February 22, 2021

In 1997, Thomas “Tom” Merritt ’71 ’74 found his original copy of a long-forgotten feasibility study he and his fellow Aggie landscape architecture classmates conducted upon the request of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, in their efforts to “spruce up the state of Texas.”

Looking to determine the optimum land use on both sides of the Guadalupe River from Canyon Dam, Texas, to New Braunfels, Texas, President Johnson and Lady Bird sought the help of Professor Robert White—then the head of the Department of Landscape Architecture—and his senior design class in 1970. The first half of the class presented their initial findings to the president and first lady on a special visit to their ranch, while the second half, which included Merritt, anxiously awaited to present the conclusion.

Following weeks of dedicated work, Merritt’s team was deflated when they learned that White had received a professor’s dream: a six-month paid sabbatical to study European architecture. The presentation was canceled, and the disappointed seniors moved on with other academic endeavors.

Decades later, Merritt stumbled upon the study with a new mission in mind: to have it autographed by Lady Bird. His patience was rewarded three years later in 2000 when he received the autographed study.

When Merritt passed away in early 2018, his sister and brother-in-law, Di and Bill Honey, donated the autographed study and documents to the Texas A&M College of Architecture archives during the Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning’s fall reception. They immediately fell in love with the Aggie Spirit and wanted to further honor Merritt’s love for Aggieland in their own special way.

The Honeys updated their estate plans by committing a planned gift in Di and Bill’s living trusts to establish two endowed scholarships for the College of Architecture. “My brother was passionate about urban and regional planning, so we wanted to provide a memorial in his name,” Di said. “I also created a second scholarship in honor of my husband to acknowledge his legacy.” 

The couple couldn’t make the impact they wanted with a current charitable gift but knew a planned gift would allow them to grow their assets and financially support future Aggie landscape architects. “We find personal reward in investing in students,” Di added. “Young people are our future and providing for them may be some of the most important work of our lives.”

To learn more about how you can plan a meaningful gift to support future Aggie architects, please contact Jennifer Hester '98 by completing the form below.

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