Gustafson provides ‘three Ts’ to three worthy Houston organizations

Feb. 1, 2008
Sten Gustafson serves as the managing director of the global energy group and global head of oilfield services at UBS.
Sten Gustafson
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Sten Gustafson serves as the managing director of the global energy group and global head of oilfield services at UBS. While not a native Texan, he and his wife now consider Texas their home. “We feel very much a part of the community and have been very blessed and therefore feel the need to give back,” he said.

‘Giving back’ takes the form of, in his words, “the three Ts: time, treasures, and talents.” Gustafson applies this principal to three separate organizations in the Houston community.

For him, getting involved was easy. Gustafson and his wife, a local attorney, are both graduates of Rice University. “The opera is something I’ve been involved in literally since I was a student at Rice. They have for many years, and continue to, strive to broaden the audience for the opera and create a pipeline,” he said. The university provides packages for students to get involved with season tickets. “I’ve literally had season tickets since I was a student at rice,” he continued.

While the Houston Grand Opera has always been of interest to him, he became a member of the board about five years ago. At that time, Anadarko’s Jim Hackett was the opera’s chairman. Being a respected member of the industry, Gustafson sought Hackett’s guidance when deciding to get involved in philanthropic efforts. To ensure fulfillment, Hackett advised Gustafson to get involved in something he was truly interested in and passionate about, something he would want to spend time on.

Since that time, Gustafson has been actively serving on the opera’s board and has been involved in strategic planning, including the recent search for a new opera director.

In addition to his interest in the arts, the Houston business community itself was a great motivator to get involved. Gustafson describes a “complete intertwining of business community and philanthropic community” in the Houston area. “You’d be hard pressed to find an energy executive that isn’t involved in something,” he said.

Through a friend and colleague he was introduced to the Family Services of Greater Houston. The umbrella organization is one of Houston’s oldest non-profit social service organizations. Currently, the agency provides individual and family counseling, substance abuse prevention and education, parent resources and marriage education, school-based services, family and senior care management services, and HIV/AIDS care management.

Its mission is to strengthen individuals, families, and communities through the provision of preventive, supportive, and therapeutic services. Over 59,000 clients were helped in 2007.

Most recently, Gustafson became involved in Boys and Girls Country. The organization provides housing for children from families in crisis and provides them with opportunities to prepare them for a successful life. Gustafson describes it as the classic ‘hand up, not a hand out’ opportunity. It “teaches responsibility and discipline in a loving and supportive environment,” he continued.

In addition to the 88 children who live on campus, Boys and Girls Country supports 60 students who have graduated and are in the college and career program. The organization provides financial support for college or trade school, a home during college breaks or summer until they are launched into a first job, and parental guidance all along their journey.

“Some come when they’re 9 and 10 and stay all the way through high school. Oftentimes the first in the family to go to college,” he explained.

Gustafson is a firm believer in the organization for its ‘take charge’ approach. It’s the “wildcatter way of just taking charge,” he said. “We’re not going to sit around and wait for someone else to figure out the situation. We’re going to create a solution,” he concluded.

Providing time, treasures, and talents to three worthy Houston institutions has truly made Gustafson and his wife integral members of the Houston community.

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Mikaila Adams
Associate Editor –OGFJ