About the Author

Photo of me, at Point Reyes, CA


My name is Phil Gavenda. I was born November 9, 1958 in a strange land far away, but my parents rushed me home so I could be a Texan. I've grown up here in Austin, Texas, where I still live. I spent most of my youth playing baseball (even attaining All-District honors in 1976), and always wanted to do that-but things didn't work out that way.

After high school, I attended the University of Texas as a physics major-which entailed studying, which didn't fit in with my lifestyle, so they kindly asked me to leave for a few years. I worked as an apartment painter, a go-fer at KLRN-TV (the PBS affiliate on campus), at 7-11, and as a janitor during and after those early school years. Then one day my dad told me about an ad in the paper for people with two years of physics or geology to work offshore. I interviewed for the job (sans tie) and a few weeks later found myself 165 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico with a company now known as Schlumberger/Anadrill. The money was awfully good, but I really disliked the schedule--about 80% of the year I was on the rig. It's hard to quit a high-paying job though. But when the price of oil collapsed, and the drilling industry went into a tailspin, I finally got laid off after six years in the oil patch.(Here is a series of pictures from those days.)

This was actually something of a relief. Seeing as how I had a pocketful of money, no debts, a nice car etc... I dedicated the next bit of my life to retirement. I played a lot of golf--about two rounds per day. After tiring of that, I took a vacation from retirement and took a long six-week trip to California-backpacking and car camping on the way and back.

Not too long after I returned, I decided to fulfill a promise to myself and return to school, which I did in the spring of 1987. I had promised myself to study something I enjoyed, so I majored in History. It took a bit of doing to erase my previous bad grades, but I did for the most part, and earned my BA in 1989. Then I enrolled in Graduate School at UT, having been turned down by Virginia and accepted by LSU and UT. Financially it was a bit difficult without departmental support, as any graduate student can tell you. I earned my Masters degree in 1993. My area is American history, mainly Southern history, and more particularly political ante-bellum history--the coming of the War, Manifest Destiny, and all that. My Masters was a political biography of Richard T. Archer, a wealthy Mississippi planter whose records turned up in the Natchez-Trace collection at the Center for American History at UT a few years back. I intended to complete my PhD, but financial considerations made that problematic-an appendectomy the week before my commencement took me over two years to pay off. With no financial support from the department in sight, I moved from my part-time job at the Office of Admissions to a full-time one. Although I'd completed most of the course work necessary for a PhD, I just didn't see a possibility of taking the time to prepare for major orals, etc... And the job market for History PhD's is pretty abysmal.

So, I'm a computer programmer at UT. The language we use is NATURAL, a very high-level way of talking to ADABAS. I also do some web design and help our Mainframe talk to the World Wide Web. Also, I'm responsible for maintaining the campus-wide document imaging system.

My father has been a Physics professor at the University of Texas my entire life, so I've always had some connection with UT (shown here). Mom is a tennis player who routinely whips women one-third her age. My brother is a computer book author and editor, as well as choirmaster at St. Clement's in Berkeley. His wife Linda is the music director there. Not surprisingly, at their recent wedding the Rector announced, "We interrupt this concert to bring you a wedding."

My brilliant and talented niece Emma is, well, brilliant and talented.

I've always had a healthy appreciation of the outdoors. I've been going to Big Bend for over thirty years (see px). During my time in the oil field, I started taking hiking and backpacking trips to Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. That's still about my favorite thing to do, but my poor grad school days put a damper on most travel.

I manage to backpack about once a year. In 2002, I spent three weeks through-hiking the John Muir Trail in California.

I can be reached via e-mail at phil.gavenda@utexas.edu

Created 7/4/97
last updated 10/20/2003 [an error occurred while processing this directive]