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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

As an oil man, Mack Chase took great risks; as an Artesian, he bestowed far greater rewards

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The community of Artesia is mourning the loss of a giant in the oil and gas industry and a philanthropist whose generosity has touched countless lives following the passing Monday of Mack Chase.

Chase, 92, died Monday morning at his home, surrounded by his family.

Chase’s impact on the industry that fuels Southeast New Mexico is legendary in the Permian Basin and beyond. He began with skin in the game, working pulling units at the tender age of 14. Following his time in the U.S. Army, he continued heading east into the oil patch at dawn for his family business, Chase Well Service, before partnering with John R. Gray to found Marbob Energy in the 1970s.

Longtime colleague Raye Miller remembers the drive it took to start an oil company from the ground up — and the nerve it took to roll the dice necessary to make it successful.

“Mack took huge risks and was successful in those risks,” Miller said Wednesday. “The benefits of that have flowed, I would say, more through this community than even his family.”

Rolling dice was something Chase relished on and off the job.

“When I first came to Artesia, they had me out at the country club on my knees playing craps, and Mack and Johnny were enjoying every minute of it,” Miller said. “I have great memories of times spent playing Pitch, dove hunting, deer hunting. Whether it was on vacations in the early ’80s or on holidays during the last 10 years at his house at Alto, he was just a tremendous friend, and I loved our time together.”

In the early 1990s, Chase founded Mack Energy Corporation. Today, the company employs more than 900 people, headquartered in Artesia with offices in Roswell and Midland and Ft. Worth, Texas.

“He stayed in the community where he was raised,” Miller said. “That was important to him. Loco Hills, Eight Mile Hill, Artesia. And the business was always, at its core, a family business.”

Chase’s business acumen wasn’t limited to oil and gas. Over the years that followed, he established a charter air service, expanded Mack Energy, and began welcoming subsidiary companies into the fold. In 2004, he founded Chase Farms, becoming one of the largest pecan producers in the region, and purchased NX Bar Ranch in Wyoming in 2001.

Awards and accolades rolled in: induction into the Petroleum Hall of Fame in 2011, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association’s Top Hand award in 2016, and — locally — the Artesia Chamber of Commerce’s Businessman of the Year, the Desk & Derrick Club’s Boss of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement awards from the Chamber, the Artesia Public Schools and the New Mexico Public Education Department.

But family and community always remained at the top of Chase’s list of priorities, and in 2006, he made perhaps his biggest impact among many on Artesia when he and wife Marilyn founded The Chase Foundation.

“As a man, his generosity just overwhelms you, his desire to reach out and help people,” Chase Foundation Director Richard Price said Wednesday. “One of the things about Mack was that he didn’t even have to know you. If he knew the circumstance and you needed help, he’d be there in a second.”

In 2007, the Chase family pledged $1.3 million to the first cohort of Chase Scholars with the establishment of the Chase Scholarship Program. Through the program, qualified Artesia High School seniors are able to pursue degrees at the higher-education institution of their choosing and graduate with little to no debt.

As of this year, 250 students are currently enrolled in the scholarship program, and 900 have graduated.

“You look at that impact — that many kids that have graduated through this system,” Price said. “Those are our future leaders. In my opinion, I think Mack and the Chase Family have changed a generation. He’s given kids an opportunity where they might not have had one.”

Chase’s motivation was simple and, as per usual, personal recognition wasn’t part of it.

“One of his best traits was that he didn’t want the limelight,” said Price. “He did it because he wanted to. He didn’t expect anything in return, he just did it from the bottom of his heart. And his kids are the same. They have that same trait — they want to help people. It’s an incredible family.

“He told me, ‘Hey, I’m doing this because I never had the opportunity when I was growing up. We were poor, and I didn’t have a chance to go to college. Now that I’m doing well, I want to give kids that opportunity.'”

It was another roll of the dice, but this time, the outcome wasn’t up to chance: Chase was investing in young lives, and the impact has been far-reaching. Just like his impact on local industry, the benefits will be felt for years to come.

There are a lot of legacies in the City of Champions. His will loom large among them forever.

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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