After a unanimous vote, the governing body of the Noble Research Institute has appointed a familiar face, Steven Rhines as CEO.
Rhines has been employed by Noble since 2001, and most recently served in the capacity of vice president, general counsel and director of public affairs. While Rhines is honored to work in his new capacity, his path to the top has been unconventional.
A native of Antlers, Rhines attended the University of Oklahoma where he majored in mechanical engineering.
“After I graduated I worked in the defense industry for a couple of summers, and then I decided that might not be my calling,” Rhines said. “Then I went to law school at SMU with the original intention of being a patent attorney.
After spending a few years with a law firm in Dallas, he and his wife Debbie had triplet sons Andrew, Thomas and Grant in 1999.
“It was about a year later, and my wife had spent the summer up here in Ardmore because that’s where my mother-in-law lives,” Rhines said. “As fate would have it, I was late to a doctor’s appointment for the children, and my wife, who is an absolute saint, suggested that maybe we look for a different employment opportunity.”
As it turns out there was an opening at the time with Noble, and Rhines said it was as if he had written the job description for himself.
“Depending on where your faith is at, there is a reason I ran into this job opportunity at that time when we needed it, and we see it as such,” Rhines said.
While the position was tailor-made for Rhines, there was one major problem - at the time he had no experience with biology. “Not even in high school,” Rhines said.
However the president at the time saw Rhines as a person who was always learning, and someone who would be able to pick up what he needed about the field of biology. Rhines lived up to those expectations.
“I started here on March 1, 2001,” Rhines said. “Because of the position, which was really the only legal representative for the institute, there was no sector of this organization that I didn’t become a part of. Now I know this organization like the back of my hand.”
Rhines said part of what he likes the most about working at the Noble Research Institute is the long history of the organization.
“There are lots of corporations and nonprofits in this world but there are very few that start with the selflessness of one man, Lloyd Noble.” Rhines said. “He saw that this area was losing its grip on its ability to manage its soil. He knew for a fact that it wasn’t because people consciously made wrong decisions, they just needed help. It didn’t come in the form of government subsidies. It didn’t come in the form of providing them money. It came through knowledge. That’s what we’ve been doing since 1945. It’s working with farmers and ranchers to give knowledge and then also working with scientists to answer questions as to the problems we don’t know the answers to.”
Rhines said the institute wants to continue focusing on farmers and ranchers.
“Everything that we do is for them,” Rhines said. “Whether it’s consulting and knowledge transfer, whether it’s research out in the field to answer questions they may have, or whether it’s fundamental science that we may be doing in the laboratory. Our ultimate focus is on the producer and their success.”