Quiet Dedication,Lasting Impact
Jack and Dorothy Fay White Strong Supporters of Young People, Education
In their kind, gentle way, Jack and Dorothy
Fay White touched more young people in
their life together than we can ever know.
And because of this endearing couple, men
and women in future generations will continue
to have hope through the power of higher
The Whites have helped make the dream of
higher education a reality for hundreds of
students at The University of Texas at Tyler
through scholarship endowments.
“They were just wonderful people who really
believed in scholarships,” said UT Tyler
President Rodney Mabry. “I remember when
they came to see me my first week here. They
sat on the couch in my office and Jack said, ‘We
want to be sure you have a good first week.’
Then he handed me a check that went toward a
new presidential scholarship.”
The Whites established 26 endowments for
scholarships and education at UT Tyler.
White was also responsible for four additional
scholarships funded by a gift from the estate
of his brother, the late Judge Mastin G.
When Jack White passed away in November
2007 at age 97, he and Dorothy Fay, who was
laid to rest in 2000, left a $4.3 million
endowment for scholarships to UT Tyler.
Dr. Mabry said White designated that the gift
draw interest for five years before scholarships
are awarded, which will increase the endowment
by another $3 million to $4 million.
This generous gift will then provide at least
132 additional scholarships for future students.
In all, the Whites are responsible for almost
$6.6 million in endowment funding for
White once said, “We enjoy being part of a
system that prepares our youth to excel in a
competitive world. Creating scholarships at
The University of Texas at Tyler was one of
the great joys of Dorothy Fay’s life and it has
been my great honor to be able to continue
this tradition. We have gained much more
than we have given.”
The Whites also supported UT Tyler in
many other ways. White was a member of the
UT Tyler Development Board, UT Tyler
President’s Associates and Cowan Center
Circle. In addition to their scholarships, they
donated $181,550 for a variety of purposes,
including capital funds, to the university.
The lobby of the R. Don Cowan Fine and
Performing Arts Center was named for the
Whites. And they received the 1990 Patriots
of the Year Award for their contributions and
“Jack did everything for us,” Dr. Mabry
recalled. “He was the first to attend a meeting,
to go to an athletic event or to be part of
any group we needed to establish. He was a
great cheerleader for the university. Some
people add value by chairing or leading. Jack
never cared to have the gavel, but was a strong
and powerful personality who could persuade
others from the bench. He was also a person
of influence because of his genuine goodness.
And Dorothy Fay was just as bright and good
as he was, but she let him do the talking.
When either did speak, though, people
listened. They were quite a couple!”
More than any other involvement, friends say
the couple’s main passion was providing
scholarships for students.
“(The Whites) believed in education and in
helping students,” Dr. Mabry said. “They
understood that incomes were modest in this
region and students needed help.”
Mary Irwin, who retired in 2003 as vice
president for university advancement, said,
“They were surrogate parents and grandparents
to a lot of people. I believe they felt
fulfilled in seeing that young people receive a
Irwin recalls one time when Jack wanted to
do something special for Dorothy Fay’s birthday.
“But instead of something for herself, she
wanted to give another scholarship to
Margaret Loftis, a UT Tyler supporter and
longtime friend of the Whites, said,
“Education was extremely important to both
of them. And because they did not have any
children of their own, they wanted to help
others. They believed that if you provided a
deserving person with the opportunity for an
education, background doesn’t matter.
If (students) utilized the opportunity then
that would be the greatest benefit.”
Lives of Diligence and Devotion
Loftis said the White’s focus on education
was rooted, in part, in the importance of education
in their own lives. She graduated from
Tyler High School the same year as Dorothy
Fay in 1941. Under Dorothy Fay’s picture in
the Alcalde yearbook, it reads, “Sweet and
pretty are not enough words to describe her.”
Dorothy Fay went on to attend Tyler Junior
College, where she was enrolled when World
War II began. Jack, who had graduated from
The University of Texas at Austin in 1939,
served in the China-Burma-India theatre of
operations from 1942 to 1945.
While Jack served his country, Dorothy Fay
went on to UT Austin. And when she
graduated, she began working for Humble
Oil, which later became Exxon. “She worked
many, many years there,” Loftis said. In fact,
many of the White’s later scholarship endowments
were established with matching funds
from the oil company.
