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 against Japan during World War II.
Following his military service, Plank returned to his hometown 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 could better be served under a different strategy, Plank formed Apache Corp. offering its first oil and gas investment program in 1956.
Under Plank’s leadership, Apache evolved from a company that raised investor funds for drilling into an international oil and gas exploration and production corporation which funded its drilling with largely internally generated cash flow. Apache became one of the nation’s largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies representing a market valuation in excess of $53 billion in 2007.
At an early age, Plank was advised by his father to make a very small difference in the lives of others, and he has embodied that advice as a leader in civic, educational, business and conservation-related activities.
Over thirty years ago he founded Ucross Foundation, where 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 among the acclaimed works created in part during some two-thousand Ucross residencies.
Fifteen years ago, as a result of the lasting, positive influence that teachers had on his life, Plank started a program in Minneapolis to provide teachers with opportunities for summer sabbaticals– self-designed programs of learning, exploration and personal growth. Administrators at public and independent schools shared Raymond’s belief that these experiences would improve the educational process. That small 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. To date, Fund for Teachers has invested $22 million in 6,000+ teachers’ learning to advance student achievement.
In Egypt, where Apache was a leading oil and gas explorer and producer, 7,000 girls in one-room school houses became the first in their families to read and write. The program, Springboard – Educating the Future, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization established by Plank, and commended by then country manager, Rod Eichler, tragically subsequent consequences has caused this program to fail.
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 (an initiative in Romania in behalf of children), Friends of Mesa Verde, and a member of the Denver Art Museum board of trustees. Plank was a trustee of Carleton College of Minnesota, 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 (an initiative to combat hostile takeovers resulting in job losses to extortion), 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 (Insurance), Home Brands, Fabritek, and a number of smaller public and private companies; for 35 years Plank was a director of five mutual funds last under the management of 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 Democrat Farmer Labor of Minneapolis, the Urban Coalition and The Way (a 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 the 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). In Denver, Governor Perpich had an Apache meeting in the Brown Palace, saw Plank in the hall and came to speak to the Apache Board of Directors. Plank is a member of the Business Advisory Committee of the Campaign Reform Project, which is seeking to ban soft money from politics. Directly attributable to Plank's leadership, the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs was inaugurated and the Cowles School of Journalism was founded and a major assist was provided Curtis Carlson and his creation of the Minnesota School of Business.
Presently, Plank chairs the Plank Stewardship Initiative on behalf of ranchers, and farmers in Wyoming and the High Plains Country, ably aided by Yale University's School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. 2015 will be Yale's third year of making a contribution to the long-term P.S.I. Plank founded and has 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; in May 2014 Plank was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Houston Technology Center; September 2014 Plank was inducted into Western Energy Alliance's Rocky Mountain Hall of Fame.
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