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GEM’s Gems July 2014 – Col. John Turner, Ph.D.

July 31, 2014
Col. John Turner, Ph.D., former Executive Director of the Global Energy Management (GEM) Program at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, enjoying retirement in Sarasota, Florida.

Col. John Turner, Ph.D., former Executive Director of the Global Energy Management (GEM) Program at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, is enjoying retirement in Sarasota, Florida.

Col. John Turner, Ph.D., former Executive Director of the Global Energy Management (GEM) Program at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, served the United States Air Force for 35 years.

“I had the pleasure and honor of being a squadron commander, a comptroller, the director of economics, a financial fraud investigator, a capital budgeting analyst, and many years being a kind of ‘fixer’ where they would send me places to solve problems and develop and implement new programs the Air Force wanted done,” he said. “It was a very interesting and fun career.”

Turner has been stationed in Texas, Missouri, Florida, Illinois, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Alabama. He enlisted in the military directly out of high school in 1960 when he was 17 years old.

“I spent four years enlisted, all in Duluth, Minnesota, which I discovered is the coldest place on the planet,” he joked.

At the end of Turner’s first tour, the Air Force asked him to re-enlist. He agreed to continue his service as long as the recruiter met his two conditions:

“First, I want to be entered into the Airman’s Education Commissioning Program where the Air Force sends you to a university of your choice and commissions you a Second Lieutenant upon graduation,” Turner said. “[Secondly] I wanted to be transferred out of Duluth, Minnesota. The recruiter said they could do that. I asked where would they send me and he said Thule, Greenland. I decided to get out and put myself through college.”

Turner graduated from Ball State University in 1967, with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and then went on to attain a master’s degree in economics, also from Ball State University. In 1973, he applied for a direct commission in the Missouri Air National Guard, was accepted, and served one more year enlisted. He was then awarded a direct commission as a Second Lieutenant.

In 1979, Turner received a doctorate degree in economics from St. Louis University. In 1996, he earned a second master’s degree in national security analysis from The Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He retired from the Air Force in 2002 at the rank of Colonel (O-6).

Upon his retirement in 2002, he moved back to Denver and began teaching economics and finance full-time at the University of Colorado Denver Business School.

What do you enjoy most about the energy industry?

The people. People are everything. Without them, you cannot accomplish much of anything. I found people in the energy industry to be highly industrious and entrepreneurial, which I loved very much. Along with the people, actually building the GEM program was the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of my association with the energy industry. However, it is important to give credit where credit is due. Without the support of the energy industry and my superb GEM staff as well the faculty and administration at CU Denver, the GEM Program would never have come into existence. GEM was the first program ever designed specifically to provide industry employees with management and leadership education and skills tailored specifically to the energy industry itself. Most every other business degree is more generic in nature, readily adaptable to many different industries. GEM is the only degree program specifically designed to provide the business skills needed to successfully run energy companies. It is also designed for both experienced energy industry employees and people wanting to move into the industry.

The success of GEM, and more importantly, the success of GEM’s graduates is the crowing point of my life. And, I will unequivocally state that my success, and the success of the GEM Program and its graduates is not due to me. Rather, it is due to the people I was smart enough to select to run and administer the GEM Program. They are the ones who did all the hard work and put in all the effort to make it happen. Listing the real heroes and leaders of GEM, in the order that I recall hiring them are Sarah Derdowski, Catherine Steffek, Sarah Loughran, Lizzy McNaney-Juster, Michele Motley and Katie Looby, and taking my place: Jim Marchiori. These are the people who have made the GEM Program the success it is for the industry and all the students and graduates of the program. I, as I like to say, was just the “pretty face” out front (admittedly, there are those that might challenge that particular metaphor). In addition, I would also like to thank Dean Sueann Ambron and Associate Deans JC Bosch and Cliff Young as well as the entire faculty and staff at the Business School who were so helpful and supportive as we built the program.

What were some of your favorite things to do during cohort weekends?

Talking with the students. Getting to know them. Hearing their stories. Working with them and the GEM staff on any administrative issues or concerns that came up. Overall, GEM is about people and helping them achieve their education and career goals. That is what always brought me the most enjoyment during cohort weekends.

Is there anything else new in your life that you would like to add?

In June of last year, I realized I had accomplished the three things I had set out to do five years earlier. First, to get the GEM program, designed, approved, staffed and implemented. Second, to make it the best energy leadership and management program in the industry. Third, recruit, train and turn the program over to the best staff in the world and allow them to take it to the next higher level. Those goals were accomplished. Therefore, I concluded it was time to get down off the horse and let others ride it. So, on October 17 of last year, I officially retired.

Once I announced to my family my intention to retire, they all asked me to move to Florida where most of them reside. In addition, over the years many of my friends moved there as well. So, in August of last year, I bought a home in Sarasota, Florida, and moved there when my retirement from CU Denver and GEM became official last October. It is good to be with family and old friends I have there. I am enjoying it immensely. Sarasota is right on the Gulf of Mexico about half way down the peninsula. So, now instead of working, I spend my time walking on the beach, stopping and having a relaxing drink at a beach bar, listening to Jimmy Buffet songs, watching the bright red Florida sun slowly set into the Gulf of Mexico and savoring 80-degree winters. As that happens, I think: “Wonder what all my dear friends in GEM and Denver are doing right now?” Then, I smile and order another drink.



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