L. A. “Bunk” Gibbs Scholarship Fund
Pauline Zoeller has shown what it means to make a commitment. For herself, she committed to earning her degree one course at a time. For future students, she devoted her time to set up a scholarship fund. Even today, she is dedicated to helping St. David’s Episcopal Church with its renovations—at 6 a.m. sharp each day. Born in 1921, Zoeller was raised in Burnet, Texas by parents who believed in education. Though her father’s education came to an end after the sixth grade, he put his brother and nephew through school, and loaned money to others for educational purposes.
After winning a scholarship for being the valedictorian of her high school, she began college at The University of Texas at Austin in 1939. However, one year later, she had to return home to help her mother who had suffered from a heart attack. Various circumstances would not allow her to return to academic life for another twenty years. When Zoeller returned home, she married Ferdinand William (F.W.) Zoeller in September 1940. She first met F.W. while she was still in high school at a street dance in Burnet, where he happened to be temporarily working. They lived in Burnet for several years until they moved to Austin in 1959.
Zoeller and her husband had adopted a son and two daughters, one of whom was still young at the time. Zoeller rode the city bus with her daughter to school, leaving three free hours in her schedule. Upon her husband’s suggestion she began The University of Texas at Austin again. Over the next 10 years, Zoeller continued to take courses she enjoyed, always making sure they could lead to a degree, until 1973 when she earned her degree in anthropology. A few years later, Zoeller’s mother passed away, leaving her an inheritance. Having grown up with a strong belief in the value of education, Zoeller decided she wanted to help students tackle college expenses. So, in 1977, she took $1,000 to the university to start a scholarship. She ended up leaving with the money because it fell below the required minimum amount.
Determined to make the scholarship happen, she put the money into a certificate of deposit where she let it mature, moved it, and added some additional money along the way. Ten years later she was able to return to the university with $10,000 to create the L. A. “Bunk” Gibbs Scholarship in memory of her father. “There is always a way you can give money,” Zoeller said. “With money, little becomes bigger, until it grows into enough. It goes to show you can do whatever you set your mind to.”
In 1998, when Zoeller’s husband passed away, she knew she wanted to do something in his honor. She started by making a memorial at St. David’s Episcopal Church, where they had been members since 1959, but later felt moved to do more. “St. David’s had given me a refrigerator magnet with a prayer on it that asked what else could be done,” Zoeller said. “I saw that prayer each day and eventually the idea came to me that I could become the runner for the construction that St. David’s was about to start, and wouldn’t you know, they were looking for a runner.”
Previously, Zoeller was sitting in on committee meetings, but in May of 2001, she put on a hard hat and made the move to active volunteerism. Zoeller has many responsibilities at the construction site and she knows nearly all of the workers and keeps in close communication with them. She learned a whole new lingo filled with construction terms to put together the many sexton files that keep the project organized. She even knows what each room will look like upon completion. Zoeller has spent her life making commitments and sticking to them. Even today, she still gives annually to the university. She has learned that wealth alone does not make an endowment. “I hope my experience impacts a lot of potential new donors,” Zoeller said. “Perhaps those who have never realized, they too, can make contributions that can be meaningful, no matter what size.”
Update April, 2019: Pauline Zoeller passed away in April, 2018