Plank graduated from Yale University in 1944 with a bachelor of arts degree. He served with the U.S. Army Air Corps as a bomber pilot in the South Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II.
Following his military service, Plank returned to his hometown of Minneapolis and with two partners formed an accounting, tax and small business advisory service. Through this enterprise, he became familiar with the types of investments then being offered in oil and gas exploration and production. Recognizing that investors’ interests in this field could be better served through a different concept, Plank formed Apache Corporation. Apache offered its first oil and gas investment program in 1956.
Under Plank’s leadership, Apache has evolved from a company that raised investor funds for drilling into an international oil and gas exploration and production corporation that funds its drilling with internally generated cash flow. Apache has become one of the nation’s largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies. Today, the company operates in six countries, has assets of more than $19 billion, and reserves of 2.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
At an early age, Plank was advised by his father to leave the world better than he found it, and he has embodied that advice as a leader in civic, educational, business and conservation-related activities.
He was the founder of the Ucross Foundation, which provides visual artists, writers and composers with a setting for individual creative work, reflection and innovation on a 20,000-acre working ranch in the wide open spaces of northeastern Wyoming. Annie Proulx’s “The Shipping News,” Elizabeth Gilbert's “Eat Pray Love,” Adam Guettel’s “The Light in the Piazza,” and Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Grapes of Wrath” are just a few of the acclaimed works that have been created in part during Ucross residencies.
More than a decade ago, as a result of the strong, lasting and positive influence that teachers had on his life, Plank started a program in his hometown of Minneapolis to provide teachers with opportunities for summer sabbaticals – self-designed programs of summer learning and exploration. Raymond endowed the program with $1 million. Administrators at public and independent schools shared Raymond’s belief that these experiences would improve the educational process. That pilot program has grown into the public foundation, Fund for Teachers, which enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students, and on their school communities.
In Egypt, where Apache is a leading oil and gas producer, about 7,000 girls are getting their first opportunity for formal education in 201 one-room school buildings constructed by Springboard – Educating the Future, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization established by Plank. The schools were built in communities with high rates of out-of-school girls. Apache Corporation, which built the first school in Abu Sir, a small community about 10 miles south of the Giza Pyramids, provided construction oversight and administrative support for the project.
Plank also established the Raymond Plank Professorship of Global Energy Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to advance teaching and research in the fields of global energy. He served as chairman of the Wyoming Futures Project and co-chairman of Minnesota Wellspring, was a founding member of Freedom Lift and Friends of Mesa Verde, and a member of the Denver Art Museum board of trustees. Plank has been a trustee of Carleton College, where Apache established the Raymond Plank Chair in Incentive Economics, and is past chairman of the University of Minnesota Foundation. He also was a trustee of the Northrop Collegiate School, member of the advisory board of Augsburg College, and founder of the Plank Institute at The Blake School, all in Minneapolis. Plank was a founding member of Stakeholders in America, the American Energy Assurance Council, and Energy Security Policy.
He has served as a director of Gamble Skogmo Inc., Questar (chairman of Audit Committee), North Central Companies, Home Brands, Fabritek, and a number of smaller public and private companies, and for 35 years was a director of five mutual funds under the St. Paul Companies.
Other civic and charitable endeavors include: director of the Minneapolis Community Fund (predecessor to United Way); co-founder, chairman and president of Minneapolis Boys Club; chairman of the Minneapolis and Minnesota Departments of Human Rights; leadership in the Urban Coalition and The Way (Minneapolis minority initiative); director of Abbott Northwestern Hospitals; chairman of the Minneapolis Heart Institute; and service as a councilman in Wayzata, Minn.
Political involvement includes service on numerous finance and fund-raising committees for local, state and national offices, including chairmanship of Minnesota Nixon Volunteers for President. Plank also was adviser and chairman of the Finance Committee for Minnesota Gov. Albert Quie (R) and an adviser to Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich (DFL). He is a member of the Business Advisory Committee of the Campaign Reform Project, which is seeking to ban soft money from politics.
Plank has founded and been active in numerous energy industry initiatives and is a former member of the National Petroleum Council and of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
Awards include: the St. Paul Newspaper Guild’s Man of the Year; the National Royalty Owners Association Energy Leader of the Year in 1995; Minnesota Entrepreneur of the Year; Wyoming Man of the Year; and National Jewish Hospital (Minnesota) Man of the Year. Plank was selected CEO of the Year on three occasions by The Wall Street Transcript and was listed among Hart Publications’ 100 Most Influential People of the Petroleum Century; in 2009 Plank received the University of Oklahoma’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education’s Award of Distinction.
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