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Don and Katy Houseman Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Business

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A Hand Up

When Don Houseman returned to UT from a Nazi POW camp, he had earned the Combat Infantry Badge, two Purple Hearts, and a Bronze Star. Now all he needed was his degree.

A typewriter could be a formidable device to operate, even for someone with fully functioning hands. But in the fall of 1945, UT student Don Houseman had an extra degree of difficulty: In order to graduate, he had to pass a letter-writing class. Never mind that his arm was in a cast above his head.

Less than a year earlier, Houseman’s infantry unit had been overrun during the Battle of the Bulge. His right forearm was filled with shrapnel, and later that day he took a machine gun round in the leg and was captured by the Germans. They eventually sent him to a hospital, where his arm became so painful he asked for an amputation. Another American prisoner, a doctor employed by the Nazis, was fortunately able to secure the new antibacterial drug sulpha, which saved his arm. 

Upon liberation, Houseman returned to Texas and spent 19 months undergoing treatment, his right arm immobilized. During this time he also made two important reconnections. He married the UT girl he’d left behind to fight in the war, Katy Buckley, and he re-enrolled in the business school during a 90-day leave following a bone graft.

But there was a hitch. No business major could graduate without taking Professor Bill Boyd’s exacting class. “He was famous because he was so tough,” Houseman says. “Everything had to be fitted perfectly in proportion to the page.”

Houseman’s typing proved so slow that he simply could not do the work. But Boyd, who had also served in the military, took a liking to him and allowed him to write the letters longhand — with his left hand. Though difficult for a natural right-hander, he wrote the letters and graduated.

He joined his father’s insurance company in Dallas and built on its success, never forgetting the hand up his professor had given him. In 2003, then 80, he and his wife named the McCombs School of Business as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Following Don’s lifetime, this planned gift will be added to the Don and Katy Houseman Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Business, which the Housemans have already begun funding.

Now 92, Houseman says, “I’m very proud to have graduated from The University of Texas, and if I can help others get an education and have opportunities I’ve had, I’ll do it.”

As he slowly regained limited use of his right hand, Houseman lost the ability he acquired at UT to write with his left, just as the German he learned as a POW faded as the decades rolled by. But when he wrote a memo describing his scholarship, the formatting was perfect.

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