Rollin Eckis

Rollin Eckis

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Give to the Rollin and Caroline Eckis Endowed Scholarship

In August, 1985, a gift from the Arco Foundation Employee Matching Gift Program was used to establish the Rollin and Caroline Eckis Endowed Scholarship Fund. Rollin P. Eckis was a pioneering geologist and former oil company executive who was responsible for discovering major oil fields in the San Joaquin Valley during a career as a geologist that spanned 40 years. His first discovery in 1938 as a field geologist for Richfield Oil Company was the Kern County oil field near Bakersfield. By 1946, he was chief geologist, directing the geology that led to discovery of oil at California’s Cuyama Valley fields and Wheeler Ridge Eocene pool. Named manager of the company’s foreign exploration department in 1954, Eckis supervised the search for oil in Canada, Peru, southern Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the bonanza itself–Alaska. During the late 1950s and 1960s, Eckis sent wave after wave of geologists to Alaska, amassing millions of dollars in expenses with sluggish initial results. His titles changed–Richfield vice president and in 1962 president, then executive vice president of Arco after the 1966 merger with Atlantic Refining Co. But he was steadfast in his convictions about vast oil fields in Alaska. He assured the Greater Anchorage Chamber of Commerce in 1964 that oil production would soon double, triple and more. His resolve led first to oil finds in Cook Inlet and ultimately in 1968 in Prudhoe Bay on the state’s north shore–the biggest oil strike in the Western Hemisphere–which prompted construction of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Following retirement in 1974 he was a La Jolla resident before passing away at the age of 94 in 1999. Born in Oakland, Rollin moved with his family throughout the Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley while his father looked for gold before settling in San Diego. He graduated from San Diego High School and the San Diego Normal School, the beginning of what is now San Diego State University, before going on for a bachelor of science degree in geology at Pomona College and a master’s degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1929. At Pomona he also explored a little chemistry with classmate Roger Revelle, a lifelong friend, when they distilled Prohibition-era whiskey in the college laboratory. SDSU founded an endowed chair in seismology in 1986 in the name of Eckis and his first wife, Caroline. Rollin “was a brilliant geologist and the most down-to-earth, straightforward and intelligent man I ever knew” recalled Kenneth Hill, a retired petroleum engineer and longtime friend. But oil was never his only concern. He helped organize the city of Bradbury, and in 1957 was elected its first mayor. In retirement, Rollin discovered a talent for watercolor painting–as a geologist he already knew how to sketch.