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Amarillo philanthropist endows international fellowship program at UT Austin

A $30 million endowment made possible by a gift from the estate of Sybil B. Harrington of Amarillo will be used to create an international fellowship program to enhance the competitiveness of The University of Texas at Austin in attracting talented faculty and graduate students, University officials announced today.

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AUSTIN, Texas—A $30 million endowment made possible by a gift from the estate of Sybil B. Harrington of Amarillo will be used to create an international fellowship program to enhance the competitiveness of The University of Texas at Austin in attracting talented faculty and graduate students, University officials announced today.

The Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program will provide salary, research and travel grants to approximately five faculty members and 16 graduate students each year. Candidates will be selected on the basis of their leadership qualities, originality and creativity of their work, and their contributions to the global community. Fellows will be recruited from universities throughout the United States and around the world.

“This magnificent gift will have a major impact on the University’s ability to attract the world’s best faculty and graduate students,” said UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner. “All of us will benefit from the knowledge and accomplishments these talented individuals bring with them. We are grateful to Mrs. Sybil Harrington for her vision and foresight in establishing this international research program in Texas.”

The program is named for Donald D. Harrington, who began his career as a landman during the oil boom of the 1920s and built one of the most successful independent oil and gas operations in Texas history. Born in Edinburg, Illinois, in 1899, Harrington served in the Army Air Corps during World War I. He moved west, eventually settling in the Texas Panhandle where he established highly successful partnerships with Texas oilmen Stanley Marsh Jr. and T. J. Wagner. He married Sybil Buckingham, the granddaughter of one of Amarillo’s founding families, in 1935.

The couple enjoyed an international lifestyle, collecting valuable antiques and art on their travels. They also used their considerable wealth to support numerous philanthropic causes, particularly in the Panhandle. They formed The Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation in 1951 to support organizations that have included the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, a medical center, scholarships at regional schools and universities, a Boy Scouts camp and an award-winning string quartet. The foundation also has funded medical research at the Deafness Research Foundation in New York and the Harrington Arthritis Research Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

After Donald Harrington’s death in 1974, Sybil Harrington became president of the foundation and expanded its scope. Indulging in her love of music, especially grand opera, she became one of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s most generous benefactors, personally underwriting 15 new productions, two gala concerts, and 13 “Metropolitan Presents” telecasts. She incorporated the Harrington Foundation into the Amarillo Area Foundation before her death in 1998.

“Sybil Harrington set a new standard of philanthropy at The University of Texas,” said Johnnie D. Ray, vice president for resource development at UT Austin. “In establishing this endowment as a permanent tribute to her husband, she single-handedly raised the profile of the University in the international academic community.”

Recruitment for the program will begin immediately. The first fellows are expected to be in place by fall 2001. For more information, visit the Harrington Fellows Program Web site at www.utexas.edu/ogs/harrington/