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James Bruce Coffman

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JAMES BRUCE (J.B.) COFFMAN, 82, died on January 19, 2008 in Houston, Texas. He was a loving husband to his wife Pepi, an amazing dad, a doting granddad, a valued mentor and a loyal friend. He earned the respect of everyone who knew him. J.B. and Pepi's enduring commitment to one another and to their family demonstrated love at its very best for almost 58 years. J.B. had a wonderful baritone voice and a wicked (and occasionally misinterpreted!) sense of humor. Nothing made him happier than to spend time outdoors on the golf course at Lakeside Country Club, at the JBC Ranch in Burton, Texas with family and friends or to putter around his garage. He never met a new gadget he didn't love and he will be missed by all the employees of the Memorial Drive Ace Hardware. J.B., who could trace his father's family back to the American Revolution, was born on July 15, 1925 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was the son of James Herman Coffman and Dora Margaretta Balzer Coffman, both deceased. J.B. is survived by his wife Josephine (Pepi) Votava and their children: Anne Davee, her husband Steve and their son Paul; Bruce Coffman, his wife Bonnie McMillian and their children Ziggy and Claire; Liz Peel, her husband Joe and their son Joey; and Jody Gougler, her husband Phil and their children JP and Kate. During his childhood, J.B. moved about the Plains states with his parents and developed a life-long passion for ranching, hunting and fishing, and Native American history. His father was a civil engineer with the CCC who settled in Torrington, Wyoming, where J.B. graduated from high school. He attended the University of Wyoming before joining the Army Air Corps during WWII. After the war, J.B. transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he worked his way through school with a number of odd jobs, including earning $35 per night teaming as a singer with his good friend who performed magic tricks Johnny Carson. J.B. graduated with honors and a B.S. in Geology in 1950. J.B. and Pepi met at the University of Nebraska and were married on April 10, 1950 in Pepi's home town of Omaha. J.B. remained a loyal supporter of the University. In 1993, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also established the James B. & Josephine Coffman Chair in Sedimentary Geology and the James B. Coffman Geology Excellence Fund which awards scholarships to deserving students. As an Exploration Geologist, J.B. began his career in the petroleum industry with Carter Oil Company, one of the core companies later comprising Humble Oil & Refining Company (now ExxonMobil). He progressed through several affiliates and was associated with projects that led to oil production finds in the Santa Barbara Channel, Prudhoe Bay, and the 4th Round in the British North Sea. His last position with Exxon was as Vice President & Director of Exxon Production Research Company. J. B. retired from Exxon in 1981 to assume the duties of President & Chief Operating Officer (later Chief Executive Officer) of Aminoil, Inc. In 1987, Phillips Petroleum Company purchased Aminoil, which had become the world's largest independent oil company. J.B. retired from Phillips (now ConocoPhillips) and formed J.B. Coffman & Associates, Inc., a petroleum consulting and investing firm. J.B. was a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Geology Department, served as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Earth Sciences Resource Institute (ESRI), was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Petroleum Institute, was an emeritus member and served as a Trustee of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, was an emeritus member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and a fellow of the Geological Society of America. He was also a member of the 25 Year Club of the Petroleum Industry and served on the Board of Directors of Southwestern Energy Company from 1986 to 1995. In 1984, J.B. was appointed by Secretary of Energy Donald P. Hodel to serve on the National Petroleum Council. He also served as a Director of the Texas Independent College Fund and on the board of the Greater Houston Hospital Council R&E Foundation. One of J.B.'s proudest achievements was as founder and chairman of Oil Industry Lifesaving (OIL) Flights, which used petroleum corporate aircraft during the 1980's to aid organ transplant recipients. J.B. recruited 47 petroleum companies to form a fleet of 56 corporate aircraft that donated emergency flights for organs, surgical teams and/or organ recipients and their families at a time when there were limited transplant centers in the United States. The family would like to thank the team of doctors who worked diligently with J.B. so that he could have three extra years with his family and friends. The team included Dr. Gerald Lawrie and his surgical staff of the DeBakey Heart Institute; Drs. Scott Lloyd, Gopi Shah, Dolan Das, Joe Treadaway, and Seema Shah. The family is also indebted to the doctors, nurses and staff at Select Specialty Hospital at the Medical Center and Methodist Hospital's Cardiac ICU, Surgical ICU and Fondren, Dunn and Alkek Towers. Finally, special thanks to Merie Dunbar who patiently assisted Pepi in caring for J.B. at home over the past several years. A memorial service will be held Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, where J.B. and Pepi have been members since 1967. Visitation will begin at 2:00 pm with a service to follow at 2:30. The church is located in West Houston at 625 Nottingham Oaks Trail. Honorary pallbearers are Fred Brinkman, Luke Corbett, Dick Howe, Larry Jones, Bill Kanes, Del Spier, Don Swanson and Jan VanSant. Memorial contributions can be made to the University of Nebraska Foundation, 1010 Lincoln Mall, Suite 300, Lincoln, NE 68508. Please designate your contribution to the James B. Coffman Geology Excellence Fund #3028.
Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 26 to Jan. 28, 2008
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