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UT Tyler Scholarship Honors Memory of Oilman Thomas W. Clay

Thomas W. Clay

The University of Texas at Tyler Distinguished Lecture Series has enriched the university experience for a quarter of a century, giving students and the community the opportunity to hear from prominent speakers who are impacting the world. And as a result of the series, UT Tyler’s brightest and most talented students will receive financial support for their education. Friends of the university gave generously to create several scholarships in celebration of the series’ 25th anniversary.

Among the new scholarships available to UT Tyler students is the Thomas W. Clay Scholarship, created through the generosity of Harold and Rosemary Beaird. The scholarship is designed not only to support and encourage today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders, but also to honor the memory of an exemplary leader whose influence continues to be felt in Tyler and East Texas.

Thomas Clay was a close and admired friend of Mr. Beaird for many years.

“Rosemary and I count it a great privilege to have been associated with Tom and his family and to be able to help preserve his memory with a scholarship in his name,’’ Beaird said. “He was a giant in the oil industry and in the community. He was a good oilman, a good family man, a good friend. Tom had a rare combination of integrity, decency, congeniality and skill in his profession.’’

Their gift was made as part of a successful scholarship fundraising dinner in November 2006 when former President George H. W. Bush spoke at the Drs. Larry L. Anderson and Svetislava J. Vukelja Lecture.

Endowed scholarships are becoming ever more important to UT Tyler, President Rodney Mabry said. “High-ability students from East Texas and beyond need support. This year we ran out of all scholarship dollars in May, two months earlier than just two years ago.”

One of the highest philanthropic priorities in coming years, he added, will be to increase the level of UT Tyler’s scholarship endowment. “Harold and Rosemary Beaird’s selfless tribute to their friend Tom Clay is a wonderful way to help us support current and future leaders in our region.’’

Treasured Memories
After graduating from college in the 1940s, Clay went on to become an independent oilman and community leader. Working in the oil industry from the late ‘40s until his passing in 1979, he established Millican Oil Co. and had a series of successes including the discovery of a major oil field near Frankston. Fairway Field was the largest oil field discovery in the United States in 30 years and continues to produce today, said Beaird, a Tyler independent petroleum geologist who worked with Clay in oil and gas exploration.

“We are so grateful to Harold and Rosemary for honoring the memory of our father by creating a UT Tyler scholarship in his name,’’ said Kathy Babin of Tyler, one of two children born to Clay and his wife, Jan, who resides in Tyler.

“Daddy was a wonderful father and husband and we treasure his memory,’’ Babin’s sister, Cindy Watson of Tyler, said. “We feel very honored for a university scholarship to be named after him.’’

Babin said her father, who in the 1960s served on the Tyler City Commission, which is now the City Council, would be very pleased with UT Tyler’s growth and impact on the community. “I do distinctly remember my father being very excited about the possibility of getting a four-year university here,’’ she said.

Rosemary and Harold Beaird
Rosemary and Harold Beaird at the UT Tyler Distinguished Lecture Series celebration dinner at the Cowan Center.

“When Harold approached us with his idea to create the Thomas Clay Scholarship, he said he wanted to do this because my father so strongly believed in education. And education truly was an important aspect in my father’s life,’’ Babin said, adding that her father, born in 1927, grew up in Athens during difficult economic times.

“My grandparents raised five children during the Depression, so they grew up without a lot of financial benefits,’’ said Babin, whose grandfather was a barber. “My father graduated from high school and immediately joined the U.S. Navy to serve in World War II. The Navy sent him to officer’s training school at The University of Texas at Austin. That was how he and many others were able to go to school back then. Even though no one was happy about the war, he still felt very fortunate that the government provided him the opportunity to receive an education. He later went on to further his education himself.’’

A graduate of UT Austin with a degree in geological engineering and the University of Oklahoma with a degree in geology, her father “was a lifelong learner and passed his enthusiasm for learning on to us,’’ Babin said. “He spent a lot of time teaching himself about several subjects including history, archaeology, cosmology and physics.’’

Visionary Leader
Her father’s work in the community included leading the push to establish Tyler water rights on Lake Palestine, which became a part of the city’s water supply in 1965. Today, the Lake Palestine Water Treatment Plant plays a vital role in satisfying the area’s water needs.

“He was on the City Commission as a geologist and understood that water reserves would one day become as precious as oil and gas reserves. He understood what Tyler’s future needs would be as a growing community,’’ Babin said of her father, who served on the board of the former People’s National Bank and helped build Tyler’s Pollard United Methodist Church among many other contributions.

Said Beaird, “Tom had the good judgment to see ahead, far ahead of most people. And when Tom spoke, people listened. Everyone respected Tom Clay.’’

A Good Friend
A Tyler native, Beaird said he met Clay in 1952 at Lone Star Gas Co. in Dallas. They instantly became friends.

“I had just graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in geology and started work at Lone Star, where Tom had been working since 1950. We both were East Texas guys and just gravitated, even though I went to A&M and he was a UT fellow,’’ Beaird added jokingly. “We spent a lot of time talking about our schools.’’

Clay relocated to Tyler to start his own company. Beaird remained in Dallas, but the two kept in touch. Beaird eventually returned to Tyler to start his own business.

“Tom, who by that time was well established in his business, played a crucial role in helping me to get my business started. I came here planning to make a lot of money really fast and that didn’t happen. So Tom said, ‘We’ll just work together on some things,’ ’’ Beaird recalled. “It was a rare combination of good business association and great, personable friendship.’’

Because of Beaird’s gratitude for his relationship with Clay, grateful students for generations to come will benefit from the endowed scholarship program at UT Tyler.

Distinguished Lecture Generates Scholarships
The 25th anniversary celebration of The University of Texas at Tyler Distinguished Lecture Series created new scholarships for UT Tyler students in addition to bringing a former U.S. president to campus.

The November 2006 Drs. Larry L. Anderson and Svetislava J. Vukelja Lecture, featuring the Honorable George H. W. Bush, included a celebration dinner during which UT Tyler supporters gave generously toward scholarships. The dinner was sponsored by Louise and Joseph Z. Ornelas.

“This was the most successful fundraising event we have ever held,” said President Rodney Mabry, “and it could not have been for a more important cause. We thank Joseph and Lou Ornelas for fully underwriting the dinner, and establishing a scholarship themselves, so that 100 percent of the table contributions of others could establish an endowed scholarship in each case.”

Friends who gave gifts for the creation of individual scholarships included:

Platinum Scholarships
Rosemary and Harold Beaird
Lawrence Anderson, M.D., and Sasha Vukelja, M.D.
Louise and Joseph Z. Ornelas
Margaret and James I. Perkins
A.W. Riter Jr. Family Foundation

Gold Scholarships
Shirley and Donald Chase
R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center
Ben Fisch, M.D.
Frances and William Gibson
Mildred Grinstead
Fritter and Mike McNally
Barbara and Jack Phillips
Mary John Spence

Silver Scholarships
Hoeffner Foundation and Rex-Hide Inc.

Bush Presidential Scholarship
Friends contributing toward the creation of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Scholarship included: Melvina and Herbert Buie, Rosemary and Harold Beaird, LaVerne and Mike Gollob, Billie and Bill Hartley, Laura and H.T. Hyde Jr., Marsha and John Nelson, George Oge, Donna and William Pirtle, M.D., Jo Beth and Wade Ridley and Sherilyn Willis, M.D., and Patrick Willis.

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