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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 education.

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. White.

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 UT Tyler.

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 tireless support.

“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 good education.”

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 UT Tyler.”

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 years.

“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 school class.

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 person.”

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 church affiliation.”

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.

Bleeding Orange
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 them faithfully.

“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. Mabry said.

Jaymie PoeschlJaymie 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 scholarship possible.”

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 society.”

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