It’s been 40 years since Chris Williford graduated from Pittsburg State with a degree in business administration, and it’s been nearly 30 years since his last visit to campus.
“A lot of things have changed since then,” he said, “both at the university and in my life.”
Williford plans to experience the university’s changes and share stories of his when he returns to campus Friday, Nov. 15, for the Kelce College of Business Executive On Campus program. The Executive On Campus program provides students with the opportunity to interact with executives in a variety of industries and to gain valuable insight into the business profession.
A successful businessman who’s worked for many years in the oil industry, Williford is a co-founder of Silverback Exploration in San Antonio, Texas, which aims to find "unconventional resource plays using horizontal drilling techniques." The new venture has already been backed with an initial capital investment of $350 million.
"We hope to turn that investment into a billion dollars, or even more," he said.
He added that it's only a coincidence that the company's name is somewhat related to his alma mater.
“Silverback is the name of a mature, male gorilla with gray hair on its back,” Williford said. “While we didn’t name it that directly because of my degree from Pitt State, I’m certainly proud to be able to say that I’m still a gorilla.”
Williford, who grew up in Coffeyville, will speak to business students at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday in Kelce Hall Room 210. At noon, he will take part in a roundtable discussion with the Pitt State MBA Association officers in Kelce Hall Room 121.
“I’m looking forward to meeting with the students to talk about my career and some of the challenges I overcame as I pursued my business ventures,” he said. “I’m interested to see what the student culture is like these days and hear their views on business and careers.”
Before helping to launch Silverback Explorations in October 2013, Williford was the chief financial officer at Central Montana Resources. From 1992 to 2011, he served as chief financial officer at Abraxas Petroleum Corporation in San Antonio. While at Abraxas, he completed more than $1.5 billion in public and private debt and equity transactions and managed acquisitions and divestitures totaling more than $1 billion.
“I’ve experienced a lot of different things in my career, and I’ve been very fortunate to be successful in the oil industry,” he said. “But I was a student like these the students today are, and I want them to know that you can get to where you want to be if you work hard and know what you want to accomplish.”
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