With help from Shelby Metcalf and J. Wayne Stark, a small-town boy is lifted from oil field worker to successful entrepreneur.
As a high school senior, Lee Walker '63 was working in the oil patch in Three Rivers, Texas, when Aggie basketball coach Shelby Metcalf '74 showed up and asked, "Would you like to go to A&M on a basketball scholarship?"
"I was very tall, and I was a good student, so I fit the bill," Walker said. "We went to a basketball court and I played one-on-one with Shelby Metcalf. I was an awkward teenager, and my feet and hands were still slick from the oil patch, but I played OK and he recruited me."
Were it not for his height, smarts and that meeting, Walker may have stayed in Three Rivers all his life.
The Force Field of Stark
During his senior year at A&M, Walker's father died. In that same month he met J. Wayne Stark '39, the first director of the Memorial Student Center. "Little did I know I was entering this force field of Stark," he said. Stark was a father figure, opening Walker's mind to the world. While enrolled at A&M, he studied in Yugoslavia, Sweden and Africa.
Walker later attended Harvard Business School. He was president of the startup company that became Dell Computer Corp. He is now a University of Texas professor teaching the honors course Pathways to Civic Engagement. "At Texas A&M, I learned community and place. I didn't learn that at Harvard Business School," Walker said.
Keeping the Gifts Alive
"My wonderful father gave me my life. But Wayne was like an intervention. I want to keep their gifts alive," Walker said. To do so, he is building the J. Wayne Stark/Dallas Walker Leadership Endowment honoring both men to offer future Aggies a global perspective.
Walker is funding his gift through a bequest to the Texas A&M Foundation. "There is a sense of closure from making an inventory of the gifts you have received and sorting them out in your will. It's not an obligation, but an opportunity," Walker said. "I figured out how to take that gift from Wayne and keep it alive. That is the core of philanthropy."
Walker advises others to think deeply about gifts they received, including an Aggie education, and how to keep those gifts alive. "None of us got where we are by ourselves."
Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M’s capability to be among the best universities.