Putting the Energy into Energy Management

  Bill Arnold 
  Bill Arnold 
  Bill Arnold observes a vehicle inspection during his Amigos de las Americas days in Honduras 


The day after Bill Arnold decided to retire from Shell — after years as a senior executive in energy, government and banking — he found himself in an email conversation with the Jones School about Marc Epstein's project in Rwanda. Within a few minutes, after mentioning his upcoming retirement, there was discussion about the possibility of a teaching position.

“The rest, as they say, was history,” says the Professor in the Practice of Energy Management. “After interviews with the deans and each member of the search committee, and then the preparation of a draft syllabus for a course on Geopolitics of Energy, and finally the delivery of a presentation to faculty and students. I took a long weekend fishing in Colorado before leaving Washington and moving into McNair 247.”

That auspicious beginning in 2009 evolved into a new phase for him — teaching Geopolitics of Energy and Managing in a Carbon-Constrained World to full-time and professionals students, teaching other courses in executive education, and acting as faculty advisor for Rice Energy Finance Summit. With a colleague from Shell, Bill initiated the International Energy Simulation, an ILE workshop. He can also be seen at many Jones School events with a camera slung around his neck taking pictures of staff, faculty and students.

A native of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Bill grew up in a textile town and held a summer job in a mill built in the 1880s, working the steel spindles in huge dying vats. Needless to say, it was the summer jobs during college that were most meaningful to him. After his freshman year at Cornell he joined a group with plans to travel to Central America to do community development work. From that experience he learned about Amigos de las Americas, a private international development organization based in Houston with more than 250 volunteers in Honduras and Guatemala. He spent three summers with them as field director. In his final tour with Amigos he met his wife Cathy, a fellow volunteer, who was from Houston and whose parents and sisters all attended Rice.

After spending a post graduate year at the University of Amsterdam in Holland, he returned to the U.S. for his first job with Citi Bank in New York City and was drafted three weeks later. When asked about his two years in the Army, Bill is modest about his accomplishments, especially the story of how he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal.

In Germany, near the end of his tour, he noticed a real problem with personnel. “The Army’s system for specialized training, typically nuclear weapons specialists, was impractical. Soldiers trained 52 weeks in the U.S., in preparation to serve overseas, and when they got here there were no jobs.” He began collecting and analyzing data from all over Europe and worked out a proposal for a new system that more efficiently matched training in the U.S. with needs overseas. The proposal earned him recognition for meritorious service and the Army Commendation Medal.

What does he like most about what he’s doing now? “I like to be well-prepared for the students and help them further develop their critical management skills. I also enjoy the support from students, staff, faculty and the dean.” He takes the role of being a good steward of the students’ time very seriously. Of his work with the REFS students he says, “They showed so much respect for each other. I was greatly impressed by that.”

As for something people might not know about him, he says with a chuckle, “I spent a few hours with Saddam Hussein.” He is also writing a novel, which is tucked away in a tattered envelope in his desk in McNair Hall. “I started seven or eight, no, 10 years ago. It’s called Garden of Fire. Which I found out later is the translated meaning of Azerbaijan.”

Bill holds a BA in economics from Cornell University and both an MA in Latin American Studies and a Master of Business Administration/International Finance from the University of Texas at Austin. He and Cathy have one daughter, Elizabeth, who is an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley in New York. She and her husband Richard have a daughter Cate and are expecting twins.