February 1, 1996
On Monday of each week, the Tulsa World business editor designates one individual as a "World Leader" and profiles him or her in that day's edition. This week the one so chosen is a native of Perry, King Pouder Kirchner, and his story was told by World staff writer Ray Tuttle. Even without the local connection, it is an interesting article. It is illustrated with a large, almost life-size head-and-shoulders sketch of King.
King is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Kirchner, who lived west of Perry just off the old U.S. 64 route to Lucien. Their home was a showplace for years. Mrs. Kirchner, the former Lottie Pouder, was an excellent horsewoman and Kenneth also loved to ride. King's paternal grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Kirchner of Perry and his maternal grandparents were Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Pouder of Tulsa.
"Neither my dad nor my granddad went beyond a high school education," King relates, so they stressed to him the need for getting a good education. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Oklahoma A.&M., then entered the Army. He served in Europe during the Korean war and learned about tank driving, artillery and ballistics. After completing military service he earned another bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Oklahoma.
According to the World article, the two degrees made sense to King, with his love of gears, wheels and chains. In due time he became the founder, chairman and chief executive of Unit Corp., based in Tulsa, where his Grandfather Pouder had been in the oil business during the roaring 20s.
In 1963 Kirchner and Don Bodard founded Unit Drilling Co. in a purchase from the Woolaroc Oil Co. It consisted of three rigs. Kirchner moved the company to Tulsa. The company grew. By 1979, Unit had added exploration and production and went public. During the next year oil prices rocketed and natural gas prices shot up. Unit moved from over the counter to the New York Stock Exchange in 1981. King says the company avoided going bust in 1983, when the oil business went flat, by cutting costs and hunkering down.
Kirchner learned to fly while drilling an oil well in the middle of the Cushing Airport, trading a $700 ski boat for a $700 airplane owned by the airport operator. Since then he's owned and piloted a Learjet and now has a seaplane which he uses to fly to his home on Grand Lake. He has logged more than 6,500 hours flying and has commercial, instrument, air transport and gliding ratings. By his own accounting he also has bought and sold some 150 motorcycles.
King, now 68, and his wife, Lee, have two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren. He believes things are normal in the oil industry now. "Business is not great, but it is not bad, either," he says. "It is just like any other business. No business is easy. You have to watch costs, and if you work hard you can inch by. The thing I love about the oil business is that you can always make a living in it, while having a really good chance of getting quite wealthy." The complete article in Monday's Tulsa World is well worth your time. Find a copy and read more about another local boy who made good. Congratulations to King Kirchner on his selection as a "World Leader."
Now, on to another subject...Few people touch the lives of so many others in anonymity as did Sara Kennedy. This gentle lady with the sweet smile and disposition to match was the organist at the First Presbyterian church for something like 20 years. Her music flowed and filled the sanctuary each Sunday morning, but the console where she sat was behind a scrim and the congregation could not see her face. Sara worked with children of the church as director of a cherub choir for many years, and those white-robed youngsters sang glorious hymns of joy and praise while Sara nodded appreciatively, always in the background. Her sense of humor, her dedication, her artistry and her soft-spoken ways will be missed. Her funeral is at 2 p.m. Friday.