The late T.W. “Tom” Whaley, Ph.D. ’68, who quietly served his country in the CIA during the Cold War, surprised UT leaders this year with a $35 million bequest to create engineering scholarships at the Cockrell School of Engineering.
Receiving the Whaley Scholarship changed my life in a radical way. Dr. Whaley gave me the freedom to follow his example.” — Marshall Tekell, Whaley Scholar
Whaley, who died in 2013, specified that his gift benefit the school’s annual giving program, called Friends of Alec, with the goal of “funding scholarships for Texans of top academic merit in the fields of engineering and science.” The endowment, which aims to bring more of Texas’ best and brightest high school students to UT Austin, will provide substantial scholarship support for 34 Cockrell School students in the first year alone.
“Dr. Whaley’s parents instilled in him the value of an education, and he wanted young Texans to have the same opportunities to learn and contribute to their state and nation,” said Whaley’s attorney and friend David Anderson, the executor of his estate. “I believe he made this extraordinary gift to change these students’ lives.”
The T.W. Whaley, Jr. Friends of Alec Endowed Scholarship is now one of the largest endowments for undergraduate and graduate financial aid at the Cockrell School. The endowment, projected to provide $1.6 million in annual merit scholarships and fellowships, increases the school’s total scholarship and fellowship funding by 25 percent.
“Dr. Whaley’s vision will be achieved time and time again, year after year,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “His generous bequest will provide incredible opportunities for Texas’ most talented young people, opening the door for them to remain in Texas and attend one of the world’s great engineering schools.”
Incoming freshman Marshall Tekell is from Whaley’s hometown of Waco. “Receiving the Whaley Scholarship changed my life in a radical way,” said Tekell, who plans to major in chemical engineering. “Not only does it remove an enormous burden from my family, it allows me to envision my education far into the future. Dr. Whaley gave me the freedom to follow his example.”
Born in Lorena, Texas, in 1935, Whaley spent his childhood moving from place to place during the last years of the Great Depression. He was adopted at age 15 by parents who made education a priority. After attending the Allen Academy in Bryan, Texas, and serving in the Army, he earned two degrees at Texas A&M University before working for General Dynamics on the construction of the F-111 aircraft.
He earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from UT Austin where he studied signal strength of electromagnetic waves, and he was recruited by the CIA after graduation because of his expertise in antenna technology. Later, he returned to Texas to help manage his family’s farm, which he helped expand to 4,000 acres. Whaley’s wealth originated from oil and gas royalties, and it grew as he accumulated and oversaw a portfolio of stocks and bonds.
A proud Cockrell School alumnus, Whaley had a long history of supporting engineering education at UT Austin. In 1974, he became a charter member of the Friends of Alec annual giving program, named for the Cockrell School’s patron saint, Alexander Frederick Claire, known best by the nickname “Alec,” whose legend dates to 1908. Whaley continued to support Friends of Alec with yearly gifts for decades.
“Scholarships and the cost of education can be the deciding factor when choosing a university,” said Cockrell School Dean Sharon L. Wood. “I believe that Dr. Whaley recognized this, and he knew that establishing this endowment would provide long-term benefits to UT Austin, the recipients of his scholarship and the state of Texas.”
In 2014-15, the new endowment’s first year, 34 students from across Texas will receive Whaley Scholarships and pursue studies in all seven engineering departments at the Cockrell School.
This article has been updated to reflect that Marshall Tekell’s major will be chemical engineering, rather than mechanical engineering, as originally reported.