Involvement, Innovation Drive Success, CenterPoint CEO Tells Students

Published on April 9, 2011

David McClanahan (MBA ’76) Wraps Up Spring 2011 Distinguished Leaders Series
With Talk About His Climb Up the Energy Ladder and How Students Can Succeed

CenterPoint President and CEO David McClanahan (MBA ’76) emphasized involvement and innovation as driving factors in a student’s success.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., President and CEO David McClanahan (MBA ’76) spoke at the final Distinguished Leadership Series of the semester on March 24 at the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business, presented by Sequent Energy Management.

McClanahan noted that he last spoke at the DLS seven years ago to the day and has seen tremendous growth to the college and the university in recent years, including the recent designation by the Carnegie Foundation of UH as the city’s only Tier One public university.

“President Renu Khatur has two objectives that I fully support — she wants UH to be a center of excellence for energy, and she has a focus on Tier One status,” McClanahan said. “A great, world-class city has great, world-class public universities. The city of Houston needs UH to be a Tier One university.”

McClanahan also spoke of his ascent up the ranks of CenterPoint after receiving his MBA at UH Bauer nearly 40 years ago. Little did he know, he said, that he would eventually work his way up to lead the entire company. He attributed his success to the education and training he received in his college years and a lot of hard work.

“The education gave me confidence, and that’s very important in the business world. You have to be confident,” McClanahan said. “I always worked hard. My bosses could always count on me. Even if I didn’t know what I was doing, they didn’t know it.”

McClanahan has help to build CenterPoint into a company composed of an electric transmission and distribution utility serving the Houston metropolitan area, local natural gas distribution businesses in six states, a competitive natural gas sales and service business serving customers in the eastern half of the U.S., interstate pipeline operations with two natural gas pipelines in the mid-continent region and a field services business with natural gas gathering operations, also in the mid-continent region.

The nation’s energy landscape is shifting, he said, with utilities playing a major role in that change.

“I think natural gas is a big part of the solution for the future, but the demand for electricity is still going up. We’re still going to need a lot more electricity,” McClanahan said.

Members of DLS presenting sponsor Sequent Energy Management, along with Bauer Interim Dean Latha Ramchand (right), welcomed McClanahan to campus.


Though the utilities infrastructure does not deal with the actual gathering of the resources, it is responsible for providing the intelligence on how to implement the natural gas.

“The role of utility is of an enabler. We’re not drilling the well; we’re getting the gas to the marketplace,” McClanahan said. “When I look into the future, we’re going to be more efficient and more effective in the use of energy. We’re going to tap into renewable energy, and the cleanest fuel is natural gas, so we ought to use it now. If you’re worried about climate change this is where we ought to turn to.”

With the recent natural disaster and subsequent nuclear scare in Japan forcing the rest of the world to rethink nuclear energy, McClanahan said he firmly believes that natural gas is now the best solution for the nation’s energy future.

“In our gas distribution utilities, we serve 3.3 million; we promote the direct use of natural gas,” he added. “They are the most efficient. We push it on the energy service business and also on the electric utility.”

McClanahan wrapped up the event with some more advice for students — it’s not just about getting a degree; it’s also about being well-rounded, getting involved and distinguishing yourself.

“When we look at a student, we look at what the student has done with their career – involvement and innovation,” said McClanahan. “Marrying that technical background with a business degree is perfect. You need to understand the technology and you need to understand business.”

By Ryan Tang