A momentous gift from a prominent pair of West Texas A&M University alumni will establish a scholarly institute at the University that will focus on the promotion of Texas Panhandle values, officials announced.
Following a $20 million gift from Cheryl and Alex Fairly, now the largest family gift for WT’s One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, the University will fund The Hill Institute, an interdisciplinary academy of researchers, teachers and students.
Named for Joseph A. Hill, the second president of WT and its longest-serving leader, the Institute will center on 10 values: trust, family life, hard work, regard for others, personal responsibility, compatriotism and patriotism, virtue, faith, personal and civic loyalty, and rugged individualism.
“I am honored to be in Canyon for the announcement of the Hill Institute and hope it will be a model for all universities and college campuses across Texas and the nation,” Patrick said in a news release.
Wendler worked closely with the Fairlys to refine the Hill Institute’s mission, which strongly reflects the University’s long-range plan, as laid out in WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.
“Joseph. A. Hill led this institution through, what I argue, were some of the most challenging times ever faced by this institution and which demanded bold leadership and responsiveness,” Wendler said in prepared remarks. “He spoke publicly and often wrote about the values of the people of the region, which he believed were essential to the settling, shaping and prosperity of the Panhandle, Texas and America.”
Alex Fairly said that he and his family were inspired to make their historic gift because of those values.
“Whatever one thinks about them, or by whatever name they are called, I believe these values cut across every sector of our society,” Fairly said. “They are instilled by a vigorously pursued faith life. They cannot be owned by a race or a political party. They are community and personal values, and they should be political and national values. They deserve careful consideration and study because our nation and the world are in desperate need of a rudder to guide us.
“Cheryl and I believe these values, when coupled with excellent teaching, will produce a different kind of nurse, engineer, teacher, musician, businessperson, rancher,” Fairly continued.
The Hill Institute officially was approved by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in February 2022. Since that time, WT officials have worked to secure funding and continue refining the institute’s mission.
“What is happening across this campus is remarkable, and I believe it is in large part due to your leadership, Walter, as President,” Sharp said. “I want to thank the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents for their leadership. Our Regents have placed a high value on our regional institutions. They understand that each university in The System is distinct, and that each regional university plays an essential role in serving the students, families, and communities where they are located.”
Wendler said the Hill Institute will be funded strictly through private funds, not state resources, to emphasize the “true public-private partnership which is the nature of a republican form of government at work.”
“The 10 values are, I believe, essential to citizenship,” Wendler said. “These values are essential to the sustenance of our region, state and nation as they support the production of the food, fuel and fiber that feeds, powers and clothes our nation and world. Discussing, researching and teaching values may quite possibly be the most important investment we can make in our future.”
Through the Fairlys’ gift, the Hill Institute will embed Hill Scholars—both faculty members and students—throughout campus who want “to better understand how these values impact daily life, create a better community, prepare us for engaged citizenship and shape our nation,” Wendler said. “We want the mission of the Hill Institute to have impact far beyond our region.”
The ideas and insights generated by the Hill Scholars will be shared through regular publications and speaking engagements.
“WT will reinforce the best of what families, houses of worship, places of business, farms and ranches, and the oil fields have instilled in those that come: The way you live matters. The way we live matters,” Fairly said. “The Hill Institute will encourage and enrich these values as the foundation of being an effective citizen in a constitutional republic.”
The Fairlys’ gift pushed WT’s One West campaign over the $150 million mark. As announced Sept. 21, the comprehensive campaign now aims to raise $175 million by 2025 in the largest and most ambitious fundraising effort in Texas Panhandle history.
In addition to being the largest family gift to the One West campaign, the Fairlys’ gift also is the largest family gift in WT history.
An $80 million gift by the Paul F. and Virginia J. Engler Foundation in 2017 remains the largest gift in the One West campaign and in the history of WT.