DAVE KOLPACKGRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) â¿¿ The University of North Dakota said Monday it plans to establish a new geology school with help from $10 million in contributions from a major oil company and its chairman, one of the nation's wealthiest men. The initiative will include $5 million contributions from Continental Resources Inc., based in Oklahoma City, and Harold Hamm, the company's chairman, chief executive officer and majority shareholder. Hamm's donation is the largest gift to UND by a non-alumnus, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. "I can't really grasp the amount of money and the philanthropy shown by Mr. Hamm and Continental," said UND geology student Cody Hoskins, who grew up in Williston, in the heart of oil country. "I think it will entice a lot of people to stay in the state rather than go elsewhere for education." Continental is one of the leading companies in western North Dakota's oil-producing region, where output has quintupled in the last five years. North Dakota is now the nation's No. 2 oil-producing state, and accounts for about 11 percent of the nation's domestic output. The new school of geology and geological engineering will be part of UND's existing college of engineering and mining. It will be named for Hamm, who is worth almost $10 billion as the majority shareholder in Continental. Forbes magazine ranks Hamm 35th on its list of the 400 richest Americans. "He's a big-wig," said UND graduate student Bailey Brubach, who plans to research geothermal energy in the Bakken shale formation. "I think what he's doing is really exciting." Robert Kelley, the UND president, presented Hamm with a UND hard hat during a ceremony at the school Monday. "This will go so far and mean so much to the future of North Dakota and doing the job we have to do for America," Hamm said. "It's bigger and better than I first envisioned, and the best is yet to come with this thing."
Also Monday, the state Industrial Commission, which oversees North Dakota's oil and natural gas regulation, approved a $4 million contribution to the project from a state oil and gas research fund, which would be paid in $1 million installments over four years.The money will be used to equip the new college with advanced laboratory gear and an image library, boost pay for its faculty members and provide student scholarships. It expects to graduate at least 50 petroleum geologists and engineers each year, according to a commission filing that requested the aid. Lance Yarbrough, an assistant professor in geographical and petroleum engineering, said the program should put UND on the national map for oil research. "This is one of those opportunities that is kind of once in a lifetime," Yarbrough said. "When it comes to researching petroleum, and petroleum-related energy, it's an expensive task and we really like to see that industry is working with the research." The state Geological Survey already stores rock samples from oil drilling in western North Dakota at a recently enlarged "core library," data from which is relied upon by the oil industry. About $1.5 million of the state contribution will go toward the library, which includes technology that allows for a virtual tour of the oil fields, Dalrymple said. "This is a great example of the things that can come when we work together with the private sector, and begin to build education opportunities for our students in North Dakota," Dalrymple said. "These are great careers." Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring make up the Industrial Commission. The agency also oversees two state-owned businesses, the Bank of North Dakota and the state Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks. Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources, said only schools outside North Dakota, such as Montana Tech of the University of Montana, offer training similar to what will be available at the new North Dakota school.
"Our students, our bright scientists that are graduating from high school have had to leave the state to get an education in petroleum geology ... or petroleum engineering," Helms said. "We're now going to be able to give them the very best education in those fields ... and then turn around and employ them in this growing industry."Hamm said Continental likes to hire locally. "Students like being home. They like having jobs at home," he said. ___ Associated Press writer Dale Wetzel contributed from Bismarck, N.D.