Near to the Heart

Near to the Hear, Duke DeGrassi

PHOTO
Courtesy
Duke DeGrassi

Duke DeGrassi and
Gayla Lewis support
at-risk Longhorns

“Shortly after Duke and I started dating, I realized that if I didn’t get into the UT football thing, this relationship wouldn’t go very far,” says Gayla Lewis.

But the passion her Longhorn now-husband, Duke DeGrassi, imparted to her for his alma mater did not stop at the stadium’s edge. The couple is now making a significant gift to support the University Leadership Network. This nationally renowned program identifies students who are statistically likely to struggle at Texas’ flagship university and “flips the script,” turning them into campus leaders.

“For many years I’ve had the university in my will,” says Duke, who earned an accounting degree from Texas in 1969, and who retired seven years ago from a long career in oil, financial services, and investments. “I had always hoped to set up some form of scholarship, and fortunately UT called on me and told me there’s a way to get started before you pass away. I turned 70 this year so it worked out really well with my IRA.” He is giving a set amount each year for the next five years, and his will provides that when he passes, there will be another gift. But their scholarship will be set up by the end of this year. “It was a great boon for us to be able to do that now so we can see what’s going on for a few years instead of waiting until we’re deceased.”  

The scholarship will go to a University Leadership Network student from Duke’s native Amarillo. He now lives in Golden, Colo., and says he knows there is a tremendous amount of need in the hometown he still loves.

“The other thing that was very important to us was the particular program, the University Leadership Network. That type of program is very near and dear to our hearts,” says Duke. “We think there are a lot of people being left off to the side these days, so when we heard about that program, it fit into the type of philanthropy and the feelings we have about things. It’s the perfect program.”

Gayla adds, “It’s the type of vehicle that really appeals to us — to help kids that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend a university of this stature.”