The Terry Foundation

A little over a week ago, hundreds of college students gathered for a picnic in Winedale, TX.  The common thread among all of the students was one man choosing to invest in us.  For the past four years, Robyn and I have been doubly blessed to receive The Terry Foundation Scholarship.  It was with a heavy heart and much surprise to hear that Mr. Terry died a week before the annual picnic.  To give you a better idea of the history of Mr. Terry, here is some background information:

Howard Terry was born in Milam County in 1916. He attended the University of Texas at Austin on an athletic scholarship and earned his B.B.A. in 1938. He attended the university on a football scholarship and always credited that scholarship as one of the most important events in his life. In 1937, as captain of the Longhorns, he participated in a stunning upset victory at Baylor. That victory won Terry and his team the Grantland-Rice Award. Upon their return to Austin, Terry and the Longhorn team saw the UT Tower lit for the first time in honor of their victory.

Terry was employed by Procter & Gamble until 1942, when he entered the U.S. Navy and served as a P.T. Boat Captain in the Pacific during World War II. He later returned to Procter & Gamble, from which he was recruited to set up a chain of appliance stores, serving as General Manager until 1951. At that time, Mr. Terry went into business for himself in lumber, construction, and development, building several residential subdivisions in Texas and other states.

Over the following years, Howard Terry founded several businesses in various fields, including Business Funds, Marathon Manufacturing, Crutcher Resources, Allied Bancshares, and Farm & Home Savings. Beginning in 1979, he became a director and chairman of the executive committee of Penn Central Corp., a position he held until 1986. In 1981, he founded the Terry Companies, a multi-state corporation involved in oil & gas exploration and development.

The Terry Scholarship Program was born of a desire of Howard and Nancy Terry to help young people to help themselves.  A longtime resident of Houston, Howard Terry had been active for many years in banking, construction, real estate and oil and gas. With profound business success over the decades and their family’s needs met, the Terrys developed a growing desire to give back to the community and, specifically, to help young people to reach their goals in higher education.

In 1986, the Terrys began considering a variety of options in their desire to make a lasting contribution to the future of Texas higher education.  After evaluating ideas as varied as university campus construction projects and endowed-chair faculty positions, the Terrys were still not satisfied.  Knowing that universities are more than buildings and classrooms, Howard Terry had repeatedly declined to allow the universities to honor his previous contributions by placing his name on campus structures: “Mortar and bricks will eventually be torn down,” he reasoned.  The Terrys believed, in the long term, that a university – like the state it represents – is only as good as the educated citizens it produces.  Thus was born a desire to invest in the students who would attend the public colleges and universities in Texas.

The Terrys’ desire to help young people was influenced greatly by Howard Terry’s own college experience: he had attended the University of Texas on an athletic scholarship, becoming captain of the football team and graduating in 1938.  His family origins in Cameron, Texas were modest and it was only through the generosity of others that his college education had been made possible.  Mr. Terry never forgot the helping hand that he had received in attending college and was determined to extend that same help to a new generation of students.

After seeking counsel from sources that included former UT coach Darrell Royal (an original Foundation Board Member) and Houston attorney Rhett Campbell (Board Member since inception and now Board Chair), the Terrys determined that their most lasting contribution would be through a perpetual endowment that would provide college scholarships for students who had demonstrated the capacity to become outstanding future leaders and who needed financial assistance to achieve their goals in higher education.  From this simple concept, the Terry Foundation was created in 1986 to be the source of a perpetual scholarship program.

The first scholarship recipients, known since then as “Terry Scholars,” were selected at interviews held in the spring of 1987.  That original class of seventeen 1987 Scholars was joined in the 1988-1989 academic year by seventeen additional recipients.  Over the years, the number of Scholars selected has increased, with the most recent spring 2010 interviews having resulted in the selection of 175 new freshman Scholars.  These recipients joined the upper-class Scholars to number over 660 Terry Scholars enrolled for the 2010-2011 academic year.

During the first seventeen years of the Foundation’s history, Scholars attended only the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University.  In the fall of 2004, the Foundation Scholarship Program expanded for the first time, when Terry Scholars were named at the University of Houston and at Texas State University-San Marcos. Two years later, additional growth provided scholarships in the fall of 2006 at the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at San Antonio. In 2010, the program was expanded to include the University of North Texas and in 2011, Texas Tech University. Strategic future plans call for the program’s ultimate expansion to other public universities in Texas.

Over the years, the Terry Foundation grew to be the largest private source of scholarships in the state. Now sponsoring 800 Terry Scholars at eight Texas universities, the Foundation has funded college degrees for 2,600 students since inception. The Foundation is chartered to exist into perpetuity and will continue to provide for Texas students after Mr. Terry’s death.

Despite his extraordinary success in ventures that made the Terry Foundation possible, Howard Terry observes that “the Terry Foundation is the most important thing I’ve done in my life, because it’s enabled me to help more people than I would have ever been able to help otherwise.”

An addition to the picnic this year, was time to honor the life of Mr. Terry.  Each university had different ways of expressing their remorse for the family and foundation’s loss.  My personal favorite display came from the University of Houston.  The entire group of Terry Scholars from U of H joined to sing this song.

Testify to Love was a perfect fit to celebrate the life of Mr. Terry and all the lives he has touched.  By the end of the song, many students in the audience were singing along with the U of H Terry Scholars.

At the annual picnic, all the graduating seniors give their words of thanks to the Terry family and tell everyone their future plans.  Each senior also receives an engraved gold pen as a gift from the foundation.  The pen is not only a symbol of personal achievement in graduating, but also reflects the foundation’s hope that we will keep in touch.  Below is the story behind the Terry Scholar Pen.

“Early in our program, we were looking around for a special gift to give to our graduating seniors.  We eventually settled on a gold pen because that had a special meaning to me.  On one occasion many years ago, I was involved in a very important business deal.  As it turned out, it was one of the biggest deals I ever made and was key to putting together the assets that eventually became the endowment of the terry Foundation.  At the conclusion of that deal, each of the parties received a gold pen to celebrate the closing of that transaction.  I have that pen to this day.

Every time I look at that pen I remember the excitement and satisfaction I felt in closing that deal.  So, when we decided to give each of our graduating seniors a gift, I suggested a gold pen hoping that our graduates would look at that pen (as I still do) and remember their achievements as a Terry Scholar.  We always say that the Terry Scholar Program is intended to operate like a family and it is our hope that this gold pen will remind our graduates of the Terry Foundation Program and the people here who care about them and will always wish them the best.

Good luck and keep in touch.” – Howard Terry

While the senior words are the focus of the picnic, each university’s senior gift is also a highlight.  This year the A&M Terry Class of 2008 donated a sapling of the Century Tree in Mr. Terry’s memory.  I can only imagine how big this sapling will grow at Winedale.

As Robyn and I look forward to bright futures, it is with much joy that we know our gold rings connect us to the Aggie Network and now our gold pens connect us to the Terry family.  We thank the foundation and Terrys for investing in us!

“Success is the attainment of the goals you’ve set for yourself in life.” – Howard L. Terry

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