John and Erika Lockridge

John and Erika Lockridge are honored at a basketball game at the Lockridge Arena when John’s jersey was retired in 2007.
(Credit: Chris Peters)

John Lockridge’s contributions to the Colorado School of Mines and the petroleum geology industry are unparalleled and rare, much like the geological discovery that gave him a reputation as a groundbreaking explorer and earned him the nickname “Mr. Niobrara of the High Plains.”

John grew up in the small town of Marshall, Missouri, with a family who placed great value on higher education. It was expected that John would attend college, like his four older siblings. But when John came of age, the college savings had been spent, so his father gave him $25 for bus fare to the school of his choice. Always resourceful, John used his special aptitude for math and science to earn a full academic scholarship to Colorado School of Mines, where he was a varsity basketball player and swimmer.

John graduated with a professional degree in geological engineering in 1952 and entered the petroleum field, quickly rising in the ranks. After 17 years with Mobil Oil, he and a partner started a new company, Mountain Petroleum, which led to his historic gas discovery and extraction of more than a trillion cubic feet of gas in the Niobrara chalks of eastern Colorado. This rich find in the Niobrara may have lain dormant indefinitely were it not for John’s geological initiative and exploration skills.

Fond memories of playing basketball for the Orediggers drove much of John’s philanthropy at Mines. In 2001, he and his wife, Erika, created the Blaster Basketball Scholarship Fund, and four years later they helped fund the Student Recreation Center, with Lockridge Arena as the epicenter. John was named to Mines’ Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003, and his #16 jersey was retired in 2007.

John Lockridge

John Lockridge shows his hook shot as an Oredigger forward in 1952.
(Credit: Prospector 1951)

In 2012, John and Erika expanded on their longtime support for the Geology Department with a transformative gift in support of the Robert J. Weimer Distinguished Endowed Chair in Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology. John also generously donated his time to Mines, serving as a board member with the Alumni Association and the Foundation Board of Governors, and meriting a Distinguished Achievement Medal from the Mines Board of Trustees.

Few leaders have John’s unique combination of exploration technology knowledge, exemplary business judgement, judicious financial oversight, and gut instinct for strong investments. This extraordinary capacity, along with the a warm smile and kind words for all, earned John a lifetime honorary membership with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, as well as a Tourmaline Award from Colorado School of Mines.

John is survived by his wife Erika; sister Florence; children Nancy (husband Bruce), Laura, Monica, Nick (partner George), Eric (wife Kim), and grandchildren Erika, Anika, Nicholas, Liam, and Isabella. Erika hosted a memorable celebration of the visionary’s life at Lockridge Arena in October, with special remembrances from university leaders and Mines basketball coaches and players.