hen Dan Pena was 22 years-old, he made a personal commitment to success. Now founder, chairman and CEO of Great Western Resources Inc. based in Houston, Texas, he is on the roster of Who’s Who in America and has been the subject of feature articles in the Los Angeles Times, Sunday Tel egrapli. Financial Times and The Sunday Times in England. Pena was keynote speaker at the International Trade Conference, held March 2, 1990 at CSUN.
Pena graduated from Reseda High School in 1963. He attended CSUN as a niath and engineering student until he went into the army in 1966.
While serving as a security officer for NATO forces in Europe, Pena was responsible for “hundreds of millions of dollars in budgets. That coupled with the fact that it was the first time that I was academically and physically stretched, I saw that I could accomplish more than people thought,” he said.
He returned to CSUN in 1969 and changed his major to business management. “I got into an accelerated program, taking as many as 28 units a semester and 15 units in summer school.” He also took classes at UCLA and held a part-time job. “You have to force yourself to be organized,” Pena said.
After graduation in January 1971 he took a job with a real estate investment company. In less than a year he became sales manager, earning a six-figure income. When the company folded, he was shocked. “My first taste of success had exploded in my face. Now I needed success more than ever,” he said.
Pena became a stockbroker and a financial planner. i-fe was vice president of Bear Stearns & Co., where he advised major U.S. and international clients. He then became chairman of J.P.K. Industries Inc., a vertically integrated energy company.
His most exciting professional accomplishment was founding his present company, Great Western Resources lnc.,in 1982 with $840. The energy company is now worth $450-$500 million. Great Western operates in 22 states and the Gulf of Mexico and is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange.
His wife, Linda Sewall Pena, a CSUN alumna, says that his success is no surprise to her. “When I met him, I knew that he would definitely make his mark. I have always been his greatest supporter. There was a major business tragedy in our life, but I never thought that maybe we had better take a safer road,” she said.
Pena looks at Great Western not as a job or a career, but as a “way of life. Every conscious moment of the day is devoted to Great Western Resources, and probably when I sleep, too,” he said.
Being in the energy business, Pena voices concern over our nations limited natural resources. “I think this nation has to formulate an energy policy. We import over 46 percent of the oil we use, which is one percent worse than when we had the first oil embargo in 1973. Since 1980, 5,000 oil and gas corn-flies have gone out of business. The public is driving bigger cars again and people seem to have forgotten the long gas lines.
“Saudi Arabia has 200-300 years of oil left at current production rates. We have eight years of energy supply in this country. We have 400 years of coal reserves and coal is not popular unless it is low-sulpher. A student in Econ 101 can figure it out.”
Major international oil companies are “cutting back their oil exploration and production budgets in the U.S. anywhere from 50-85 percent and going foreign. The oil companies are going where they can get more bangs for their buck and the (foreign) governments help them.” As the major companies pull out of the United States, it creates a vacuum for independents to filI,”Pena said. “The market they’re leaving here is plenty big for Great Western to go from a $500 million company to a $5 billion company.”
Pena advises current students “to stretch themselves, academically, as much as they can. Instead of taking an elective that you know you’re going to get an A in, take physics. Take the hardest way through instead of the easiest way. See what you are made of,” he added.
“The only difference between going to Harvard or Princeton and going to CSUN,” he said, “is that the people from those other institutionsarcautomatically perceived to be very bright. When YOU go to a school where you have to explain the name, you are not perceived as very bright, even if you come in with a 4.0. Within the first year everything evens out, assuming that the kid who went to CSUN stretched himself or herself.
“As I told President Cleary, after almost 20 years, each year that goes by, I appreciate the opportunity that I had here and the education that I got here, more than I did when I first graduated,” rena said. “You learn to value what you have learned.”