The Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin will receive a $35 million gift to create an endowment aimed at bringing more of Texas’ best and brightest high school students to UT Austin.
It will be the largest gift the university has received for a scholarship endowment and will provide substantial support for 34 Cockrell School students in the first year alone.
The late T.W. “Tom” Whaley received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UT Austin in 1968 and provided the gift through a bequest. Whaley, who died in 2013, specified that his gift benefit the school’s annual giving program, called Friends of Alec, with the goal of “funding scholarships for Texans of top academic merit in the fields of engineering and science.”
The T.W. Whaley, Jr. Friends of Alec Endowed Scholarship is projected to provide $1.6 million in annual merit scholarships and fellowships and increases the school’s total scholarship and fellowship funding by 25 percent.
“Dr. Whaley’s parents instilled in him the value of an education, and he wanted young Texans to have the same opportunities to learn and contribute to their state and nation,” said Whaley’s attorney and friend David Anderson, the executor of his estate. “Most significantly, I believe he made this extraordinary gift to change these students’ lives.”
In addition to his $35 million donation, Whaley’s gift includes 700 mineral rights across 10 states, expected to yield a significant annual income for UT Austin.
“With his generosity, Dr. Whaley has forever changed the Cockrell School, and our current and future Whaley Scholars will benefit long after they graduate,” said Cockrell School Dean Sharon L. Wood. “His commitment is a testament to the strength of a UT Austin engineering education and to our ability to develop future leaders.”
Top-tier universities across the country aggressively recruit Texas’ most exceptional high school students, offering them attractive financial aid packages to attend out-of-state schools. The Whaley Scholarship and existing endowments help the Cockrell School, which U.S. News and World Report ranks No. 10 in the nation and best in the state for engineering, to recruit and provide strong support to Texas’ highest-achieving students.
“Dr. Whaley’s vision will be achieved time and time again, year after year,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “His generous bequest will provide incredible opportunities for Texas’ most talented young people, opening the door for them to remain in Texas and attend one of the world’s great engineering schools.”
Born in Lorena, Texas, in 1935, Whaley spent his childhood moving from place to place during the last years of the Great Depression. He was adopted at age 15 by parents who made education a priority. After attending the Allen Academy in Bryan, Texas, and serving in the Army, he earned two degrees at Texas A&M University before working for General Dynamics on the construction of the F-111 aircraft.
He earned his doctorate from UT Austin, where he studied signal strength of electromagnetic waves, and he was recruited by the CIA after graduation because of his expertise in antenna technology. Later, he returned to Texas to help manage his family’s farm, which he helped expand to 4,000 acres. Whaley’s wealth originated from oil and gas royalties, and it grew as he accumulated and oversaw a portfolio of stocks and bonds.
A proud Cockrell School alumnus, Whaley had a long history of supporting engineering education at UT Austin. In 1974, he became a charter member of the Friends of Alec annual giving program, named for the Cockrell School’s patron saint, Alexander Frederick Claire, known best by the nickname “Alec,” whose legend dates to 1908. Whaley continued to support Friends of Alec with yearly gifts for decades.
In 2014-15, the new endowment’s first year, 34 students from across Texas will receive Whaley Scholarships and pursue studies across all seven engineering departments at the Cockrell School.
“Scholarships and the cost of education can be the deciding factor when choosing a university,” Wood said. “I believe that Dr. Whaley recognized this, and he knew that establishing this endowment would provide long-term benefits to UT Austin, the recipients of his scholarship and the state of Texas.”
Already, the Whaley Scholarship has helped to bring several students to UT Austin who might have otherwise selected out-of-state engineering schools, Wood said.