In Dolph Briscoe, A Great Ex-Student Passes On

You’ve probably heard that former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe passed away overnight at age 87. The news is significant and saddening; to have governed this tremendous state is no small thing. 

Politicians of all sorts take the opportunity to weigh in at a moment like this, yet one thing you may not see — but ought to — is that Briscoe, BBA ’43, Distinguished Alumnus, was among the most loyal and generous of Texas Exes. He and his late wife Janey, BS ’71, MEd ’72, gave back to both their alma mater and their alumni association faithfully.

Two gifts in particular stand out.

One was the donation of Briscoe’s valuable collection of memorabilia to what was then The University of Texas at Austin Center for American History.

The papers, documents, and assorted historical items included everything from correspondence with President Johnson (a mentor of Briscoe’s) to the first known Texas photograph (an 1849 daguerreotype depicting the Alamo).

That gift and others were so important (together totaling some $15 million), the center renamed itself the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Director Don Carleton expressed deep sadness today at Briscoe’s passing, calling him a man of “absolute integrity.”

Just as close to our hearts here at the Alumni Center was the completion of our building. Though it was expanded in 1990, the colorful new wing wasn’t paid for until 1994, when Dolph and Janey pledged to pay the balance of the note. The rotunda that takes visitors into the elegant ballroom now bears the Briscoes’ names.

Briscoe was a wealthy banker and rancher who engineered Texas’s civic progress as he led the state in the ’70s and gave ever more broadly as a philanthropist in his later years. So these gifts only graze the top of what he and his wife contributed here. 

But his deep University of Texas ties are one more reason to think with pride and solidarity of the man as he is mourned this week. 


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