The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
From four sprawling West Texas cattle ranches comprising 81 sections of land, a 1935 home enshrined as the Parker House Ranching Museum in Odessa, a pair of cowboy boots preserved in bronze at the Museum, and a 7,000 square-foot student club house with twenty-first century amenities on the campus of The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB), the Parker family legacy is one that has spanned generations and communities.
In 1900, 24-year-old James Early "Jim" Parker, Jr. left his family's farm near Waco to set out on his own in West Texas where he soon owned and operated a successful Hereford cattle ranch. He met Bessie Ola Lindley, a teacher in a one-room, nine-grade schoolhouse in Mertzon, Texas. The two married and traveled by covered wagon to a section of land that Parker would later organize as Andrews County. Money raised from livestock paid to send one of the Parker's sons to college. The rancher and his wife pioneered a family legacy that emphasized education and hard work. Parker literally "died with his boots on" in 1954. A pair of his cowboy boots, that his wife commissioned to be cast into bronze, are displayed in the Parker House Museum. The restoration of the 1935 house was overseen by Dr. J. Tillapaugh, historian and UT Permian Basin Assistant Vice President of Graduate Studies and Sponsored Research.
Jim Parker, a diminutive 5'5" with piercing blue eyes, was bigger than life to many West Texans. His family joined together to establish an endowment with $210,000 and to name the recently constructed UT Permian Basin student club house, with its towering fašade, as a tribute to the spirit of the prominent ranching family. The Parker Ranch House endowment is invested in the Long Term Fund.
Generations of the Parker family have served the communities of Andrews and Ector counties since 1907. Jim and Bessie Ola Parker weathered the Great Depression and years of drought before the Humble Oil & Refining Company discovered oil on one of their ranches, permitting them to sell the mineral rights. They had four ranches, including one in Andrews. Now their legacy has extended to include maintaining the University's Parker Ranch House. It offers students three group-study rooms, a meeting room, a fitness center, a kitchen, mail area, theatre and a barbeque deck. Student residents have praised the addition of the club house for providing them with the largest gathering place in the University's student housing complex.
As the Parkers were renowned for their stewardship of the land and preserving history by donating their family homestead and memorabilia for the education of the public, they are also supporting the stewardship of the UTPB Parker Ranch House. Their endowment will maintain the building that will serve generations of students seeking a higher education in Texas and their own livelihood in the world when they set out on their own, as did Bessie Ola and James Early Parker, Jr.