Robert MacDonald

Robert “Bob” MacDonald (1941–2014) was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Claude and Ruth MacDonald. He attended public schools in Royal Oak and graduated from Kimball High School where he excelled in trumpet and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” In 1963, Bob received Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Michigan (during which time he also performed with the marching band). While there, Bob met Martha Varnell, a graduate music student, and they married in 1962. After five years as a reservoir engineer with Michigan Consolidated Gas, he accepted an offer from Professor Keith Coats to come to The University of Texas at Austin as a graduate student in the Petroleum Engineering department. Bob, Martha and their two children, Robert and Richard, loaded up a U-Haul van and moved to Austin in 1968.

Bob MacDonaldBob’s supervising professors at UT Austin, Keith Coats and Harold Silberberg, were both great influences during his professional life. His doctoral committee also included Ben Caudle, Thomas Dixon and G.W. Stewart. The Texas Petroleum Research Commission funded Bob’s work at UT Austin, which included his PhD dissertation titled “Reservoir Simulation with Interphase Mass Transfer.” He received his Master of Science in 1970 and his PhD in 1972. Bob then joined Intercomp in Houston as a petroleum engineering consultant and in 1975 was promoted to vice president and general manager of their European operations in the Netherlands. During this time he performed reservoir engineering studies on fields around the world. Bob returned to Texas in 1978 to accept the position of associate professor in the Petroleum Engineering department at UT Austin. He later took leadership roles at Intera Petroleum Consultants and Intera Technologies. When Bob joined Platt Sparks and Associates as a partner in 1988, he testified as expert witness before various regulatory bodies and trial courts and served as a court’s expert. Bob continued teaching at UT Austin as an adjunct associate professor until 2012. He was a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the National Society of Professional Engineers and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Bob and Martha enjoyed travels together and spending time with family, including grandchildren Katherine and Yarrow. He had a dry wit and maintained a lifelong appreciation for music, art and history — as well as good food and wine.