The Terry Foundation's goal is to improve and develop the State of Texas by assisting Texas students to attend the state's finest public universities. The Foundation hopes that these students will have a significant impact on the future leadership of the state and nation. To achieve this goal, the Foundation awards scholarships to students who meet the high standards set by the Founders.
What began in 1986 as a small scholarship program is now the state's largest private source of scholarships for the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, Texas State University-San Marcos, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, and Texas Woman's University, with over 700 Terry Scholars enrolled. But its origin was neither large nor legendary - it was as humble and low-profile as the Founders whose name it bears.
The Terry Scholarship Program was born of a desire of Howard and Nancy Terry to help young people to help themselves. A longtime resident of Houston, Howard Terry had been active for many years in banking, construction, real estate and oil and gas. With profound business success over the decades and their family's needs met, the Terrys developed a growing desire to give back to the community and, specifically, to help young people to reach their goals in higher education.
In 1986, the Terrys began considering a variety of options in their desire to make a lasting contribution to the future of Texas higher education. After evaluating ideas as varied as university campus construction projects and endowed-chair faculty positions, the Terrys were still not satisfied. Knowing that universities are more than buildings and classrooms, Howard Terry had repeatedly declined to allow the universities to honor his previous contributions by placing his name on campus structures: "Mortar and bricks will eventually be torn down," he reasoned. The Terrys believed, in the long term, that a university - like the state it represents - is only as good as the educated citizens it produces. Thus was born a desire to invest in the students who would attend the public colleges and universities in Texas.
The Terrys' desire to help young people was influenced greatly by Howard Terry's own college experience: he had attended the University of Texas on an athletic scholarship, becoming captain of the football team and graduating in 1938. His family origins in Cameron, Texas were modest and it was only through the generosity of others that his college education had been made possible. Mr. Terry never forgot the helping hand that he had received in attending college and was determined to extend that same help to a new generation of students.
After seeking counsel from sources that included former UT coach Darrell Royal (an original Foundation Board Member) and Houston attorney Rhett Campbell (Board Member since inception and now Board Chair), the Terrys determined that their most lasting contribution would be through a perpetual endowment that would provide college scholarships for students who had demonstrated the capacity to become outstanding future leaders and who needed financial assistance to achieve their goals in higher education. From this simple concept, the Terry Foundation was created in 1986 to be the source of a perpetual scholarship program.
The first scholarship recipients, known since then as "Terry Scholars," were selected at interviews held in the spring of 1987. That original class of seventeen 1987 Scholars was joined in the 1988-1989 academic year by seventeen additional recipients. Over the years, the number of Scholars selected has increased, with the most recent spring 2012 interviews having resulted in the selection of 213 new freshmen Scholars. These recipients joined the upper-class Scholars to number 711 Terry Scholars enrolled for the 2012-2013 academic year.
During the first seventeen years of the Foundation's history, Scholars attended only the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University. In the fall of 2004, the Foundation Scholarship Program expanded for the first time, when Terry Scholars were named at the University of Houston and at Texas State University-San Marcos. Additional growth provided scholarships in 2006 at the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at San Antonio, and again in 2010 at the University of North Texas in Denton, in 2011 at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and in 2013 at Texas Woman's University in Denton. Also in 2013, the program was expanded to include scholarships for transfer and non-traditional students. Strategic future plans call for the program's ultimate expansion to other public universities in Texas.
Since its inception, the Terry Scholarship Program has assisted 2,800 Texas college students to achieve their goals in higher education. The Foundation Board oversees a large endowment and now includes six members who are Terry Scholar Alumni. The program was honored in 2010 by the National Association of Scholarship Providers in being named National Scholarship Provider of the Year. Chartered to exist into perpetuity, the Foundation is designed to continue in the future to add scholarships each year.
Howard Terry was active in the management of the Foundation up until the very end of his long life when he died in 2012 at age 95. Nancy Terry passed away peacefully at home later that same year. The Foundation has become larger than they ever imagined, fulfilling in the process their dreams of making a difference in the lives of students across the state. Despite his extraordinary success in ventures that made the Terry Foundation possible, Howard Terry observed that "the Terry Foundation is the most important thing I've done in my life, because it's enabled me to help more people than I would have ever been able to help otherwise."