Austin College Announces $7 Million Gift

Center for Writing will be created with portion of donation

SHERMAN, TEXAS—Austin College President Dr. Marjorie Hass announced one of the largest gifts in the College’s history—a $7 million bequest—Friday at the fall meeting of the College’s Board of Trustees.

The gift is from the Estate of Lemuel Scarbrough, a 1958 graduate of Austin College and lifelong Austin, Texas, business leader who died September 1. “We celebrate tonight the life and legacy of a dedicated Austin College alumnus,” Dr. Hass told those gathered. “Mr. Scarbrough’s foresight and love for the College has allowed us to receive timely support for innovation and momentum in our goals,” she said.

Board of Trustees Chair David Corrigan of Dallas echoed the thanks expressed by Dr. Hass. “Mr. Scarbrough’s life serves as an inspiration for each of us as we see the impact we can make on behalf of the College throughout our lives—as well as the tremendous potential of our future legacy gifts,” he said. The board chair, president of Corrigan Investments, is a 1981 graduate of Austin College.

Scarbrough remained connected to Austin College throughout his life, participating in College events held in Austin and on campus. He made his first financial gift to the College in his graduation year of 1958 and remained a faithful donor to Austin College’s annual fund and special causes.

In 1995, the alumnus endowed the Lemuel Scarbrough Jr. Endowed Scholarship that since has supported numerous students. In 2009, he endowed the Lemuel Scarbrough Summer Research Endowment in honor of Dr. Paul Beardsley and Dr. Clyde Hall, who had influenced him during his Austin College years. That gift has allowed many Austin College students to complete summer research projects within the humanities and social sciences.

Scarbrough’s estate gift allows Austin College to move forward with a priority of the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan: The College is using $1 million of Scarbrough’s gift to create and endow the Lemuel Scarbrough Center for Writing. The remainder of his gift has been placed in a board-designated new initiatives fund for future use.

The Strategic Plan emphasizes the importance of written communication as a cornerstone of the liberal arts education and includes plans to enhance students’ writing skills through curricular and co-curricular programming. A faculty committee has been working on the curricular needs and planning for creation of a writing resource center when funding became available.

Dr. Greg Kinzer, associate professor of English, serves as chair of the English Department and chair of the Writing Center Task Force. He is pleased to see the realization of the next step forward as outlined by the task force. “The Lemuel Scarbrough Center for Writing will serve as an exciting new community hub for writing at Austin College, serving to foster a culture of writing on campus,” Kinzer said. “Through the center, we will encourage all students to develop an intentional practice of writing that will help them grow as writers and thinkers to better engage with the world around them. The Center will offer workshops for students as well as dynamic one-on-one writing mentoring, and support the intellectual development of students as young writers.”

Kinzer said that the center also will provide resources and pedagogical support for faculty seeking new ways to incorporate the most effective writing instruction into their teaching. “In this way, the Center serves as a focal point for Austin College’s newly redesigned writing curriculum as we seek to support the central place of strong written communication skills in today’s workplace and in the world,” Kinzer said. “We are engaged in a nationwide search for a director of the Lemuel Scarbrough Center for Writing, a position that will bring new expertise to the College in the delivery of first-class writing instruction and support.”

Support for the Scarbrough Center for Writing exists far beyond members of the task force. Dean of Humanities and professor of history Dr. Max Grober emphasized that students and faculty alike will work on writing. “Learning to write is a lifelong pursuit that requires constant practice and renewal,” he said. “The Scarbrough Center for Writing will provide a home for workshops, peer tutoring, and study groups, and for professional staff trained in the best practices of writing instruction. The center will support a strengthened emphasis on writing in the Austin College curriculum, and will build on the work already being done in the Johnson Center to foster a faculty culture of vigorous engagement with the latest research on effective methods of teaching.”

Grober said that the College’s faculty members are aware that students being educated today will make their mark in careers that they can only dimly foresee. “One thing we can say with confidence, though, is that the leaders in those careers will be the ones who can explain, persuade, and inspire,” Grober said. “Writing is a career skill beyond price. Through practice in writing—practice in the art of making language powerful—students will develop those skills.”

The creation of the Scarbrough Center for Writing is evidence of Austin College’s commitment to enhancing the writing and communication skills of its graduates, said Dr. Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, vice president for Academic Affairs. “The ability to communicate ideas and a vision are critical to success for our students.” She said the Scarborough Center will be the focal point for providing both faculty and students the resources and skills needed. In addition to offering group and individualized writing assistance, the center also will provide resources such as style guides, grammar aids, and models of good writing. Faculty too will be able to use the repository of teaching materials and sample assignments as well as rubrics and support for assessment of writing skills.  

Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 40 percent of students representing ethnic minorities. A residential student body of approximately 1,275 students and a faculty of more than 100 allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. The College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.

Media Contacts:

Lynn Z. Womble, [email protected], 903-813-2891 or 214-450-3317

Vickie S. Kirby, [email protected], 903-813-2414