Howard Karren

Howard Karren 85, An Aggie who saw the world

Howard Karren, a member of the Class of ‘51 of Texas A&M would be the first person to tell you how lucky a life he lived. He had everything he ever wanted, from his family that he adored to the opportunities and experiences of being able to travel for the last 60 years to over a 100 countries on 6 continents.

Howard had titles such as: Member of the Texas A&M Corp of Cadets, US Army Lieutenant, Geologist, Head of Exploration, President, Chairman and Sonoma County Wine Grape Grower. However, he was most proud of his titles as: Husband, Father and Grandfather.  His family, his wife Peggy, his sons, Charles, Geoff, his daughter in law Diana and his grandchildren Christian and Grace meant more to him than anything in the world. He would and did everything for them and he is already greatly missed.

Howard Karren began his life in 1930, in Corpus Christi, Texas to Charles Henry Karren, and Jeannie Karren of Ft. Worth, Texas.  He was the middle child with his older brother Sidney and his younger brother Jerry. Howard graduated from Texas A&M University in 1951 with a degree in Geosciences and then served in the US Army from 1952 to 1954 as a First Lieutenant at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  Following his service in the US Army and a stint at the University of Texas to study Petroleum Engineering, Howard embarked on what would be a 45 year career in the oil and gas business.

Over the course of his career, Howard negotiated oil development rights and partnership agreements in every major oil and gas producing region in the world. There was not a corner of the globe that he did not touch. He has also managed onshore operations in Canada, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Italy, Syria, Egypt, and Kazakhstan and offshore operations in the North Sea, Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, India and Trinidad.

Never shy to look at a deal or meet with potential partners, Howard was fearless and would travel into deepest Sub-Saharan Africa, the Soviet Union tundra, the Libyan desert and the Australian outback to look at deals. He was shot at in Yemen, narrowly missed being killed when his plane blew up in Nigeria and had to avoid terrorists in the Colombian jungle. He also pioneered one of the first Arab-Israeli energy deals as part of the peace process in the mid 1990s working directly with then Prime Minister of Israel and the Emir of Qatar.

Howard also worked with legendary oil folks from J. Paul Getty, Armand Hammer, the Ambanis of India, the Al-Nayans in Abu Dhabi and the CEOs of the major oil companies to name just a few.  He has met and negotiated with Presidents, Sheikhs, Emirs, Prime Ministers and all kinds of government Ministers.  He has also collaborated with multiple US agencies like the White House, Departments of State, Treasury, Energy, Commerce and it can now be told, during the Cold War, on his own time, he continued to serve the United States by helping the CIA in evaluating Soviet Oil & Gas geology and production.

Most importantly, Howard was a proud American. He loved his country, grateful for what it gave him and he never took what he had for granted. When he was traveling around the world, he never forgot that people would make judgments about the United States based on their interactions with him and he therefore conducted himself with the highest degree of integrity, honesty and humbleness.  It was this reputation that allowed him to not only succeed where most people failed, but also allowed both of his sons to live and travel internationally.  If they were Howard Karren’s sons, then they can be trusted as the Karren name was good enough for them.

In 1965, Howard married the love of his life, Margaret “Peggy” Parker of Austin, Texas.  Together, they had two sons, Charles born in London and Geoff in Houston.  Over the course of their 51 years together, they lived in London, Houston, San Francisco, Glen Ellen and College Station.  Howard was very proud that not only did he get to travel, but that he was able to take Peggy, and his sons with him around the world. For Peggy, her travels allowed her to begin an extensive world class antique collection and then an antique business in San Francisco. For his sons, this international exposure allowed them to succeed in their careers, Charles lived in the Middle East and now travels the world, leading the Oil & Gas team for Oracle, the technology company in San Francisco and Geoff, lived in China and now travels the world as he does global macro-economic investing for Passport Capital, the hedge fund in San Francisco.

Howard began his career with Shell, and worked for Monsanto, Hudson Bay Oil, Natomas, Houston Natural Gas which became EOG Resources and Chaparral Resources. After his retirement in 1999, Howard embarked on a new career, that of a Sonoma County Winegrape Grower.  Howard managed 15 vintages of his Karren Vineyard.  Howard worked very hard and was the embodiment of what it takes to be a successful wine grower as he personally tended the vineyard by hand as he would prune, sucker, train the vines as well as hoe, do leaf removal, green fruit removal and finally harvest. He would laugh: “yes, I could hire someone, but I like doing it.” Every year, including this last vintage of 2015, he would personally sort and load the Cabernet grapes into the truck and for many years, he would drive the grapes himself down to the winery in Glen Ellen.

Howard is survived by his wife of 51 years Peggy, his sons Geoff of San Francisco, Charles of Sonoma County, California, his daughter in law Diana and his grandchildren, Christian and Grace.  He is also survived by his brother Jerry, his sister in law Marilyn, brother Sidney’s widow Ruth, Peggy’s sister Julie, a host of nephews, nieces and friends.

