Alumnus Richard Rothwell Passes Away

Headshot of alumnus Dick RothwellRuel Richard “Dick” Rothwell, Jr., B.S. ChE ‘62, of Boerne, TX passed away May 31, 2013 surrounded by family and close friends. Dick was a loving family man, a successful engineer and entrepreneur, and a long-time supporter of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering.

Born in Shreveport, LA in 1939, Dick grew up in East Texas where his father worked for Humble Oil.  He graduated from Talco High School where he excelled in math and science, was president of his senior class, and lettered in football, basketball, and track. He was named All District Tackle in football his junior and senior years.

While a student at UT Austin, he was a member of Tau Beta Pi, Omega Chi Epsilon, Alpha Chi Sigma, and Phi Lambda Upsilon. He received a Cabot Carbon Scholarship, and was president of the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He was also an assistant in the department his senior year.

“I am very sad to hear of the loss of Richard,” said Professor Emeritus John J. McKetta Jr. “Dick was one of my top students and I had the pleasure of his friendship, and was in constant contact with him until the last four years-since then I called him on his birthday.”


Friday, June 7 at 2pm
Glenwood Cemetery
2525 Washington Avenue
Houston, Texas
Friday, June 7 at 4pm
Ballroom of the Houston Country Club 1 Potomac Drive
Houston, Texas

Dick started his career at the Humble Oil & Refining Company’s Baytown Refinery as a plant engineer. He then went to work for Northern Natural Gas/Northern Petrochemical for four years, where he was project manager for the design and construction of an ethylene oxide/glycol plant. He then spent five years as vice president at APCO Oil Company, where he served as chairman of the Refining/Marketing/Supply Operating Committee. He spent one year in Indonesia working for Roy Huffington, Inc., where he successfully negotiated with Japanese Utilities for the financing of a liquefied natural gas plant.

In 1976, he decided it was time to go out on his own. He founded Horizon Resources and began trading wet barrels of crude oil. The company quickly grew under his direction, and eventually expanded into oil & gas exploration, futures trading and ranching. Under his guidance, Horizon discovered more than 285 billion cubic feet of natural gas and more than 20 million barrels of crude oil. Horizon also actively traded futures on petroleum products, equity indexes, financial instruments, and foreign currencies. Horizon was his passion for more than 30 years. Few things in life gave him greater pleasure than watching a wild cat well come in, letting his profits run on a big S&P trade, or working cattle on the ranch. His vision and work ethic were unmatched. He was hands on, and whatever he did he did 100 percent. No job was too big or too small. He was the first to arrive, the last to leave, and rarely took a lunch break.

Dick felt particularly strong about repaying the institutions and people that helped him succeed. From 1995 – 1997 he co-chaired the first McKetta Challenge to raise money for the program. He later established the Dick Rothwell Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering and the Dick Rothwell Endowed Scholarship, which supports chemical engineering students with financial need who are from rural parts of Texas. In 2004, he was one of four alumni to receive the Distinguished Graduate Award from the Cockrell School of Engineering.

“Dick was an organized and logical thinker, and he demonstrated superior academic skills,” said Ralph Ferrell, former classmate and a ‘61 B.S., ’66 Ph.D. ChE alumnus. “He also possessed two attributes that are not typical engineering traits-he was a rapid fire decision maker and a risk taker.”

In addition to his professional life, Dick had many other passions. He loved youth sports, and coaching his sons and even his grandson. He also loved quail hunting, snow skiing, fly fishing, offshore fishing, collecting wine, collecting western art, writing books, riding his horse Hobo, Longhorn football, and exercising. Dick was running 5 miles a day before running was cool.

More than anything, Dick enjoyed spending time at the ranch with his family. He loved to take his grandkids for a ride on the ranch to look at the cows or to go “talk to a man about a dog”, and they loved going with him. As they drove away from the house you could hear them squealing “faster Papa, faster!” He loved getting up in the morning and making them their favorite breakfast of Papa Oats or Papa Cakes. He especially loved giving his sons advice on how to better coach his grandkids’ teams. Holidays and birthdays were never dull with Papa – from crazy cards that he insisted everyone read out loud to elaborate scavenger hunts to locate gifts, and all the while he sat back and laughed at how clever he was.

Dick approached his retirement with the same drive and passion that he had in his scholastic and professional career. If he could not do it 100 percent, he was not going to do it. He told one longtime friend, “I worked hard through college and my career and now I’m going to play hard.” This was so true for both accounts. He had the ability to turn the fun up a notch at any event… and did.

Dick is preceded in death by his mother and father Pearl and Ruel Rothwell, his niece Paula Franks, his nephew Sean Scroggins, his daughter-in-law Michelle Rothwell, and his grandniece Cassie McCuller. He is survived by his loving wife Veronica; his dogs Trixie and Clay Boy; his son and daughter-in-law Mark & Mary Rothwell and their children Lauren, Sarah, and Clay; his son and daughter-in-law Scott and Melanie Rothwell and their children Georgia, Ella, and Madeline; his sisters Jerry Ann, Janice, and Charlotte; numerous nieces and nephews; and countless bottles of wine that he had yet to share with friends.

Family Request

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests that donations be directed to the Dick Rothwell Endowed Scholarship in Chemical Engineering, # 57104025 at The University of Texas at Austin, checks can be made payable to UT Austin, 301 E. Dean Keeton C2100, Austin TX, 78712 or you can donate online. In making your donation, kindly note or otherwise earmark your contribution with the following verbiage: In memory of Dick Rothwell.  If you have any questions please email Director of Development Kelsey Evans at

You can also donate to the Tejas Club/SigEp Endowment (for student scholarships) at Texas A&M Commerce, checks can be made payable to Texas A&M University-Commerce Foundation, Attn: Tejas Club/Sig Ep Endowment- Richard “Dick” Rothwell Memorial, and mailed to PO Box 3425, Commerce, TX, 75429-3425.

Maps to Services

Interment: Friday, June 7 at 2pm, Glenwood Cemetery 2525 Washington Avenue in Houston, Texas
Memorial: Friday, June 7 at 4pm Ballroom of the Houston Country Club 1 Potomac Drive in Houston, Texas

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