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Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program

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Don and Sybil Harrington
Don and Sybil Harrington

Don and Sybil Harrington embodied the independent and adventurous spirit of the American West. She was the granddaughter of one of the first families to settle Amarillo. He was born in Illinois in 1899 and moved westward after serving in the Army Air Corps during World War I. Mr. Harrington took a position as a landsman with Marlin Oil Company in Oklahoma. When the Texas Panhandle oil boom hit in 1926, he moved to Amarillo, where he met Sybil Buckingham. They married in 1935 and Mr. Harrington went on to build one of the most successful independent oil and gas operations in Texas history. 

The Harrington legacy of philanthropy is far-reaching, not only in Amarillo, but across the nation. The couple created the Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation in 1951 to support worthy causes such as museums, medical research, education and the arts.

After Mr. Harrington's death, Mrs. Harrington conceived the idea of a fellowship program to honor her late husband. She envisioned a program that would support gifted and ambitious young scholars of all disciplines at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) at a level that would equal or exceed the levels of prestigious longstanding programs such as the Fulbright Scholars and Guggenheim Fellowships.

Funding for the Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program endowment began in 1990 with a gift from the Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation of mineral interests in six states. The royalties from these interests provided an initial $6.5 million to the endowment. It was agreed with Mrs. Harrington that awards from the program would begin only after the corpus had increased to a level that would support implementation of the program she had envisioned.

Over the next ten years, the endowment grew from royalties received on the mineral interests, the planned reinvestment of LTF endowment distributions, and additional cash gifts from Mrs. Harrington through the Sybil B. Harrington Living Trust. In 2001 the fund reached the level needed to support the program, and Fellowships commenced in the fall of 2001. The endowment distributed over $1,058,000 for the year ended August 31, 2002, and supports the work of distinguished faculty members and promising graduate students.

Graduate student fellows are selected on the basis of their academic performance, character, and leadership. Faculty fellows are chosen based on the originality and creativity of their work, the anticipated benefit of the award to their discipline or research area, and the potential to make significant contributions to the global community. An annual Donald D. Harrington Symposium provides an opportunity for Harrington Faculty Fellows to share the results of their research with the academic community and the general public. The first such symposium was held on the UT campus in November 2001, and in April 2002 the Harrington Fellows and University officials traveled to Amarillo to brief the Harrington Foundation and citizens of Amarillo on their progress at the University. The Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program has helped to raise significantly UT Austin's profile in the international academic community.

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