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Jack Harbin: Single-Minded and Wholehearted

Jack Harbin

From the fall 2016 issue of McCOMBS, the magazine for alumni and friends of the McCombs School of Business.

The boy from Waxahachie, Texas, who would become chief executive officer of one of the world's largest oil field services companies, grew up "poor, hungry, and driven," says Joel Robuck about his father-in-law, Jack Harbin, BBA '39.

As CEO of Halliburton from 1972-1983, Harbin knew the presidents of every major oil company in the world. He and his wife, Dorothy, lunched with Queen Elizabeth II and visited the demilitarized zone in Korea. But despite his high profile, Harbin remained humble, gracious, and giving, says Robuck.

Raised during the Depression, Harbin passed his childhood days doing painting jobs and delivering newspapers. He worked his way through college grading papers and doing bookkeeping.

After graduating from business school with honors, Harbin entered the energy industry. A stint in the Venezuelan oil fields for Creole Petroleum ignited a lifelong love for the oil and gas industry. Shortly before his Navy deployment, Harbin won a coin toss with a friend and ended up on a blind double date with Dorothy Middleton, the woman who would be his wife for 60 years until her death in 2002.

In her honor, Harbin established the Harbin Chair and Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas in 1997. Other examples of Harbin's philanthropy were his two $1 million gifts to the Texas Exes for the preservation and development of its grounds and renovations to the Alumni Center.

Harbin worked almost until the day he died in 2014, at 97. Robuck says that work ethic was matched only by the man's generous spirit. "He did a lot of things to help people financially and in other ways that were never reported, never publicized."

-Selah Maya Zighelboim 

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