Howard Karren 85, An Aggie who saw the world
Howard Karren, a member of the Class of ‘51 of Texas A&M would be the first person to tell you how lucky a life he lived. He had everything he ever wanted, from his family that he adored to the opportunities and experiences of being able to travel for the last 60 years to over a 100 countries on 6 continents.
Howard had titles such as: Member of the Texas A&M Corp of Cadets, US Army Lieutenant, Geologist, Head of Exploration, President, Chairman and Sonoma County Wine Grape Grower. However, he was most proud of his titles as: Husband, Father and Grandfather. His family, his wife Peggy, his sons, Charles, Geoff, his daughter in law Diana and his grandchildren Christian and Grace meant more to him than anything in the world. He would and did everything for them and he is already greatly missed.
Howard Karren began his life in 1930, in Corpus Christi, Texas to Charles Henry Karren, and Jeannie Karren of Ft. Worth, Texas. He was the middle child with his older brother Sidney and his younger brother Jerry. Howard graduated from Texas A&M University in 1951 with a degree in Geosciences and then served in the US Army from 1952 to 1954 as a First Lieutenant at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Following his service in the US Army and a stint at the University of Texas to study Petroleum Engineering, Howard embarked on what would be a 45 year career in the oil and gas business.
Over the course of his career, Howard negotiated oil development rights and partnership agreements in every major oil and gas producing region in the world. There was not a corner of the globe that he did not touch. He has also managed onshore operations in Canada, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Italy, Syria, Egypt, and Kazakhstan and offshore operations in the North Sea, Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, India and Trinidad.
Never shy to look at a deal or meet with potential partners, Howard was fearless and would travel into deepest Sub-Saharan Africa, the Soviet Union tundra, the Libyan desert and the Australian outback to look at deals. He was shot at in Yemen, narrowly missed being killed when his plane blew up in Nigeria and had to avoid terrorists in the Colombian jungle. He also pioneered one of the first Arab-Israeli energy deals as part of the peace process in the mid 1990s working directly with then Prime Minister of Israel and the Emir of Qatar.
Howard also worked with legendary oil folks from J. Paul Getty, Armand Hammer, the Ambanis of India, the Al-Nayans in Abu Dhabi and the CEOs of the major oil companies to name just a few. He has met and negotiated with Presidents, Sheikhs, Emirs, Prime Ministers and all kinds of government Ministers. He has also collaborated with multiple US agencies like the White House, Departments of State, Treasury, Energy, Commerce and it can now be told, during the Cold War, on his own time, he continued to serve the United States by helping the CIA in evaluating Soviet Oil & Gas geology and production.
Most importantly, Howard was a proud American. He loved his country, grateful for what it gave him and he never took what he had for granted. When he was traveling around the world, he never forgot that people would make judgments about the United States based on their interactions with him and he therefore conducted himself with the highest degree of integrity, honesty and humbleness. It was this reputation that allowed him to not only succeed where most people failed, but also allowed both of his sons to live and travel internationally. If they were Howard Karren’s sons, then they can be trusted as the Karren name was good enough for them.
In 1965, Howard married the love of his life, Margaret “Peggy” Parker of Austin, Texas. Together, they had two sons, Charles born in London and Geoff in Houston. Over the course of their 51 years together, they lived in London, Houston, San Francisco, Glen Ellen and College Station. Howard was very proud that not only did he get to travel, but that he was able to take Peggy, and his sons with him around the world. For Peggy, her travels allowed her to begin an extensive world class antique collection and then an antique business in San Francisco. For his sons, this international exposure allowed them to succeed in their careers, Charles lived in the Middle East and now travels the world, leading the Oil & Gas team for Oracle, the technology company in San Francisco and Geoff, lived in China and now travels the world as he does global macro-economic investing for Passport Capital, the hedge fund in San Francisco.
Howard began his career with Shell, and worked for Monsanto, Hudson Bay Oil, Natomas, Houston Natural Gas which became EOG Resources and Chaparral Resources. After his retirement in 1999, Howard embarked on a new career, that of a Sonoma County Winegrape Grower. Howard managed 15 vintages of his Karren Vineyard. Howard worked very hard and was the embodiment of what it takes to be a successful wine grower as he personally tended the vineyard by hand as he would prune, sucker, train the vines as well as hoe, do leaf removal, green fruit removal and finally harvest. He would laugh: “yes, I could hire someone, but I like doing it.” Every year, including this last vintage of 2015, he would personally sort and load the Cabernet grapes into the truck and for many years, he would drive the grapes himself down to the winery in Glen Ellen.
Howard is survived by his wife of 51 years Peggy, his sons Geoff of San Francisco, Charles of Sonoma County, California, his daughter in law Diana and his grandchildren, Christian and Grace. He is also survived by his brother Jerry, his sister in law Marilyn, brother Sidney’s widow Ruth, Peggy’s sister Julie, a host of nephews, nieces and friends.
Howard was very proud of the accomplishments of Peggy, his sons and grandchildren. He loved his family more than anything. He would never admit it, but the proudest accomplishment in his life—is that he came from Texas A&M, where he was the first generation in his family to go to college, became a geologist and then had one of the most exciting careers in one of the most fascinating industries. He used what he learned at Texas A&M to have a successful life—both professionally and personally. He incorporated the Corp’s motto of Respect, Leadership, Integrity, Loyalty, Excellence and Selfless Service. His degree from Texas A&M not only made a difference in his life, but that of his family, the generation that will follow them and the many friends he worked with around the world.
Finally, Howard also believed in giving back. Both Peggy and Howard gave to numerous charities over their lives. However, his favorite cause is Texas A&M. Howard and Peggy endowed two professorships and also supported three students with Presidential and Corp of Cadets endowed scholarships. In his honor, we ask that in lieu of flowers, any gift shall be directed to the Howard Karren Fund at the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, TX, 77840
Other than being with his Family, nothing made Howard happier than being in Aggieland and cheering on not only his favorite Aggie teams, but the faculty, staff and students as they set out to change the world. As you read this, please do a Gig’em, not for him, but for Texas A&M. That would make Howard very happy.
Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, February 6, 2016 in the Chapel at The Aggie Field of Honor in the Memorial Cemetery of College Station.
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