Wiley Cox is a Tulsa native who grew up blocks away from The University of Tulsa. After graduating from Will Rogers High School, he attended TU on a scholarship.
“That scholarship meant all the difference”
“That scholarship meant all the difference,” he said. “I could continue to work for Borden’s Cafeterias while going to TU and living at home. I knew I could make it.”
TU and the chemical engineering program quickly proved to be the right choice for Cox. Small classes and opportunities to interact with students were encouraging as he navigated the financial road to a college degree. After his sophomore year, Cox acquired another job as a night shift janitor at the Jersey Production Research Co., now TU’s North Campus facility. At $2 an hour, he couldn’t believe his good fortune in securing such a high-paying job. Cox decided he was established enough to marry his high school sweetheart and fellow TU student, Diane (BS ’65), who majored in mathematics.
“Semester after semester, I would go to the administration office and ask what kind of help they could give me,” he said. “The money secured for me kept me in school, and I’m grateful for that.”
The couple graduated in 1965, and Cox later earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering. His first job at Celanese Chemicals in Bay City, Texas, involved operating the plant’s processing controls computer.
“In 1967, it was just the beginning of data processing,” he said. “We developed applications for maintenance, warehouse inventory and operations.”
Cox later transferred to the company’s fibers plant in Greenville, North Carolina, and helped build the world’s first online, real-time data gathering system. During the collapse of the oil industry in the 1980s, Cox worked for his father-in-law, Harlan Krumme at Krumme Oil Co., one of the few independent oil and gas producers in Oklahoma that survived the industry’s downturn. In 1993, he and Krumme branched off on their own to establish Falcon Oil Properties near Bristow, Oklahoma. Cox’s son-in-law came aboard after the death of Krumme in 1998, and the company continues its conservative, local style of business.
“The oil business has made people a ton of money, and it has lost people a ton of money,” Cox said. “What’s nice about a small company is the people we’ve done business with for years. It’s done with a handshake, and we take care of each other.”
Throughout a career he describes as a “long and winding road,” Cox and his family have enjoyed the ride. The couple has two children, Kenneth and Kristin, as well as five grandchildren. He and his wife have participated in several international cycling tours and visited countries such as Egypt, China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. When not traveling abroad, they spend weekends at Lake Tenkiller or attend Golden Hurricane basketball games.
Due in part to his successful early endeavors in data processing, Cox never had the opportunity to work directly in chemical engineering, but studying it at TU made him a valuable asset to the industry. With his background, he effectively communicated with engineers to address their needs and understand their jobs.
“The chemical engineering department has this philosophy of go to school, graduate and get a job,” Cox said. “TU students must be capable of solving problems with a hands-on, practical approach.”
“I’m honored to be named a Distinguished Alumnus, and it’s a privilege to represent the class of 1965”
Grateful for the educational opportunities he received, Cox enjoys making college accessible to students who can’t attend due to financial reasons. He helped establish a college scholarship at the Bristow Rotary Club and later set up a similar fund at Falcon Oil Properties where students are required to check in with him each semester and provide updates on their experience and academic progress. Over the years, the Cox family has helped many first-generation students achieve the dream of a college degree.
“There’s no doubt I feel I have a debt to pay to TU, and I know firsthand what scholarship money can mean for these kids,” he said.
Memories of TU students and faculty made an impression on him as a student, and those relationships have inspired several generous gifts. He and his wife have supported the Golden Hurricane Club, Gilcrease Museum, Reynolds Center construction, the Chapman Stadium remodel and the Keplinger Hall renovation. Other TU financial contributions include the Edward and Charlotte Howard Memorial Endowment for Mathematics and the Professor Paul Buthod Scholarship Fund.
“I’m honored to be named a Distinguished Alumnus, and it’s a privilege to represent the class of 1965,” Cox said.