Steve Reynolds, MBA ’72, remembers $0.27 per gallon gasoline on 13th Street.
“The OPEC oil embargo was just around the corner,” Reynolds said. “Unstable gas station prices sort of changed the world we had known—in Eugene and other places. It was amazing to me to watch the impact of that on business and society. It was my tenure in the business school that really made me want to spend my life in the energy space. Innovation and creativity were important then, and they still are today. The implications and volatility of energy prices has fascinated me for my entire career.”
That career has spanned nearly five decades and included CEO and chairman posts at Puget Sound Energy Inc., Pacific Gas Transmission Company, Reynolds Energy International, Imperium Renewables, Corix Ltd, and Green Diamond Resources Company. He is also chairman of the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.
These days Reynolds serves as chief sustainability officer at PreferWest LLC, where his wife Paula Rosput Reynolds is CEO. Paula is the former Safeco chairman and CEO and currently serves on multiple boards and committees, including BP, TransCanada, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, among others.
“I think I’ve been in the energy business all my life,” he said.
During his b-school days in the Oregon MBA, Reynolds recalled a course on energy economics—he estimates the only such course on the west coast at the time—as an example of the University of Oregon business school being ahead of its time, even if the instructor had a particularly old-fashioned habit.
“Roy Sampson’s office was way down in the basement of main building,” Reynolds recalled of the forward-thinking professor. “He would smoke a cigar. When he finally retired, they had to throw away everything because cigar smoke had permeated all the books.”
Of course, a smoking ban isn’t the only change on campus.
“Primarily, when I was in grad school, Oregon businesses were all timber,” he explained. “Now, look at the array of classes and specialties at the b-school meeting the current needs. It’s a great tribute to staying connected worldwide while maintaining ties to the local city. Eugene and the west have long had a tremendous focus on energy. Doing things in a sustainable fashion has always been a part of the programming of the college.”
Reynolds believes arming the next generation of energy leaders with a Lundquist College education allows students to flourish in a variety of professions.
“A business education is a most useful broad based tool to help you integrate social business and policy related matters,” he said. “You can get a fundamental, adaptable education to do virtually anything. It’s not just white shirts and white ties. It’s about ideas and passion. Look locally and around the world. Sustainable business is about creativity.”
With a recent gift of $250,000 to support the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Reynolds aims to fortify the center and spur further innovation.
“My investment is based on the sense that this is something I want to encourage,” he said. “I am happy the college recognized this could be a center of excellence back in 2008. Student interest in the field is growing, and I’m glad to be a part of it. I’m happy to help move it forward.”