Howard was very proud of the accomplishments of Peggy, his sons and grandchildren. He loved his family more than anything.  He would never admit it, but the proudest accomplishment in his life—is that he came from Texas A&M, where he was the first generation in his family to go to college, became a geologist and then had one of the most exciting careers in one of the most fascinating industries. He used what he learned at Texas A&M to have a successful life—both professionally and personally. He incorporated the Corp’s motto of Respect, Leadership, Integrity, Loyalty, Excellence and Selfless Service. His degree from Texas A&M not only made a difference in his life, but that of his family, the generation that will follow them and the many friends he worked with around the world.

Finally, Howard also believed in giving back.  Both Peggy and Howard gave to numerous charities over their lives.  However, his favorite cause is Texas A&M.  Howard and Peggy endowed two professorships and also supported three students with Presidential and Corp of Cadets endowed scholarships.  In his honor, we ask that in lieu of flowers, any gift shall be directed to the Howard Karren Fund at the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, TX, 77840

Other than being with his Family, nothing made Howard happier than being in Aggieland and cheering on not only his favorite Aggie teams, but the faculty, staff and students as they set out to change the world. As you read this, please do a Gig’em, not for him, but for Texas A&M.  That would make Howard very happy.

Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, February 6, 2016 in the Chapel at The Aggie Field of Honor in the Memorial Cemetery of College Station.

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  1. Peggy,
    So sorry to learn of the passing of your husband. May you be comforted by beautiful memories of your lives together and prayers.
    Carol Ann Kearney Laubach

  2. Blessings to you and yours from the Braziels. We are so sorry to hear about the news of your dear husband. Please know that we in the class of ’56 are thinking of you and your family. May God hold you tightly in the palm of His hand.

    In His love and ours,
    John and Kay Pinckney Braziel

  3. I am distraught, Peggy; I cannot imagine what happened….I just received the obituary today from Skip and Jeanne Johnson, whom we know from Breckenridge summers. I do so wish we could be in College Station tomorrow to be with you, Charles, Diana and Geoff. We are grieving with you and will hold you all in our hearts….Howard was such a big part of our lives….I am so very sorry and so very sad. We love you, pat parker freeburg 5 February 2016

  4. Think of you today. Know you are sad but glad you have your family there to comfort you. I married an Aggie the second time and was always impressed by the values instilled in them thru A&M. It’s a great institution.

  5. Dear Peggy,

    Tom and I are in San Miguel and just learned from Patty Powell via email about Howard’s passing. We of corse were shocked having seen how well he looked at Christmas time.

    We have many wonderful memories of the times that we shared with you and Howard over the years. Our thoughts are with you and your family during this sad time.

  6. Peggy, I have spent the last week in doctors offices. I am fine, it just took awhile to prove it. I am just now seeing Keith’s e-mail and getting the sad news. My heart goes out to you and your family. I really enjoyed the visits I had with Howard. They were few, but they left a great impression. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  7. So sudden! Howard was a true gentleman in the old fashioned way — fair, honorable, steady and respectful of all. Sonoma Valley has lost a valued voice.

  8. Dear Peggy, having just barely made your acquaintance as a neighbor, I’m greatly distressed to learn of Howard’s sudden death. i had been looking forward to spending more time getting to know you both. As i read of Howard’s achievements, i’m amazed at what he accomplished.
    I will have him in my prayers. John Cozad, 55′

  9. Dear Peggy, John and I are so sorry to hear of Howard’ passing and your loss. We send our love to you at this time of sadness and mourning. We will keep you in our prayers. Love Barbara and John

  10. Dear Peggy,
    We just returned from San Francisco back to Winter Park and learned of the loss of Howard through Paula and Mike today.
    We are so sad. We will keep Howard in our prayers.
    He was truly an outstanding person and loving partner in your life.
    Love, Joanne and Newt

  11. Dear Peggy,
    Betty and were very saddened to learn of Howard’s recent death.. He was a very fine and accomplished person. Although we had not seen much of you both in recent years, we will all miss him very much. I am sorry that we were not able to come to College Station for the Service. Our best wishes for you and your family.
    Very sincerely,
    Betty and Walter

  12. Dear Peggy, Charles & Geoff,
    Now that I am retired, I have been online looking up my former bosses – and was so sorry to hear of Howard’s/your dad’s passing. I was his executive secretary in Houston and San Francisco. In fact, Peggy, you were instrumental in my going to San Francisco to work with Howard at Natomas. It was lovely to read how accomplished and well-traveled Charles and Geoff have become and about your successful antique business. In fact, I still have and cherish the antique butterfly pictures you gave to me – they have a special place in my living room. All members of your family were so very kind to me and I look back on that time and work experience with fondness and gratefulness. Howard was a kind and great boss and helped me widen my horizons and learn about the oil and gas business. It was a privilege to work for him.

    Kind regards,
    Shirley Ann Stucky
    2820 Savannah Court
    Waco, TX 76710

  13. Dear Peg of my heart,
    Howard was what they mean in Texas when they call someone a real man. He was your man and
    he certainly loved you. It was so obvious . I was lucky to be your friend and to be with you both
    as a couple . It was never dull. My life has been so enriched by our friendship. I love you.