Published: Dec. 10, 2018

Paul Rady and Bruce Benson’s common ties, friendship yields new endowed chair in geology at CU Boulder

Paul Rady’s loose connection with the University of Colorado Boulder became considerably tighter when CU President Bruce Benson (Geology ’64) approached his friend about supporting an endowed faculty position in geology. The result is a $5 million Rady Endowed Chair that will substantially boost the considerable momentum the Geological Sciences Department is experiencing.


Paul Rady. At the top of the page are (left to right) President Bruce Benson, Paul Rady, Chancellor Philip Distefano and petroleum geology chair Paul Weimer.

The initial connection started when Benson was pursuing a master’s degree in geology at CU in the early 1960s, and two of his classmates from the doctoral program, Tom Prather and Bruce Bartleson, went on to become faculty members at Western State College (now Western State Colorado University). One of their students was Paul Rady, who earned his bachelor’s degree in geology in 1979. He went on to found Colorado-based Antero Resources, among other oil and gas exploration-based companies.

Rady and Benson are friends, and the CU president approached him about a $5 million endowment for the Geological Sciences Department, as well as a substantial partnership between CU and Western State on engineering. Rady later gave Western State $80 million, which will create the Paul M. Rady School of Computer Science and Engineering at his alma mater. 

The gift will help Western State and CU Boulder launch a new program that will offer CU Boulder bachelor of science degrees in computer science and mechanical engineering on the Gunnison campus. Rady also provided $5 million to support projects in the College of Engineering & Applied Science at CU Boulder.

“Paul recognizes the critical importance of education, which is reflected not only in his endowed chair in geology, but also in the engineering partnership with Western,” Benson said. “He and I share a commitment to fostering the next generation of geologists, and there’s no better way to do that than to invest in top faculty talent.”

The challenge was they also shared an affinity for the same faculty member, former department chair Paul Weimer, who occupied the petroleum geology chair that Benson endowed in 1999. CU’s president said he was happy to have Weimer shift to the Rady Chair when the department identifies another faculty member for the Benson Chair.

“It will make the department that much stronger,” said Benson.  

That’s saying something, since geosciences at CU Boulder this year achieved the No. 1 ranking in the world from US News and World Report.

He and I share a commitment to fostering the next generation of geologists, and there’s no better way to do that than to invest in top faculty talent.”
—Bruce Benson

“This is the second endowed chair for the department, and that’s important for recruiting new talent,” Weimer said. “Getting to number one is great, and we want to stay at that level.”

Rady was not unknown to Weimer, though the latter geologist credited Benson for most of the work on the new geology chair. Weimer gave Rady a tour of the British Petroleum Visualization Center in 2002, and since then Rady has also funded Weimer’s Interactive Geology Project, which provides educational animations of geology, for more than $1 million.

Rady had most of his success in natural gas, but focused on the wet gases, which are feed stock for plastics and other petroleum-based products. Weimer said that having an association with Rady has actually changed his own research focus to include the geologic structures that Rady has successfully explored.

“I have nothing but the highest respect for his geologic efforts,” Weimer said. “My own interest is in applied geology, applied to petroleum exploration, although in the past I have focused primarily on different geologic structures. I have switched my research so I do more similar things.”

Weimer wanted to find a unique way to express the department’s thanks for Rady’s generosity. In early November, the geology department hosted a celebration for Paul and Katy Rady to thank the couple for their gift. About 50 people, including Bruce and Marcy Benson, attended, as well as a number of Weimer’s former students working in oil and gas exploration across six continents.

Weimer asked five of them to speak, representing multiple generations of CU grads, so Rady could get a sense of his gift’s impact. He heard from Hal Miller (PhD, 1977), Thomas Villamil (PhD 1994), Berry McBride (PhD 1997) Marco Arreguin (2003 master’s) and John Roesink (20O5 master’s). The talks were followed by a touching gift presentation.

“All of us rockhounds love old maps—the older the better,” Weimer said. “I realized the one thing that would turn him on was a really old map, and remembered where there was a folio of the first geologic maps in Colorado.

The map that Weimer had framed for Rady was of the Gunnison Valley, where Rady learned his rock science years ago.

“The great thing was it also included Mount Antero, the namesake of Rady’s company,” Weimer said. “I told him he was going to have to find a place in his office, but Katy said, ‘No, you can hang it in the living room.’”

With reporting by Jeff Tomas and Ken McConnelogue.