I was fortunate to work with many highly competent people during my career: graduates from acclaimed universities, PhD’s, patent holders, and managers of Fortune 500 companies. These people were at the top of their respective vocations and I was blessed to work with them. But one doesn’t need these lofty achievements to make a difference in the world.
In the spring of 1991, I started my first trading position on the 17th floor of One Shell Plaza in downtown Houston. Our trading floor was small in comparison to Shell’s current trading operations. It contained perhaps 40 small desks arranged in a semicircle that surrounded a raised receptionist’s station from which all phone calls were routed if the trader’s phone was not answered. I sat next to Randy, the senior Gulf Coast gasoline trader, and my new job was to trade the northeast gasoline markets.
When I first arrived on the trading floor, the receptionist gave me a stack of phone messages. I went to my desk and asked Randy why these people were calling me since I did not know anyone in the trading business. Randy smiled and said, “You are fresh meat and they want to trade with you.” After almost ten years of technical engineering work, I realized that I was starting a job without any expertise.
Randy succeeded in the rough-and-tumble energy trading business because he knew how to be fugal with finances. He funded his undergraduate degrees from Laramie County Community College (LCCC) and the University of Wyoming through hard work and started his career with very little financial means. His wife, Yvonne, came from a similar background and also graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in education. She spent her career teaching in public schools.
Randy had a choice when I started my new trading job. He could watch me struggle and possibly fail, or he could spend his time mentoring “fresh meat.” Randy chose to take me under his wings. He taught me the technical aspects of the US gasoline markets. He explained the key drivers of energy supply and demand. He introduced me to industry trading professionals and informed me about their deal making abilities. His greatest teachings were his practical advice. Here are a few examples:
“when your phone is ringing, the price is going up” (the market needs your product)
“sell the rumor and buy the facts” (always verify information)
“if you don’t ask, you will never dance.” (asking questions has upside possibilities)
His mentoring was the start of my long career in energy trading and I never forgot Randy, the roots of my trading success.
Randy is now happily retired, but he and Yvonne never forgot their humble roots. In April 2019, the renovated and expanded Ludden Library on the LCCC campus was dedicated. This community college library went through a large expansion project. Randy and Yvonne Ludden gave back to their Cheyenne community that supported them many years ago. Now local students have access to the latest education technology, resources, and meeting spaces. Their financial gifts made it possible for others to uplift themselves through education. Here is an excerpt from Randy’s speech during the opening ceremony:
“Successful people almost never forget their roots. They always look back and offer a helping hand to those who follow them. That is why we chose to endow the library. A library is a refuge for everyone – young and old, poor and privileged, educated and uneducated – to go relax, to go and seek knowledge, truth, understanding and wisdom. May all who enter these hallowed halls find joy and happiness, knowledge and wisdom, and an everlasting and insatiable thirst to serve others.” (The Talon Magazine, Summer 2019, Volume 27, page 6)
Randy and Yvonne Ludden are working Christians with deep community roots. They know from their experiences how hard it is to get an education with little financial means. They practiced faith and work through mentoring others, like myself, who needed help navigating through life. Then, after long and distinguished careers, they gave the gift of education to future generations. The Ludden Library is a testimony of faith and work theology put into practice: self-actualization, community, and the new creation.