Family endows scholarship to honor longtime WBU supporter

PLAINVIEW – Gene and Mary Frank Owen have given generously over the years to Wayland, contributing regularly to a scholarship in the name of his parents, Dr. and Mrs. A. Hope Owen, Wayland’s seventh president, and to one in the name of her father, Judge Frank Day.

Now, a new scholarship established by his family honors the late attorney who loved WBU in tangible and intangible ways, including decades of board service and serving as the university’s official legal counsel at no charge. The scholarship was dedicated during the fall meeting of the Board of Trustees, held Thursday.

His wife, Mary Frank Owen, formed the Gene and Mary Frank Owen Endowed Scholarship shortly after Gene’s death in December 2006. With contributions from other family and friends, the scholarship quickly reached endowment and will be dedicated at the Oct. 25 meeting of the Board of Trustees, on which Gene served for many years.

“If Gene were here and I told him I was doing this, he’d probably make a fuss,” laughs Mary Frank, who knows her husband was a humble man who preferred little attention. “But he just loved Wayland so much and had so much to do with it that when he died I felt like I wanted the memorials to go to something permanent.”

Though she and her family have given over the years to scholarships for their families, Mary Frank said she felt a scholarship in their name was a fitting tribute to the man who bled blue and gold though he never earned a degree from WBU.

The youngest of four children born to the Owens, Gene’s relationship to Wayland actually began when his father served as pastor of Plainview’s First Baptist Church, though he was already in college when the family moved to West Texas. After graduating from Baylor Law School, Owen moved to Plainview to join his father-in-law’s law practice. Soon, however, the military would call Gene to serve during the Korean War, and he packed up his wife Mary Frank and their first daughter, Jeffre, and served at Air Force bases in San Antonio and New York.

The family returned to Plainview in 1953 just before a son, Rudd, was born. Two more children followed – a son, Ross, and a daughter, Dayna. The family has expanded to include 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

The family was involved in their church and community, with Gene serving in leadership roles in the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Hale County Industrial Foundation, the Plainview Area United Way, the Salvation Army, the State Bar of Texas and many more.

“It seems that every aspect of this community has flourished under the influential leadership and loyal service of Gene Owen,” said Director of Development Hope English during a presentation of the Legacy Leadership Award to Owen in September 2005. “But probably the two leadership experiences that are nearest and dearest to his heart are… Wayland and the James and Eva Mayer Foundation.”

Owen served on the Wayland Board of Trustees for more than 35 years, holding every office available at one time or another. The board adopted a Resolution of Appreciation to Owen in 2001, highlighting his countless acts of service and lifetime of commitment, his wisdom and humor, and his role as “mentor, friend and even as a conscience to fellow board members.”

Though Mary Frank said she initially wanted to wait to start the scholarship fund, with memorial gifts coming to honor Gene, she felt the time was right to let others – and her family – pay tribute. She also wanted to begin helping students right away.

“The more I thought about it, I wanted to do it now while the trustees on the board now know him and can remember working with him, and I wanted to be able to see the scholarship benefit young people while I’m here,” she said. “Gene was so interested in Christian education and he got really personal about it.”

The Owen scholarship will benefit students of all majors and backgrounds who demonstrate financial need to complete their education. As an endowment, the interest from the account is pulled annually to provide scholarship gifts while the principal remains intact, blessing students well into the future.

For more information on endowed scholarships at Wayland, contact the Office of Advancement at (806) 291-3425.