One-on-One with T. Greg Merrion
By Jessica Dyer / Journal Staff Writer | 15 hours ago
When T. Greg Merrion gets to talking about his life, odds are he’ll throw in a few variations of the phrase “It was a little weird … ”
Take, for instance, the way the Farmington oil-and-gas man describes his courtship of wife, Susan.
The two met while watching a recreational-league softball game in Cortez, Colo., about 30 years ago. He was a young production engineer, she a second-grade teacher. They had a pleasant chat, but nothing more came of it because Susan mistook the chewing tobacco tucked into his lip as some kind of facial deformity.
“She thought ‘This guy is kind of fun, but, man, he’s got a strange looking lower lip and that isn’t working for me,’” Merrion recalls.
As fate would have it, the two would soon cross paths again.
One of Merrion’s friends hosted a dinner to eat a deer he’d recently bagged. It was three men and their dates, a group that included T. Greg and Susan. They were not each other’s date but sparks flew when they made a joint trip to the grocery store to get butter for the night’s sauteed-mushroom side dish.
And that’s not necessarily the weird part.
Merrion took Susan on their first date to the local Elks lodge. It was the club’s annual ball.
“She called it the ‘Grand Poobah Event.’ … As weird and nerdy as it sounds, it was really, really fun,” Merrion says. “And we’ve been together ever since.”
Merrion’s path to the oil-and-gas industry was also a little bit different.
It sounds perfectly plausible that the first son of Merrion Oil & Gas President J. Greg Merrion would get into the family business – especially when that son spent his teenage summers as a jack-of-all-trades grunt worker out in the oil fields.
But the younger Merrion says the thought never really crossed his mind.
He remembers seeing the summer work more as the means to a decent paycheck and a really good tan.
His attention was elsewhere, including the golf course. He received his first set of clubs at age 12 and spent as much of his adolescence as possible on the links.
“I love hitting the golf ball. I love how difficult the game is,” he says.
The young Merrion didn’t have total tunnel vision; he also played tennis, skied and excelled academically despite his reputation as something of a comedian.
But Merrion also didn’t have a whole lot of direction.
By Thanksgiving of his senior year, he still hadn’t applied to colleges or expressed interest in a particular line of study or career path. His father sat him down and told him he had until the end of the long holiday weekend to formulate a plan.
“I can remember that it snowed and I remember taking some long walks that weekend and doing some soul searching and trying to figure out what it is I wanted to do,” Merrion recalls.
When the two reconvened that Sunday night, Merrion listed his three career aspirations. Dad wasn’t crazy about the first two – professional golfer or cartoonist – warning that only the very best in either field would earn a decent living.
But Merrion’s last idea – mathematician – got his dad thinking. He encouraged his son to think about engineering, where he could use math to solve real-world problems.
“So the next thing I know, I’m applying to the best engineering colleges in the country and ended up being accepted to Colorado School of Mines,” Merrion recalls. “And once you get there, they only have maybe six or eight choices from engineering career paths to choose from, one of them being petroleum, and because my family was in the oil-and-gas business, I chose petroleum engineer.
“It sounds like a weird story, and it kind of was.”
Merrion graduated, spent five years working for Superior Oil (later Mobil) and then accepted his father’s offer to work for the family business. In 1992, he took over as president.
He’s now helping get other kids through the college-planning process. His family foundation established and funds the FACE program at Farmington high schools. FACE puts a full-time adviser in each high school to work exclusively on getting students into college and helping them obtain scholarships and other financial aid. Piedra Vista High has seen its students’ scholarship offers increase fivefold after just two years, Merrion says.
One-on-One with T. Greg Merrion
THE BASICS: Born Thomas Gregory Merrion on May 9, 1958, in Midland, Texas; bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from Colorado School of Mines, master’s in business from New Mexico State University; married to Susan Dehn since 1983; four children: Britta, 27; Ryan, 25; Sammi, 23; Tori, 19; golden retriever named Jalapeño.
POSITION: President of Merrion Oil & Gas since 1992; member of BIPAC board of directors; former Farmington planning and zoning commissioner (1994-2006).
WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Merrion wrote a book about his children and dubbed it “Jammies, Teeth, Prayers and Bed,” but never had it illustrated. It chronicles one evening in the Merrion household as he tries to get his kids to bed. It’s “in kind of a Dr. Seuss format — real, real fun and rhymey,” he says. He penned it about 20 years ago and is now hoping to illustrate it himself.
“I don’t necessarily (have) interest in it hitting the New York Times best-seller list — it certainly wouldn’t — (but) I’d like to have something that future generations of Merrions could have that would be fun,” he says.
“They brought me in at the end of the year (when) kids get up and say, ‘Nobody in the family has ever been to college and without the help I received from these FACE advisors, I wouldn’t be going to college.’ One girl got up and said, ‘My family doesn’t have the financial resources to send me to a fancy-dancy college and yet because the work the FACE advisers did with me, I’m headed to Dartmouth,’” he says. “Those are the type of stories they’re telling. One after another gets up and it sends chills down your back.”
Q: Have you always gone by the name T?
A: No. Growing up, my father’s name was James Gregory Merrion and they named me Thomas Gregory Merrion. They didn’t want to have a “junior,” but my dad went by Greg, and I went by Greg. Growing up … when any of my brothers or sister would answer the phone and someone asked for Greg, they’d always say “Do you want big Greg or little Greg?” So, no, I wasn’t always T. Greg, I was “little Greg” for the first part of my life. Eventually, later in my life, I went to work for the family company and it would’ve been very, very confusing for both my dad and I to go by Greg so he started going by J. Greg and I started going by T. Greg. The first question everybody asks is “What does the T stand for?” I usually tell them Tyrannosaurus, but it really stands for Thomas.
Q: What was your dad like as a boss?
A: You know how it is with your dad. I wasn’t intimidated by my dad because he was my dad. I learned from him, I appreciated him, I was impressed with him. He was a very, very intelligent man, he was a very tough business person. … When I do a deal, we’ll throw out an offer and they’ll come back and we’ll go back and forth until you kind of come to some sort of a deal. My dad would propose a deal and that was it – it was take it or leave it. He proposed what he thought was a fair deal and it was take it or leave it. He didn’t go back and forth.
Q: You’re a funny guy. Do you have a go-to joke?
A: This isn’t my favorite joke, but it’s kind of my go-to joke. A lot of times when I’m asked to speak, I’ll get up and say, “I apologize for being a little bit ruffled, but right before I got here I got a call from my doctor and he said ‘I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news.’ And I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. What’s the good news?’ And he said, ‘Well, the good news is you’ve only got 24 hours to live,’ and I said ‘Oh my God. That’s the good news? What’s the bad news?’ And he goes, ‘Well, I’ve been trying to get ahold of you since yesterday.’” I’ll start out a talk like that, just to kind of break the ice.
Q: Do you have any quirks or superstitions?
A: When I play golf, I cannot use a ball with the No. 2 or the No. 4 on it. I can’t use an orange tee. There’s others too. I mean, that’s pretty weird right there. It just is what it is. I’ve had some bad rounds with those numbered balls had some bad shots with orange tees. You just can’t go there (laughs).
Q: Describe yourself in three words.
A: Fun, funny and honest.