(November 18, 2013)

Alumnus Nelson Bolen credits Centenary for success

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary History graduate Nelson Bolen '98 never had a clear vision for his professional future, but knew he had a passion for working with people. Now the owner of OKKI Industries, a mineral rights acquisition company, Bolen is confident his liberal arts education led him to the career he is so enthusiastic about.

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Nelson Bolen '98

Bolen came to Centenary from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He admits he was never first in his class academically, but still cherishes the faculty relationships he built as a student including Dr. Sam Shepherd, Chair of the History department.

"Dr. Shepherd would probably be surprised to hear me say this, but...as I look back he really pushed me and tried to get me to engage and be a more critical thinker, which worked," said Bolen. "I don't know if he knew it worked, but it did."

As a student Bolen was an active leader in the Inter Fraternity Council (IFC) and his fraternity, Kappa Alpha. He was involved with the Shreveport community through his work with the Mud Bugs hockey team and also spent time doing community service projects with his fraternity. Bolen attributes much of his success to the leadership roles and responsibilities he held as a student at Centenary.

"I use the skills that I learned at Centenary every day," said Bolen. "Whether it be diplomacy while working with others or thinking outside the box, Centenary taught me to be well-rounded... and how to gather information, interpret it, and apply it to my life."

Bolen's journey to the oil and gas industry was just as eclectic as his education. After graduation, Bolen sold cars at a family dealership in his hometown. After several years, he realized he enjoyed the interaction but needed a greater challenge.

"My friend Paul and I would go to VZD's (a restaurant) after work every night and talk about our jobs and the future," said Bolen. "His father was in the oil and gas industry and I asked him if he had anything for me (to do). I started moonlighting for him and finally realized that this is what I wanted to do."

Bolen and his friend started their own businesses and dabbled in all aspects of the field, eventually finding their respective niches.

"We were turn-key oil and gas guys together for about three years...I realized minerals and royalty was for me," said Bolen. "It was where I could get the human contact."

Through the course of finding his way in the oil and gas industry, Bolen ended up buying into VZD and is now part-owner. The live music venue is a nostalgic place for Bolen who says he still has files filled with cocktail napkins scribbled with business plans from when he and Paul planned and plotted their futures.

Bolen credits his education at Centenary for taking him where he is today. He hopes indecisive students like him, who may not know their career goals, will consider attending Centenary.

"If you want to have a sense of real community where you know every single teacher, even those you don't have class with; if you want to go to a place where you are wanted, and nurtured in every aspect of college life, Centenary is for you," said Bolen.

Bolen lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Rachel, and two children, George and Ralph.