University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


Photos: Students, Colleagues and Friends Surprise Tom Holley with Retirement Party


Audrey Grayson

Students, colleagues and friends surprised Tom Holley on the evening of Aug. 29 with a retirement party to celebrate his successful leadership of the UH Petroleum Engineering Department.

Students from the UH chapters of the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE) and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) hosted the surprise party for Holley at the UH Student Center’s Houston Room. Partygoers enjoyed hors d'oeuvres while Holley’s family, friends, students and colleagues shared the stage to recognize Holley’s achievements as director and interim chair of the Petroleum Engineering Department.

The evening concluded with a short comedy sketch written and performed by Holley’s former students, followed by short video recordings of Holley’s students describing the positive impact that he had on their academic and personal lives.

Holley joined the UH Cullen College of Engineering as director of the petroleum engineering program in 2010 after serving more than two decades as a senior staff geophysicist at Shell. At the time, the Cullen College offered only a master’s degree in petroleum engineering. Within three years, Holley established a petroleum engineering bachelor’s degree program that was lauded as a model partnership between industry and academic by the Business Higher Education Forum.

This wasn’t Holley’s only remarkable achievement in his six years at UH. Holley also launched UH’s first-ever petroleum engineering doctoral degree, earned ABET accreditation for the petroleum engineering bachelor’s program, helped to spearhead and bring national attention to the UH chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), brought the first-ever UH petroleum engineering courses to Katy, and established the first-ever Petroleum Engineering Department at UH, which received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board last year.

View photos from Dr. Tom Holley’s Retirement Party at


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