Cabot donates $2.5 million to LC’s School of PNG

From left: Rick Marquardt, Phil Stalnaker, and Mark Volk.

From left: Rick Marquardt, Phil Stalnaker, and Mark Volk.

BY BRENDAN GIBBONS
Times Shamrock Writer

Lackawanna College announced it received the largest private donation in its history Friday, a gift by an oil and gas company seeking to solidify its place in Northeast Pennsylvania.

The $2.5 million gift from Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. will boost the college’s $3 million endowment to $4 million. The other $1.5 million will be used for equipment, training, faculty and staff, student curriculum and internships in the college’s School of Petroleum & Natural Gas.

Since the school’s start in 2009, it has grown to include 140 students projected for fall 2014, said the school’s executive director, Richard Marquardt. It offers four majors: petroleum and natural gas technology, measurement, business administration and natural gas compression technology.
Plans are to expand the school to serve 300 students, Marquardt said.

Starting the school was a risk more than five years ago, said the college’s president Mark Volk at an event celebrating the gift Friday. The Marcellus Shale gas reserves in Susquehanna County were not yet proven and the industry’s long-term presence was less certain.

“Let’s take a chance,” Volk said he remembers thinking. “Somebody’s got to do this.”

Today, Cabot’s wells in Susquehanna are the top-producing in the state, and the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas has a center in New Milford where students get hands-on experience with the same equipment used in the industry. Its instructors are mostly retired petroleum engineers, many with multiple degrees, Marquardt said.

He said the school offers summer internship opportunities at Cabot, Linde Corp. and Williams, all companies with a presence in the Marcellus Shale region. Graduating students have a 90 percent placement rate in the industry.

Cabot’s last major gift was just over $2 million in 2012 to help build a new Montrose facility for Endless Mountains Health Systems. The gift to Lackawanna College is its largest ever, Cabot external affairs coordinator Bill desRosiers said.

With 200,000 acres in holdings, the company plans to drill 100 more wells this year and 3,000 wells in the future.

Cabot will be here for decades, said Phil Stalnaker, Cabot’s vice president of operations for its north region.

“We are part of the community,” he said. “The nice thing about hiring locals is they’re already part of the community.”