Alabama Professor’s Pep Talk on Leadership Propels Culpepper’s Career
The University of Alabama empowered Bruce Culpepper to move from a small rural town to launch a career in human resources – a career that took him to the position of U.S. country chair and president of Shell Oil Co. in April 2016.
“I grew up in Fyffe, Alabama, a small farming rural community,” said Culpepper, who graduated from UA in 1981 with a degree in human resources management. “Coming out of high school I really didn’t have a plan for my life. I went to junior college for year, realized I had to do something with myself, came here as a sophomore, more out of fear than preparation. I ended up doing pretty good academically, and I fell in love with the University. I was always a fan. Thanks to a lot of encouragement from a lot of the professors, I ended up doing well here and enjoying it.”
Shortly after graduating, Culpepper began his 30-plus year career with Shell at the Norco Manufacturing Complex in Louisiana. Since then, he has served in a number of leadership positions of increasing responsibility and scope – both internationally and in the United States.
In this current role, he is charged with establishing and advocating for innovative, industry-leading solutions for securing safe, stable and sustainable energy sources. He has also led regional coordination for Shell in the Americas and currently oversees corporate reputation initiatives and social investment programs in the United States.
But it all comes back to UA. UA’s wide array of options allowed him to change his career path – and find success along the way.
“I started taking accounting courses. A year and a half into that, I realized that really wasn’t my calling. Quite by accident, I took some human resources courses. I enjoyed them, I liked them, I liked the professors that were in them. I got a degree in human resource management right about the time universities started calling it that, versus labor and personnel.”
One professor he remembers as giving him confidence to succeed was Dr. Lena Prewitt, who was a leader in the business college’s human resources program and UA’s first African American female professor.
“She gave me the encouragement to step up and be a leader,” he said. “I was the president of the American Society for Personnel Administration – the little chapter we had here on campus. She had worked for big corporations and the government as well. I was a small-town boy struggling with what the wide world had to offer me and whether I had the guts to go pursue that. Dr. Prewitt would encourage me to go out and see the world and be all I could be.
Culpepper is an avid outdoorsman and has a keen interest in land and water conservation, according to his Shell biography. He serves as a board member of the Greater Houston Partnership, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Building Conservation Trust, the United Way of Greater Houston, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. He also volunteers for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.