By Killian Beeler
Pete Cook founded and runs two companies: The Petroleum Connection and The Brewing & Distilling Network. Prior to starting these companies, Pete spent over 20 years at US Inspect, a national residential & commercial inspection company. He helped start and rapidly grow their commercial division. Pete also served as director of acquisitions, where he acquired dozens of inspection firms throughout the U.S. for the company. At U.S. Inspect, Pete worked with many University of Dallas grads, including his brothers Matt, B.A.’93 M.B.A. ’96, and Fr. Kevin, B.A. ‘94, his wife Hollie (formerly Husmann),B.A. ’98, Rob Whitworth, B.A. ’91 M.A. ’93, Pablo Gomez, B.A. ’95, Kathleen (Linton)Lagarde B.A. ’98, Norah Smith B.A. ’98, Fr. James Searby B.A. ’95, and several others. Pete is a former vice president of the UD National Alumni Board. At UD, Pete played on the men’s basketball and soccer teams.
Pete and Hollie live on a farm near South Bend, Ind. with their seven children. When not working, helping Hollie homeschool, chasing kids, reading, changing diapers or renovating their century-old farmhouse, Pete raises donkeys, chickens, ducks, grass-fed cattle and a pot-bellied pig. Pete is also active in his parish and several charitable organizations.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your two companies: What inspired you to found them, and how, specifically, your UD education has informed and facilitated the work you do.
The Petroleum Connection puts on conferences on niche topics related to hydraulic fracturing in North America. The Brewing & Distilling Network was founded to help craft brewers develop and implement [the] best practices, with a particular focus on business operations, finance and investment.
I founded The Petroleum Connection because I wanted to work for myself, spend more time with my growing family and start farming. While The Petroleum Connection has been successful, during the oil and gas downturn, I recognized the value of having a conference business serving another industry to balance my risk. The fast-growing craft beer industry had a void in quality business conferences. I realized I could fill a real need there, and get access to some great beer.
My UD education has been vital for my business success. It has enabled me to be able to think critically, communicate effectively and to operate my company in an ethical manner. I have no idea where I would be without UD. At US Inspect, senior leadership recognized the value of a UD education and we recruited heavily from UD, Thomas Aquinas College and similar schools.
Q: Along with your two business, you run a small family farm. What drew you to this agrarian life?
I grew up on a hobby farm just outside of Boston, and Hollie grew up on much larger farms in the Texas Panhandle. We wanted to raise our kids in that type of environment. It gives the kids a chance to learn responsibility — through their chores — and it enables them to understand where their food comes from. In addition to food from our garden, fruit trees, beef cows, meat chickens and eggs, we get our fresh milk and pork from some local Amish farmers and a lot of our fruit from u-pick orchards. We also have many of our own fruit trees: apples, pears, cherries, crab apples, etc. It gives the kids an appreciation for quality food, and a love of cooking. We hope to add bees to the farm this spring.
Q: As a craft beer lover, what’s your favorite style of beer? Any specific recommendations?
I know IPAs are all the rage, but personally I don’t enjoy hoppy beers. I love stouts, porters, red ales and some great craft ciders. Recommendations? For UDers: the AugustinerBräu in Salzburg! Still my favorite beer in the world. As far as craft beers: Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout Nitro, St. Arnold’s Divine Reserve No. 17 (a Baltic Porter), or, of course, a Shiner is always good!
Q: Favorite UD memory?
I’d have to say meeting Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, quite by accident, during my Rome semester in the fall of 1989. That was a life-changing experience.
Q: What advice would you give to current UD students, especially to seniors entering their last semester?
Don’t underestimate the value of your UD education. Some potential employers may not recognize it, but you are better prepared for the workforce than 99 percent of your peers. You can grasp difficult concepts faster, you can think critically, you can communicate better and you can make moral decisions. There isn’t anything more important to a company than to have employees who can do those things, even if the HR people don’t realize it. Don’t worry. Find an industry you enjoy, start out doing the grunt work, work hard, and you’ll do very well.