Two of the Rio Grande Valley's most prominent landmarks, the John H. Shary Home and the nearby Shary Memorial Chapel, have been donated to The University of Texas-Pan American Foundation.
Shary, a prominent land developer who is considered "the father of the Texas citrus industry," and his wife, Mary O'Brien Shary, lived in the home until their deaths in 1945 and 1959, respectively.
"UT Pan American is proud to have been entrusted with such important historical treasures," said President Miguel A. Nevárez. "Governor and Mrs. Shivers were good friends to the university, and we intend to be good stewards of these facilities and of the Shary-Shivers legacy in the Rio Grande Valley."
From 1965 to 1978, Mrs. Shivers served on the Board of Regents of what was then Pan American University before it merged with The University of Texas System. She chaired the Pan American University Board of Regents, and her husband chaired The University of Texas Board of Regents.
Though Gov. and Mrs. Shivers and their four children lived in Austin, they spent most holidays at their Rio Grande Valley home over the years. After Mrs. Shivers died in September 1996, her children - John Shary Shivers of Fort Worth, Allan "Bud" Shivers Jr. of Austin, Marialice Sue "Cissie" Shivers Ferguson of Austin and Brian McGee Shivers of Dallas - decided to donate the home and chapel to the UT Pan American Foundation for the benefit of the university.
The house, now known as the Shary-Shivers Estate, was built in 1917 by John H. Shary, five years after the Nebraska native arrived in the Rio Grande Valley with a dream of developing the fertile river delta and turning the ornamental citrus trees he found there into a major new industry.
Shary's success in helping Texas' southernmost region develop into one of the nation's leading agricultural areas is chronicled in his papers, which have been donated to UT Pan American's Rio Grande Valley Historical Collection. The John H. Shary Room, which is under construction in the UTPA Library, will soon house the Shary Collection, Shary's office furniture and other memorabilia.
At the historic home in Sharyland, the Shary and Shivers families hosted many distinguished visitors, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who spent three days with Mrs. Shary and the Shivers family in 1953 when he was in South Texas to dedicate Falcon Dam; famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle; popular author and lecturer Dale Carnegie; and many important business leaders of the day.
The Shary Memorial Chapel, which also has been entrusted to UT Pan American, was added to the estate by Mrs. Shary to honor her husband's wish to be buried among the ebony trees just east of their home. The chapel's bell tower, which reaches high above the famous Shary citrus orchards, has been a Valley landmark for the last 50 years. Mr. and Mrs. Shary are entombed in matching marble vaults inside the small chapel.