Drilling up a family legacy
Barry Thomas ’91 came to Mines knowing it was one of the top engineering schools in the world and would allow him to earn a world-renowned petroleum engineering degree while playing college football. But little did he know that his decision to go to Mines would kickstart a family legacy.
Barry pursued his degree, but along the way, he also met his now-wife, Lori, during their first year at Mines when they were both part of the McBride Honors Program. By their second year, they were engaged. Eventually, Lori decided she wanted to be an educator, so she transferred to a different university, but her affinity for Mines remained.
After completing their degrees, Barry and Lori moved to Liberal, Kansas, where Barry began his career with Anadarko Petroleum as a production engineer before moving on to other oil and gas operations around the U.S. As he built his career, Barry came to realize the role Mines played in what he was able to achieve in his professional life. “I appreciate how Mines prepared me to have a good balance between the technical and the practical sides of operations. I have the ability to get technical and I have the propensity to keep it simple and practical whenever possible,” Barry said.
Barry and Lori’s two children, Caleb ’17, MS ’18 and Hannah ’18, often visited Barry at work while growing up. Seeing the kind of work available in that field, both eventually decided to pursue petroleum engineering degrees.
“We love that it has become part of our family’s identity,” Hannah said.
And while Caleb and Hannah had their sights set on degrees in this field, Barry and Lori did not pressure their children to attend Mines. For Caleb and Hannah, choosing Mines came down to the school’s environment.
Caleb wanted to pursue a world-class education, and like his father, played a sport he loved: baseball. His Oredigger teammates became his roommates and some of his closest friends, just what he needed to succeed at Mines. “I found a support system that knew exactly what I was going through, and I can look back and appreciate every moment,” he said.
And while pursuing her challenging petroleum engineering degree at Mines, Hannah participated in extracurricular activities and was a member of Pi Phi Sorority.
“I really thrived at Mines because I found something in common with everyone, and I was able to make lifelong friends,” Hannah said.
Hannah’s Mines journey also led her to follow in her parents’ footsteps in another way. She met fellow petroleum engineering student Evan Halpern ’18 in their rock properties class and got to know him through long hours of studying with friends. After a Society of Petroleum Engineers trip to Dubai, they started dating and later got married in 2021.
The petroleum engineering industry has provided a stable base for the Thomas family to grow, try new things and achieve the lives they envisioned. Lori noted her family has always known they are fortunate in what they have. “My family’s degrees from Mines have given them a great launching pad,” she said. “It’s important to us to give back to others who may not have all the advantages we do.”
To give back to where their story first started, Barry and Lori created the Thomas Family Scholarship, awarded for the first time in 2021, to help undergraduate petroleum engineering students earn a
“We want these scholarship students to help make Mines a better experience for others,” Barry explained. “We think it is important for people to find something they enjoy and a place to belong.”