William and Merilyn Ballard have been named recipients of the 2011 Rocky Mountain College Philanthropist of the Year Award.
“Bill and Merilyn have been remarkable in their service to the College and their support for its students,” said RMC President Michael Mace. “They exemplify the spirit of philanthropy we admire and appreciate.”
Dr. Ballard had a profound effect on the financial stability of the institution by being part of two capital campaigns that raised $40 million dollars for the college, Mace noted.
The couple were honored at a private reception in Prescott Hall on the RMC campus on Aug. 11.
A leader in the petroleum industry, William W. Ballard was born in El Dorado, Ark., and first came to Montana in 1952 while a college student at the University of Oklahoma. He acquired a summer job with Murphy Corporation that year and was sent to serve as a geological assistant in the newly discovered Poplar Oil Field. He met Merilyn in her hometown of Poplar at that time. They were married the following summer.
On completion of a master’s degree in 1956, he accepted a job with Phillips Petroleum Co. in their Billings divisional office. His duties included geological mapping of potential oil reservoirs in Central Montana and Western North Dakota. In 1957, he was accepted at the University of Texas for a doctoral program. During this program he taught laboratory classes in various geologic subjects.
On completion of the doctorate, in January 1961, he accepted a job with Phillips in the Denver-based Exploration Projects Group. He authored a manual for carbonate rock interpretation after which he taught carbonate geology to Phillips geologists in various divisional offices. He was transferred to the company headquarters in Bartlesville, Okla., in 1962.
In June 1963, together with William Cronoble, Ballard resigned to form a new company, Balcron Oil, and opened offices in Billings. His present company, Ballard Petroleum Holdings LLC, dates back to March 1992 when Ballard and Associates, Inc. was formed.