Obituary: Frank Jungers, 1926 - 2023
Former Aramco chairman and CEO oversaw Aramco’s transformation into the world’s largest oil producing company and was instrumental in the advancement of Saudis.
Frank Jungers, the company’s former chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer, has passed away on Oct. 10, at the age of 97.
Jungers’ career, starting in the late 1940s after the end of the Second World War and spanning some thirty years until his retirement in January 1978, witnessed Aramco’s dramatic transformation into the world’s largest oil producing company.
Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Aramco, said, “During his more than three decades of service with Aramco, Frank had an enormous impact not only on the company and his colleagues, but also on the country he considered his second home.
Frank was one of those very rare individuals who was at ease connecting with anyone. His intelligence, work ethic, and decisive approach, combined with his compassion for people and his conscientious nature, made him an engaging leader grounded in excellence.
— Amin Nasser
During his tenure as Board chairman and CEO, from 1973 to 1978, Jungers was a key figure in some of the most dramatic events to shape Aramco, as well as Saudi Arabia. He was at the center of the decision-making and implementation process, from the Saudi government’s push to obtain an ownership stake in the oil company to operations during the oil embargo stemming from the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Jungers was at the helm during the development of the Master Gas System, which fuels domestic industrialization and enhances electric power generation in the Eastern Province. In addition, he was a staunch advocate for development of the Saudi workforce, and oversaw the appointments of the first Saudi executives, as well as the new generation of Saudi engineers, geologists, and experts who would soon lead the company into the 21st century.
Nasser said: “Frank was instrumental in the development and advancement of Saudis in the workforce including executive management and leadership positions. He was a passionate advocate of training, developing, and realizing the true potential of Saudis, even prior to his tenure as president, CEO and chairman.”
Born in the small town of Gladstone, North Dakota in 1926, Jungers joined the company in September 1947 after serving in the U.S. Navy in the waning days of World War II, and after completing a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington at Seattle in August 1947. His first position at Aramco was as an assistant engineer in the company’s San Francisco office. In November 1949, he transferred to Saudi Arabia.
A young Aramco employee
The 23-year-old employee was assigned as a design and project engineer for the Ras Tanura Refinery, terminal, and industrial facilities. He arrived as the company was on the move — and he moved along with it. Jungers spent a total of 17 years in Ras Tanura and saw the refinery, terminal, and community develop. Refinery capacity increased and throughput jumped from 129,000 barrels daily to nearly 218,000 barrels per day.
In subsequent positions as superintendent for Maintenance and Shops in Ras Tanura and Dhahran, and later as general superintendent for the Engineering and Mechanical Services Department, Jungers developed a reputation as a man who knew Saudi workers were the key to future company success.
The Caravan Goes On
Throughout the years, Jungers regularly traveled back to the Kingdom accompanied by his wife Julie. Writing about a more recent trip to Dhahran in his 2013 autobiography, The Caravan Goes On, Jungers stated that preparing young Saudis to take on the challenges of the future “is the essence of what is required today and, despite the differences in generations, this echoes our efforts in Aramco’s early days to create a Saudi workforce that was up to the challenge of running a world-class petroleum company. The young Saudis from that era are Saudi Aramco’s leaders today, and they clearly met the challenge.”
Frank Jungers’ steady climb brought him, in late 1973, to the executive’s pinnacle — chairman of the Board and chief executive officer. Jungers stepped down to retire on Jan. 1, 1978.
Jungers will be remembered not only for the challenges he faced as CEO, but also the achievements that were accomplished during his tenure. One of the first tasks Jungers faced after he became CEO in 1973 was to confront negative press in the wake of the OPEC oil embargo, following the Arab-Israeli war. For the first time in its history, Aramco turned from its traditional low-profile role into a company willing and able to tell the world how important Arab oil is to modern society.
In addition, Jungers was involved deeply in discussion with government officials on Saudi participation in Aramco and the eventual transfer of ownership. In 1973, the government purchased a 25% stake in the company’s crude oil concession rights, and in 1974 that figure went to 60%. Full Saudi ownership was completed in 1980.
Perhaps the achievement Jungers was most proud of was his advocacy of the training and development of the Saudi workforce, from technical training for future operators to world-class education for college-bound future engineers, geologists, and scientists.
At the time of Jungers’ retirement in 1978, Saleh Qabqab an-Najrani, who once led the labor unit under Jungers in Dhahran Maintenance, described his managerial style: “He is very good with people and knows how to talk to them. I wish we had more people like him.”
Caption for top photo: Frank Jungers, shown in his office in 1973, has died at the age of 97.