Decades after graduating, Paskvan keeps giving back to UAF

December 17, 2019

Elizabeth Talbot

Frank Paskvan could have applied to any college of his choice, but the high school honors student chose to attend his hometown school, the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His father was a University of Alaska graduate, and he knew UAF was a reputable university. Additionally, he was familiar with the university due to taking computer programming courses on campus in middle school.

Professors from the UAF Petroleum Engineering Department visited Lathrop High School during Paskvan’s advanced chemistry class.

“They asked ‘Do you like math? Physics? Chemistry? Solving problems? Would you like to travel the world, and get paid to do it?’ It all sounded good to me,” said Paskvan.

This solidified his ambition to become a petroleum engineer.

During the summers, in between his junior and senior years of college, the UAF career counseling office arranged opportunities to intern for an oil company. “I remember waking up at 5 a.m. and waiting outside in the cold, just so I could be first on the sign-up sheet for the interviews with Arco,” Paskvan recalled.

Paskvan completed his bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering in spring 1985, after holding an internship with the oil company Arco following his junior year.

“After an awesome backpacking trip through Europe following graduation, I was hired on with them full-time right out of college,” he said. “I worked for Arco until BP acquired them in 2000, then I worked for BP. All totaled, it’s been 35 years in the oil patch.”

Paskvan found his calling in engineering. His job is fun and challenging. He likes the puzzles petroleum engineering presents, the geology and earth science required, and loves to crack the code to figure things out. Projects often require remote sensing and applied physics because you cannot see or touch what you are working on.

Although Paskvan quickly found a job, he was happy to return to UAF to share stories of industry projects with students and faculty. His instinct was to help students and help them find their career paths as he had. Paskvan spends time with students to help them find what they want for themselves, and guides those who may be future engineers to the UAF program.

Not only did he donate his time and energy, he also donates to the University of Alaska Foundation to provide support for students. Paskvan has been promoting the university and its students for more than 30 years.

“UA does an outstanding job,” he said. “Their engineering, finance and science graduates are on par with the best universities on planet Earth.”

Paskvan took his contributions a step further and became involved with supporting UAF’s Community and Technical College’s specialized process technology program at the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center. Paskvan shares, “I got involved in the UAF CTC when my brother Charlie Paskvan introduced me to the program and instructors in the early 2000s. Charlie attended and graduated from the UAF CTC process technology program. BP was happy to donate tons of process equipment from the GTL pilot plant and share that with students of the CTC in Fairbanks, Kenai, and Anchorage.”

He collaborated with the program’s associate professor and program advisor, Brian Ellingson. Together they were able to facilitate donations through Paskvan’s employer, BP, of more than $5 million in training equipment and scholarships in support of the program. “We had spare or out-of-service equipment, and much of it was perfect for students to learn from: true industrial processes and hardware and at a small enough scale to fit into the classrooms and workshops,” Paskvan said.

Ellingson is clearly grateful for Paskvan’s support. An example is the donation of a full-scale wellhead and tree from Prudhoe Bay that was donated for the CTC Process Technology Facility.

“Standing in the Signers’ Hall parking lot one spring, Frank and I discussed things we could do to enhance the student experience in the process technology program,” recalled Ellingson. “We talked about upstream oil and gas and wells, and decided that students should get hands-on experience with actual well equipment. Frank went back to work, and one week later I received a call from his company asking me if I had received the wellhead that Frank had requested for our program. Frank takes a good idea and makes it happen! It ended up taking a bit more than a week, since we wanted to have it painted Blue and Gold, in the University colors!"

Paskvan has a positive demeanor and disposition about the future of our state and the oil industry. He understands the balance we must achieve between wanting renewable energy and our current dependence on petroleum. He puts faith in the future generation of engineers.

“Today’s engineers and scientists are needed to solve these challenges,” he said. “The Arctic is growing in global importance, and UAF will play a major role in shaping this future.”

Paskvan has invested in the future by donating time, energy and resources to educating young Alaskans and the future of engineering.

“Frank’s guidance, expertise and support have been invaluable to our process technology program and its students,” said Ellingson. “Frank Paskvan demonstrates all the best qualities of our incredible UAF alumni.”

Paskvan also has a philosophical side. His advice for students is inspirational.

“It’s important to find things that interest you and that are also valuable to the world. There’s a lot of change going on, always, and that’s pretty challenging. Take the time now to sort out what you like, what fascinates you. Is it languages, history, culture, engineering, science, space, electronics? Then dive in. Make sure to enjoy the journey itself, because life is what happens when you’re on the journey.”