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A Realized Dream: Paying It Forward

A 1966 graduate of Southwestern, Truman J Odiorne grew up on a family ranch in Johnson City, Texas, where his values were shaped by a close-knit family and his involvement in the United Methodist Church. His high school English teacher opened him up to the world of Shakespeare, a love that lasted throughout his life. Odiorne greatly valued education, but when it came time to select a college, his choices were limited due to a lack of financial resources. Fortunately, as valedictorian of his high school class, he was able to attend Southwestern on an academic scholarship.

On his application to Southwestern, Odiorne described himself as friendly, stubborn, calm, self-confident, conscientious, cheerful, and a frequent day-dreamer. Once on campus, he became active in many areas of campus life and found leadership opportunities in more than one.

Odiorne often credited Southwestern’s small size and personal learning environment with his academic success as a chemistry major, and attributed his leadership skills to the variety of governance roles he served in as a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. As a Pike, Odiorne served twice as scholarship chairman and yearbook chairman, as well as rush chairman and president.

He also earned leadership honors as an elected member of the University’s Honor Council and of Blue Key, a men’s national leadership fraternity that chose members based on their high academic standing and contributions to campus. In addition, as an active member of Southwestern’s Chemical Society, he was awarded the American Chemical Society Award, which was given annually to one or more outstanding seniors majoring in chemistry from universities around the U.S.

Southwestern Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Bob Soulen, who was Odiorne’s major professor, says, “Indeed I remember him very well.” Soulen also told the Austin American Statement that Odiorne was “an outstanding student” and “always interested in learning new things.”

An athletic student, Odiorne also competed on his fraternity’s baseball and bowling teams, and was a coach for their championship-winning intramural football team. He was also active in Georgetown, working on numerous community service projects like the rehabilitation of picnic facilities at the city park.

After graduating from Southwestern, Odiorne attended graduate school at Rice University, where he later worked as a physical chemist, conducting early laser research and participating in a groundbreaking experiment cited in many chemistry journals, including Nobel Prize literature. After nine years, he left higher education and accepted a job with DuPont, where he helped to develop and improve blood analysis technology.

“Truman had the ability to identify his colleagues’ strengths and lead them in the direction where they could be most effective,” says Odiorne’s widow, Margaret, who attributes this skill to her husband’s liberal arts and sciences experience at Southwestern. He also had strong family ties according to his nephew, Chris Sultemeier, who describes his uncle as a “caring, generous friend who gave good advice, was a great listener, and treated me like an adult.”

Now, 52 years after receiving his original scholarship to Southwestern, Odiorne is posthumously providing the same opportunity to scores of future Southwestern students through a $5.1 million gift to the University’s endowment. Mrs. Odiorne, recently made the gift to Southwestern to fulfill the desire of her late husband to establish a permanent scholarship fund for students from the Texas Hill Country who are in need of financial assistance.

The income from this generous endowment gift will engage the minds and transform the lives of generations of Southwestern students to come, and will be a shining example to others of the life-changing power of giving.
President Edward Burger

President Edward Burger says, “I’m touched by Truman’s gratitude for his Southwestern scholarship and his strong desire to pay it forward. The income from this generous endowment gift will engage the minds and transform the lives of generations of Southwestern students to come, and will be a shining example to others of the life-changing power of giving. I thank Margaret and Truman for their enormous generosity of spirit.”

To be eligible for the Odiorne Scholarship, students must meet Southwestern’s financial need and academic eligibility standards. Further eligibility requires students to have resided in the Texas Hill Country for at least one year prior to admission to Southwestern. “Texas Hill Country” is defined by the geographic area comprised of the following Texas counties: Bandera, Medina, Bexar, Kerr, Gillespie, Kendall, Blanco, Burnet, Travis and Williamson.

In addition to making the generous gift in her husband’s honor, Mrs. Odiorne has challenged the Southwestern community to come together in the next five months (February 1–June 30, 2015) to give an additional $5.1 million in celebration of the next 175 years of students having a life-changing Southwestern Experience. Learn more about the “Five in Five for the next 175” campaign here


Story by Kristina Moore


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1 comment

  1. John W. Raish '67

    I don’t know enough, evidently, how your website works. I saw the Vote Up and Vote Down boxes; and noted that there was one negative (COMMENT, I thought). I could not imagine anyone would be negative about the man I knew well and respected to the utmost. I wanted to see what possibly could be said in a negative vein. To my horror when I clicked to see what the comment was, I saw that I had voted against the article! That would be the furthest thought from my mind. I respectfully suggest that you clarify what you mean by asking for “votes”. I am accustomed to seeing responses on the internet that ask for up or down comments. That is what your site seemed to request. Then again I am one of your older living alumni, ill versed in internet protocol. If possible, please remove one vote negative.

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