The late Margaret L. and Louis Copeland "L.C." Draper will long be remembered as two of The University of Texas-Pan American's most generous and dedicated friends. Their names grace a special meeting place in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Department of Military Science. The walls of the "Louis and Margaret Draper Conference Room" are lined with photos and memorabilia that bring to mind two exceptional individuals who took a personal interest in seeing that UTPA Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) cadets become well-educated officers.
Once, when asked why they chose to help UTPA's ROTC students, Margaret Draper explained, "We would like to assist some of the ROTC students so that they may continue their education and serve the country."
Why were the Drapers drawn to UTPA? To find the answer, one must look back to their earlier years and to their experiences with first Edinburg Junior College and then Pan American College, which later would transition into The University of Texas-Pan American.
For L.C., being an ROTC cadet and World War II veteran were contributing factors, as were his family's historical ties to the University. During the 1950s, the Drapers banded with other prominent Edinburg families to purchase real estate - called the "Cotton Patch" - that helped transform the Edinburg Junior College campus into what is now the location for UTPA. Some of L.C.'s school teachers were Edinburg Junior College professors who also taught part time at Edinburg High School.
To become certified to teach in Texas, Margaret took classes at Pan American College. Many of her close friends attended Edinburg Junior College.
During their latter years, the Drapers derived great joy from following the academic success that followed for the UTPA ROTC students they helped. The Drapers attended ROTC first-of-year assemblies, hearing of the cadets' meritorious awards earned during summer programs and competitions. As each school year progressed, they attended many a cadet's commissioning as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
Born in 1921 near the Texas Panhandle town of Lipscomb, L.C. came to Edinburg in 1929 when his family began farming in the area and graduated from Edinburg High School in 1938. He attended Texas A&M University, joining the ROTC program, and graduated in 1942 ahead of time so he and the other cadets in his class could join the war effort. Of his graduation and commissioning ceremony, he would smile and say, "We were told we were so smart, that the entire class deserved to graduate early."
Serving from 1942 through the end of the war in 1945, L.C. was awarded five battle stars and ended his active military career as a lieutenant colonel. He served in the European Theater as part of the XIX Tactical Air Command in support of General George Patton's drive across Europe.
"I was never a hero, but I knew a lot of people who were," said L.C. when recalling his military service and his A&M ROTC classmates who also served in WWII. During the war, many of his former classmates died on battlefields in France and Africa.
Born in rural Alabama in 1920, Margaret Lewis grew up in Laurel, Miss., and graduated from the University of Mississippi. L.C. and Margaret met while he was stationed in Laurel at the end of the war. In September 1945, their marriage ceremony took place in her hometown.
L.C. then traveled with his new bride to Edinburg, where he resumed farming and ranching. The couple raised two sons, one of whom died tragically in an auto accident during his junior year in high school. L.C. and Margaret were married for 64 years.
L.C. coached local Pony league baseball for many years, serving as the Valley-wide director for 10 of those years. Margaret taught for several years in the Edinburg public schools, retiring in the early 1980s. She was active in many civic organizations, including the Pan American Round Table, the Edinburg Hospital Auxiliary, the Museum of South Texas History and the Tri-Delta Sorority.
The Drapers gave cheerfully and abundantly to UTPA during their lifetimes. Their generosity was not limited to the UTPA ROTC program. Take, for example, their gift of a large parcel of farm land to UTPA and another charitable organization. The UTPA portion of that gift funded six endowments that provide scholarships not only for ROTC students but also students whose majors fall under the College of Science and Engineering, including:
• The Louis C. and Margaret L. Draper Endowment in Honor of Melvin P. Fechner (Col. Fechner formerly headed the UTPA ROTC program.)
• The Louis C. and Margaret L. Draper Endowment in Honor of E. W. "Dub" LeMaster
• The Louis C. and Margaret L. Draper Endowment in Honor of H. J. "Jake" LeMaster
• The Louis C. Draper Endowment in Honor of Margaret L. Draper
• The Louis C. Draper Endowment in Honor of Glen Draper
• The Louis C. Draper Endowment for ROTC Students
In more recent years, the Drapers made major gifts of cash in support of various scholastic programs at UTPA, including the University's Premedical Honors College. One of their larger donations was given with general guidelines to be used at the discretion of the president of the University to cover extraordinary University expenses, to fund scholarships and to provide for faculty and student needs.
"We've been singularly blessed," said L.C. when asked why he and his wife chose to support students pursuing higher education. "We're led (in our decisions) by our religious beliefs. We thank the Lord, asking Him for His guidance. These things sort of build on each other. We've stayed out of the way and let it happen."
To plan ahead for each other, their loved ones and their favorite charities, the Drapers chose estate planning strategies that included intervivos gifts (lifetime gifts) to loved ones and charities, a living trust, an irrevocable trust and an irrevocable life insurance trust. The two irrevocable trusts were designed in part for asset protection purposes because such trusts can help minimize estate taxes and keep assets inaccessible to creditors of the trust beneficiaries.
After L.C.'s death in March 2009, the UTPA Foundation received more than $750,000 from the "Louis C. Draper Family Trust." Following his guidelines as spelled out in the trust document, the Foundation's Board of Trustees made the following decisions:
• To fund $52,000 in scholarships during the 2010 and 2011 school years for students participating in the Premedical Honors College (PHC),
• To endow the "Louis C. Draper Endowed Premedical Honors College Scholarship" with $100,000 for future PHC scholarships, starting in the 2012 school year, and
• To endow future scholarships and to provide for other needs of the University by setting aside $600,000 in the "Louis C. Draper Endowment Fund."
In the future, UTPA Foundation Board of Trustees will be charged with the responsibility to make similar decisions for additional funds that are forthcoming from the Louis C. Draper Family Trust, from the Margaret L. Draper Family Trust and other Draper trusts.
Margaret passed away May 22, 2010, just three days shy of her 90th birthday.
UTPA and surrounding communities are deeply indebted to Louis C. "L.C." and Margaret L. Draper, whose far reaching vision and abundant generosity will continue to impact higher education in South Texas for a multitude of generations to come.