used by the Allies in the final year of World War I.

During the 1920s, according to the Encyclopedia, Cities Service found three of the five pools that comprised the Greater Seminole Oil Field. In 1928, one of the company’s many subsidiaries, the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company, discovered the soon-to-be famous Oklahoma City Oil Field. As a result of this exploration and other successes, Cities Service became a well-known and influential company in the United States and across the world.

The Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935, however, forced the company to choose between owning public utility companies and owning oil and gas ventures. In 1940, Cities Service chose to retain its lucrative oil and gas business, therefore beginning the process of divesting itself of public utilities. During the 1940s and 1950s, the company sold more than two hundred public utility companies in order to comply with the 1935 rule.

Cities Service remained a prominent player in the oil industry throughout this time. By the end of World War II, Cities Service oil tankers aided efforts delivering 32 million barrels of oil to miliary forces around the globe, according to a company history.

In 1959, the formal establishment of Cities Service Oil Company combined the subsidiary companies into one cohesive organization. Once again, Bartlesville took center stage, and this sophisticated and oil-centric small town became the headquarters for a mammoth company.

In 1974, Cities Service moved its headquarters to Tulsa. In 1982, it was purchased by and became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Occidental Petroleum Company. The refining and marketing arms, however, continued to operate under the name Citgo.

In 1990, Citgo was purchased by a Venezuelan entity, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). In 2004, Citgo moved its headquarters from Tulsa to Houston, Texas, a difficult loss for Tulsa at that time.  In its heyday, the original Cities Service Oil Company had been a leading employer in Oklahoma, whether in Bartlesville, Tulsa, or elsewhere in the state. And over these many decades, the company maintained its philanthropic connection to TU.

A quick glance at Cities Service’s involvement with TU reveals the depth and breadth of its giving to a diverse mix of academic departments within TU. Among other gifts, in the 1960s, the company gave the university a substantial reference library comprised of nearly 3,000 volumes on management and marketing. It also contributed a considerable amount of equipment to what is now known as the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering, donating valves, pumps, and a water still for student instruction.  In the 1970s, Cities Service contributed to the TU College of Law’s building campaign as well as funding a scholarship designed for student-athletes. The company also provided a sizeable donation to a newly created Research Professorship in TU’s then-School of Business Administration.  In the 1980s, Cities Service Oil and Gas Corporation again donated many pieces of equipment to TU, including spectrophotometers, generators, chart recorders, sample holders, and other items.

In 1975, the Cities Service Foundation established a noteworthy endowment, named the Cities Service Fund Distinguished Lecturer, for what is now called the Collins College of Business at TU. This ample donation was pooled with other funds to bring renowned speakers to campus to provide information, insights, and current industry knowledge.

The old Cities Service name may not be as well-known as the current moniker of Citgo, but it still resonates with many TU graduates and other Tulsans who for years contributed their education and skills to this proud company. The university continues to value the transformative contribution of funding, equipment, and expertise that Cities Service brought to campus for so many years.