Meanwhile, Jack came to Tyler where his
family had settled after his father, a Methodist
minister, retired. He began working with
Sinclair Oil and Refinery. The couple met
and lived in Tyler and were married for 48
“They were very much content in each
other,” Loftis said. “They were very loving
and quiet. Their family life was built on love
for each other.”
Loftis said they didn’t live extravagantly, but
enjoyed the simple things in life … like cornbread.
“Jack loved cornbread! That was his
big deal. He loved cornbread better than anything.
Dorothy Fay used to laugh about it.”
Irwin said, “I think they were the most devoted
couple. They were so polite and kind …
not only with everybody else, but with each
other. I remember when Dorothy Fay first
became ill. Jack was right there. He was so
devoted throughout her illness. They were very
loving people and very rooted in their faith.”
The Whites attended Marvin Methodist
Church where Jack served in many ways,
including as past president of his Sunday
Dr. Mabry and his wife attended the same
Sunday school class as Jack in his later years.
“He was a true gentleman. There was never a
moment when he had anything negative
to say about anybody, and Dorothy Fay was
the same. He was just a nice man … always
had a smile on his face. He was a very encouraging
Friends say both were unassuming, but
dedicated to values. “She was a very diligent
worker,” Loftis said. “And growing up as a
son of a Methodist minister, Jack was very
frugal. They could have done almost
anything they wanted to, but the most
important thing to them was providing
educational programs … and, of course, their
Loftis said Jack’s uncle, Brady Gentry, also
had a big influence on Jack’s desire to give.
She said he named Jack as the trustee of his
fund to provide scholarships to students
graduating from area high schools.
The couple regularly attended UT Tyler
events. They were especially excited about the
Cowan Center and loved going to all the
cultural events there. “Even in later years, Jack
was very active,” Irwin said. “One of the best
kept secrets was how old Jack was. Nobody
knew because he wouldn’t talk about it.”
Dr. Mabry chuckles when he thinks
about Jack’s other passion -- UT sports. He
attended as many sporting events as he could.
And in later years, he watched or listened to
“He loved UT Austin sports of any kind, but
especially football,” Dr. Mabry remembers.
“We would go by to see him often on game
day to make sure he had the right channel on
and visit with him. Soon, he would start
looking at his watch. Then he would show
us out when it was game time.”
Later in life, Jack had hearing problems. So,
in addition to the television, he tuned in to
the radio broadcast of the game – turned it
up all the way and put headphones on.
“He was orange through and through,” Dr.
Mabry said. “Jack and Dorothy Fay really
thought East Texas needed a UT institution.
But they were also big supporters of
TJC and a compliment of junior colleges
throughout the region. They were proud of
TJC and believed we already had good junior
colleges, but no outstanding four-year
university within reach of students. That
mattered a lot to them.
“They understood early on that the brain
drain was tremendous in the area,”
Dr. Mabry said. “At one point, we learned
that 9,000 students were going off to college
from East Texas in any given year. And
a good rule of thumb says that more than
half do not return. That means our best and
brightest were heading out of the region.
When many of them find jobs and stay in
other areas, it depletes the strong, productive
leaders that we need in this region.”
Dr. Mabry said the Whites wanted to help
keep those quality students in our area, and
draw strong young people from other areas.
Scholarships benefit Tyler and East Texas.
But, most importantly, they change lives.
Legacy of Success
The couple touched so many students
that when UT Tyler hosted a reunion for
White scholarship recipients a few years ago,
graduates poured in.
“They came from far and wide. Some were in
their 50s, others in their 20s. They shared
how the scholarships helped them. Jack was
in seventh heaven! He sat there with his cane
listening as the students came and went for
two to three hours. He was very moved,” Dr.
Jaymie Poeschl says the Presidential
Scholarship she received to attend UT Tyler
was a “godsend.” As a mom and wife, she
lacked the resources she needed to attend fulltime
after junior college. But through the
White scholarship, she completed her bachelor
of science degree in three semesters. “I owe a
lot of gratitude to the people who made the
A scholarship allowed Sonja Cummins to cut
back to part-time work so she could focus on
maintaining a high grade point average as a
finance major. “I am grateful for your consideration
of me and many other students who
are trying to achieve a higher education goal
and are in need of financial assistance,” she
wrote to the Whites in a letter of appreciation.
These stories can be repeated many times
over by students helped by the Whites’
scholarships. And the legacy of success is only
beginning for future generations.
Irwin said, “They were truly remarkable
people with a value system and a belief
in education that is really unique in today’s
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