When Tom Hill graduated with a degree in computer engineering from Oklahoma State University, he had an inside track to his dream job, but he didn't know it.
The Oklahoma City native and Marine Corps veteran was the son-in-law of Kimray Inc. co-founder Garman Kimmell, but company rules prevented family members from working together.
Just in time, directors at the Oklahoma City oil field equipment manufacturer changed the rule to allow Hill to work at the company.
“Now we have hundreds of family members working here,” Hill said. “There are cases where we have three generations of one family working here.”
Now the CEO of the company, Hill has spent 42 years at Kimray, which will celebrate its 65th anniversary next week.
Hill recently discussed his life and company with The Oklahoman. This is an edited transcript:
Q: What were your plans when you were in school and you didn't think Kimray was an option?
A: I had interviewed with Texas Instruments and Motorola. I had job offers from both. But when I was a senior, around Christmastime, my father-in-law asked me to consider coming here. My wife did not want me to work here. She didn't want to work in Oklahoma City. She was very unhappy when I took the job.
Q: So why did you accept the offer?
A: I loved Mr. Kimmell. I loved working for him. He was a mentor and a friend. I loved the idea of what they were doing at Kimray. When I had the opportunity to come here, it was a dream fulfilled that I had never entertained. I never allowed myself to dream that dream.
I also enjoyed working for Mr. Kimmell because he was a man of great integrity. When it came to an issue of ethics or integrity, I knew where he stood. It was very helpful later on when I was running the company on a day-to-day basis. I could make decisions that might cost the company money, such as repairing a valve or making a special shipment. Whatever it might be, I could do it and I knew he was supportive because it was an issue of reputation and integrity.
Q: I guess your wife forgave you eventually?
A: It didn't take too long. The advantages of being here and being close to family outweighed the disadvantages of being close to family.
Q: How did you and your wife meet?
A: It was on a blind date. I was in the Marine Corps stationed in Grand Prairie, Texas, and we were set up on a blind date. When I drove up to pick her up, Mr. Kimmell was in the driveway. I had never met him, and I didn't know who he was.
He was unloading boxes from his car. I asked if I could help, and I noticed the boxes said “Kimray” on them. My dad was a machinist at Kimray, so I asked if he had anything to do with the company. He said, “A little. I'm the president.”