Founded in 1981 by Raymond Plank, the Ucross Foundation provides a rare gift in today's world – uninterrupted time – along with work space and living accommodations, to competitively selected visual artists, writers, and composers.


"Let the big sky expand your dreams," said novelist Patricia Chao after her residency at the Ucross Foundation. 

Located on a 20,000-acre ranch in the wide open spaces of northeastern Wyoming, Ucross is a magical setting for individual creative work, reflection, innovation and dreaming. 

Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza, Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath – these are just a few of the acclaimed works that have been created in part during Ucross residencies.


IN THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY, there are many exciting tales of wildcat discoveries. This memoir of Raymond Plank’s methodical leadership in building Apache Corporation to a $50 billion global oil and gas company tells a more subtle and widely relevant story.

Plank’s parents instilled essential values that have served as his lifelong compass, his father urging him to “try to make a very small difference on behalf of others.” Steeled as a bomber pilot in the Pacific, Plank graduated from Yale in 1946 and considered his business future. Invited to join his father’s printing business, he chose instead to pursue an independent path.

Apache sprang from Plank’s successful accounting and tax practice in the Twin Cities. When the 32-year old Plank uncovered fraud in an oil and gas investment, the investors so admired his integrity and diligence that they asked him not only to clean up the program but to expand it. With this mandate, in 1954 Apache was born. It grew by carefully studying opportunities in tax and corporate structuring as well as in geology.  Significant discoveries in Wyoming and Oklahoma, and transactions with Shell, Occidental Petroleum, Dow Chemical, and Amoco, augmented by breakthrough exploration initiatives in Australia, Egypt, and China, led to more than 5,000 employees and nearly 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

This book chronicles the innovations Plank brought to bear in the growth of Apache Corporation and his fostering of life- long learning. It demonstrates that Raymond Plank has made a very meaningful difference in the lives of others.


RAYMOND PLANK’S life bears witness to the benefits of lifetime learning.  Born in 1922, he served as a bomber pilot in the Pacific in World War II before returning to graduate from Yale. 

Back in his native Minneapolis, he founded an accounting and tax service that was transformed when it took on management of oil and gas investment programs. Under Plank’s management, Apache Corporation became one of the world’s top independent oil and gas exploration and production companies, with global operations and a market capitalization surpassing $50 billion. Along the way Plank created the legal and tax framework for master limited partnerships, devised new approaches to convertible debentures, and oversaw the computerization of oil- royalty reporting systems.

Apache’s success allowed Plank to found significant new philanthropies.

Now ninety-two, Plank resides outside Sheridan, Wyoming. 

of Raymond Plank



All proceeds from the sale of 
A Small Difference benefit the Ucross Foundation

Purchase your copy by clicking either link above

 Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students and on their school communities.

The Fund for Teachers is the brainchild of Raymond Plank, founder and retired Chairman of the Board of Houston-based Apache Corporation. Mr. Plank best describes the "why" of creating the foundation.

"Growing up in the Midwest, the most important influence in my life other than my father was a man named Noah Foss. He was a Latin teacher, a towering figure who inspired, challenged and motivated countless young men at the small country day school I attended in the 1930s. But for Foss, who gave me the focus and self-respect I needed, I wouldn't have received an honors score on my college entrance exams. And, almost certainly, I never would have gone to Yale.

There are many Noah Fosses in this country; teachers who each day inspire, challenge and shape young lives in countless ways. A decade ago I began a modest grant program in Minnesota to reward deserving grades K-12 teachers who wanted a chance to enhance their skills, stimulate their minds, and bring new-found excitement back into the classroom. A chance to study volcanoes in Hawaii. Architecture in Florence. Language in Chile.

The time has now come to broaden this program to a national effort. The Fund for Teachers rewards promise, creativity and dedication. Our grants are based solely on merit. And they reflect a goal my father often spoke of - to make this world a little better off than it was before."

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