Support for Tomorrow’s Leaders
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
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 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
archaeology, cosmology and physics.’’
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
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
“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:
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
Shirley and Donald Chase
R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center
Ben Fisch, M.D.
Frances and William Gibson
Fritter and Mike McNally
Barbara and Jack Phillips
Mary John Spence
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.