Jack Harbin, Texas Exes’ Top Hand, Has Died

Jack Harbin, Texas Exes' Top Hand, Has Passed Away

Even as a child, John P. “Jack” Harbin, BBA ’39, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, had a shrewd mind for business. Born and raised in Waxahachie, Texas during the Depression, he was at work every waking minute. Odd jobs included selling Eskimo Pies to classmates, stacking books in the attic of his school, and painting his neighbors’ houses. His famous work ethic, combined with a keen sense of adventure and humor, was the foundation of a long and illustrious life. Harbin died July 26 at age 97. He often said, “I’ve never known an eight-hour day.”

That driven young man grew up to be a legendary oilman, financial executive, philanthropist, and influential member of the Dallas community, and his name graces the home of the Ex-Students’ Association on the Forty Acres: the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center.

After graduating from UT with honors, Harbin went to work for a subsidiary of ExxonMobil in Tulsa, Okla., as a management trainee. Two years later, he was transferred to Creole Petroleum, another Exxon subsidiary which was headquartered in Maracaibo, Venezuela. World War II broke out during his time in South America, and as soon as his contract with Creole ended, Harbin returned to the States to join the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Prior to being transferred to Pearl Harbor, he met and married the love of his life, Dorothy Middleton. At the end of the war, the newlyweds returned to Venezuela, where Harbin resumed work for Creole. In 1948, the couple decided they had been away from friends and family for too long, so they packed their bags and went back home to Texas.

In July of the same year, Harbin joined Halliburton Company as a controller. He worked his way up for decades and in 1972 became chairman of the board and CEO, a position he held for 11 years. His years at Halliburton took him all over the world—from dining with Queen Elizabeth on the USS Brittania off the coast of Scotland in 1974 to visiting the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea in the 1980s.

Throughout his travels, Harbin never forgot his Longhorn roots. He was a great friend to the university and especially to the Texas Exes. A member of the College of Business Administration Foundation and the Chancellor’s Council, he was elected to the College of Business Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1981 he was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award and later served as president of the Association from 1989-90. Harbin also gave the largest single donation ever made to the Association and underwrote major renovations to the center—twice. In 2001, the center was renamed in his honor.

He was equally passionate about the Boy Scouts, serving as president of the Circle Ten Foundation from 1969-96. For his service, the Boy Scout Circle Ten Council honored him with both the Silver Beaver Award and the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

Even after retiring, Harbin didn’t slow down. In 1997, in honor of his beloved Dorothy, Harbin established the Harbin Chair and Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Dorothy died in July 2002.

Harbin is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Linda Ann and Joel Robuck, BBA ’64, MBA ’65, Life Members, of Dallas. The Robuck name will forever grace the boardroom of the Alumni Center, thanks to Harbin’s generosity.

Last year, the Texas Exes’ highest volunteer honor, the Top Hand Award for Outstanding Service, was simultaneously bestowed on Harbin and renamed in his honor. At the EXies Awards ceremony in April 2013, John Beckworth, BA ’80, JD ’83, Life Member, said, “Because of Jack’s vision, the halls of the center serve a higher calling than perhaps any other building on campus. And for his leadership and generosity in preserving and enhancing this special place, we are forever grateful.”

Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux.


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