“Renaissance man: a highly educated, highly cultivated person who is skilled and well-versed in many fields of knowledge, work, etc., as in the arts and sciences…” Webster
Have you ever met a “Renaissance man”? There is at least one right here at Treemont, in the Health Care Center. Confined to his bed by a disabling stroke five years ago, he is nevertheless as vibrantly engaged in living as anyone you will ever hope to meet. Here is his story:
Neil Chandler began life in Wales in 1944, the youngest of five children born to Edith and Reginald Chandler. His father, an officer in the British army, was off fighting World War II at the time, but Neil recalls a happy and carefree childhood once that business was taken care of and the family reunited. Except for his senior year spent living with a French family while attending high school in France, he was educated in UK, with three degrees in Math and Petroleum Engineering from Imperial College in London, now recognized as one of the top twenty universities in the world.
After finishing graduate school he was hired by Dowell Schlumberger and at age 22 was sent to Africa to begin a 46-year work history which his employers years later would memorialize in an impressive retirement plaque as “46 years of exemplary service around the globe.” Those years, according to the plaque, were characterized by “dedication, commitment, hard work, and an innate sense of service, success and a pride in the development of others.” The importance of this quality in a leader of men is borne out in a quote from Socrates, “You are not only good yourself, but the cause of goodness in others.” His leadership qualities are also lauded in another quote, this one attributed to Confucius, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” Obviously he made a profound impression on the owners and employees of the company he had served so faithfully.
Schlumberger had started as a small family-owned French well-logging company, but in 1960 had entered into a joint venture with Dowell, the oil field component of the giant American corporation Dow Chemical. It was a good fit, and
Dowell Schlumberger soon became a highly successful service company and a major player in the world’s oil production.
Neil’s first assignment to Algeria turned out to be strategic in that he became adept at devising ingenious solutions to urgent problems with little to work with other than his own cleverness. In the middle of the Sahara Desert he had to create his own support system. Of perhaps equal or nearly equal value, however, was the discovery of the importance of learning at least a little of whatever the prevailing language was. Since Algeria was then a French country he learned and fell in love with the French language. After Algeria he spent some years in France and by the time he left there was so proficient that even now he sometimes chooses to watch movies or TV shows in French!
From there it was relatively easy to move on into Spanish and Portuguese (closely related because all derive from the Roman alphabet) which were of great help to him later when he was sent to South America.
Neil’s career story is far too esoteric to be discussed in a piece like this one, where the intent is simply to present a profile of interest to most people. At the request of his family, however, he did put together a 68-page single-spaced manuscript describing his adventures. For those of you who would have special interest in his life and times in the global oil patch, if you can’t wangle an introduction to meet Neil personally, the next best thing would be to borrow and read his notes. There are tales of giant snakes, plane crashes, highway robberies, and other hazards of foreign service.
He explains that Dowell Schlumberger hired him at age 22 to become a future manager and/or technical expert. His university training had included petroleum engineering and geology, refining, reservoir engineering, and even an Associate Degree in mining from the Royal School of Mines in London. His first five years were spent in the field learning about the oilfields, the equipment, and how to lead people.
After Algeria and France he ran a frac barge on Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, doing hundreds of frac jobs. He then became manager in Bolivia, then Division Sales Engineer in Brazil. His job was to solve any technical issues, talk to the clients, find out what they needed, design, sell and then execute the jobs.
In 1971 he was transferred to Paris where he was chosen to become the global Mining and Construction Manager, with offices in Paris and in Perth, Australia. He spent the next six years traveling a million miles per year doing that and developing the new business, then moved to London in charge of oil platform grouting in the North Sea. By this time, though still a young man he had accumulated valuable experience in every facet of the company’s business. He then went to Caracas as Technical Manager for all of Latin America from Mexico to Argentina. Twenty years of high level positions followed from Europe to Balikpapan (Borneo) and ultimately brought him to Houston as manager of Gulf Coast Offshore, the largest job he ever had. His advice: “Believe in people, train them, show them you care and they will do a good job.”
On his first assignment to South America he had met and a year later married Norma, a girl in Ecuador whom he described as “the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen before or since…” She traveled with him throughout his peripatetic career, bringing up their one son, John, in a variety of settings but always keeping the family together. They have celebrated over 40 years of marriage. She visits him every day.
This man, so highly successful both professionally and personally, also enjoys classical music, ballet, opera and art and is grateful for the CDs and DVDs that bring them to
his bedside. He is a voracious reader, and volunteers keep him
supplied with books from the Treemont and public libraries, which he devours at the rate of no less than one per day. Do you see why I refer to him as a Renaissance man?
There is much documentation on the value of social interaction and friendships in keeping seniors happy and content. Active Activities Programs are key to resident happiness in retirement communities. It is important to have interesting and engaging residents. At Treemont, from concert pianist Ann Wong, to Nelda Sims of the Sims Trio, residents benefit from in-house entertainment, and truly fine folks with whom to engage and share their new lives. Please make sure you ask about the residents and the activities for seniors programs when you tour senior living Houston TX communities.