Austin College President Announces New Gifts to College

SHERMAN, TEXAS—Austin College President Steven P. O’Day announced new gifts to the College totaling $12.5 million at the Friday, February 23, dinner of the Board of Trustees on campus. Two couples and a Texas foundation made the significant gifts that will provide scholarships, science equipment, an endowed faculty position, programmatic support, and facility updates.

President O’Day sprinkled the gift announcements throughout the evening’s agenda, building a level of anticipation and excitement among the trustees, faculty, staff, students, and guests attending. “I am truly delighted to be able to share news of gifts to the College that I know will positively affect the lives of our students now and into the future,” he said.

The first announcement was a $1.5 million gift from Bob and Joyce Johnson of McLean, Virginia. Bob is a member of the Class of 1953 and a past chair of the College’s Board of Trustees. The Johnsons’ new gifts will provide additional support to the Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching and to the Sallie Majors Religious Life Internship program, which the Johnsons created in 2000 as part of a $10 million commitment, the largest in Austin College history. Their new gift also funds renovations to Wynne Chapel that will name the Sallie Majors Small Chapel.

A $4 million gift from Nancy Bryant and Jerry Taylor will have immediate impact in STEM study instrumentation needs as well as student support through the Nancy Bryant and Jerry Taylor Endowed Scholarship for Physics Majors. The gift also furthers the College’s commitment to excellence in teaching and faculty development with establishment of the Nancy Bryant and Jerry Taylor Chair in STEM Education. Nancy is a 1967 graduate of Austin College and she and her husband, Jerry, have residences in Washington, D.C., and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The couple previously endowed the Caren Clark Memorial Travel Scholarship in remembrance of Nancy’s classmate, offering students the perspective-expanding experience of global study.

The evening’s final announcement also set a record—the College’s largest gift from a foundation. The Morris Foundation of Fort Worth has given $7 million as the lead gift in the renovation of Moody Science Center, which will be renamed in memory of Jack B. Morris. The Moody Science Center was built on campus in 1964 and served as the home of the Sciences for 50 years until 2013 when the IDEA Center became the new home for the Sciences. “The Moody building sits at the center of campus and its repurposed uses are also at the heart of the College’s mission,” O’Day said. Upon renovation, the building will house the Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching, academic programs, the international study office, and the value-added and support programs such as Career Services, the Academic Skills Center, and the Scarbrough Center for Writing.

The Morris name already is well known on campus. In 2003, Linda Morris became a member of the Austin College Board of Trustees, and she and her husband, Jack Morris, became committed benefactors of various College initiatives, including a presidential scholarship endowment and scholarships for the College’s Posey Leadership Institute. Jack died suddenly in 2004, and Linda and the Morris Foundation endowed two faculty chairs in business in Jack’s name, providing a legacy for his business talents and well-known love of people.

Linda’s son, Todd Liles, is a 1987 graduate of Austin College and now serves as executive director of the Morris Foundation, as well as a member of the Austin College Board of Trustees. Linda Morris Elsey is now a member of the College’s senior board; she and her husband, David, continue to be involved in activities of the College. The foundation has since funded the Morris Foundation Conference Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Austin College, providing technology and equipment so that students can meet and work in a professional business setting on campus, and has made other substantial gifts in support of the Business Administration Department.

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