March 2, 2017

Ben Vaughn '74 established a scholarship through a planned gift using his life insurance policy. The scholarship will support undergraduate women seeking degrees in geology and geophysics at Texas A&M.

What does it mean to leave behind a legacy? How does that impact the people around you? What can you do to help others after you’re gone?

When Elliott B. “Ben” Vaughn ’74 began asking himself these questions, he knew that part of his legacy would be to honor the memory of Patty Holyfield ’74. Graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in geology, Mr. Vaughn spent a good part of his career overseas, but is now happy to be retired from ExxonMobil in Houston, Texas. 

In 2016, Mr. Vaughn designated a planned gift from his life insurance policy to the Texas A&M Foundation to establish the Patty Holyfield ’74 Foundation Excellence Award. This endowed scholarship will support, in perpetuity, undergraduate women seeking degrees in geology and geophysics at the College of Geosciences.

Patty Holyfield '74 was one of only three women to graduate from the College of Geosciences in her year. 

Patty Holyfield ’74 lived out a legacy of her own. From blazing a trail for women at Texas A&M, sharing her passion for geology with prospective and current students, to her entrepreneurial spirit – the example she set helped pave the way for others. She graduated summa cum laude from Texas A&M with her degree in geology. She was one of only three women to graduate from the College of Geosciences that year. 

Remaining in Aggieland, Holyfield received her M.S. in geology in 1976. “Her thesis work in Wyoming was something that gave her a love for studying the geology of the western U.S,” explained Vaughn. She started her career with Hunt Energy, and before starting a family, joined Supron. Holyfield continued working in various areas of the oil industry for many years, and after her children were in school, she found her way back to her love for geology doing consulting work. 

In 1990, she started an education program for teachers called “Rocks In Your Head,” which gave students in grades 3-12 the basic tools for understanding and appreciating geology. The program included an oil exploration simulation designed to teach students real-world skills about drilling, negotiating, and figuring profits and losses for a company. This program was an important part in introducing students to geology and creating excitement for the field at such a young age.

“She was also very active in church, cub scouts, and various charitable organizations. But her true love was geology,” added Vaughn. “She passed away in March of 2002 from cancer, but leaves a legacy of profound work in the field of geology that exemplified her Aggie Spirit.”

It’s that spirit and legacy which inspired Vaughn to give back. Because of that, future generations of Aggie geologists will have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of people like Patty Holyfield.

By Andrew Vernon '06

This article was originally published by the College of Geosciences.