The University of Texas at Tyler
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When Hickory Flat and Mahl school districts consolidated in 1923, 12-year-old John Whitaker joined a team of volunteers who contributed countless hours of manpower to the project. Plank by plank, they dismantled the old Hickory Flats schoolhouse, loaded the materials onto a wagon and transported them to a construction site where they continued to labor until the new Central Heights School was completed. For Whitaker, it was only the beginning of a lifetime of devoting time, energy and resources toward the advancement of education. Like a carpenter hammering and drilling and chiseling from dawn to dusk, Whitaker has continued to make contributions over the past eight decades, serving as a teacher, principal and school board member, as well as a philanthropist.

Most recently, Whitaker and his wife, Gladys, also a former teacher, presented a gift of $113,900 to The University of Texas at Tyler-Longview University Center (LUC) for scholarships. The Hogan-Whitaker Endowed Scholarship primarily benefits UT Tyler LUC students from Gregg County and Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Whitaker's alma mater. Secondary consideration will go to students majoring in nursing and education at the Longview campus. The endowment is invested in the Long Term Fund.

John and Gladys Whitaker

The Hogan-Whitaker Endowment is given in honor of Whitaker's parents, Addie Hogan and Charles Richard Whitaker, who inspired all nine of their children to pursue an education. Eight of the children became teachers, with each older one helping the next one obtain a college education. Whitaker said his support of education is inspired by the importance his parents placed on learning. "I remember the sacrifices that Mama and Papa made for all of us. They had nine children to educate and the only financial source was the profits on the farm.''

Whitaker was a serious and determined student throughout his school years. In the seventh grade at Central Heights School, he missed most of the school year to assume the farming duties of his brother, who left home to attend barber school. Whitaker could attend school only on rainy days when it was too wet to plow. However, he successfully completed the school year, accomplishing on rainy days what took the other students the entire year to achieve.

Whitaker received a bachelor's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1933 and accepted the position of principal and coach at Sabine High School in Gregg County. He earned a master's degree in public administration from The University of Texas at Austin in 1940. Whitaker said his years in education were "the best years of my life. Teaching is a wonderful calling,'' he added. "I really think that a schoolteacher has as much opportunity to serve mankind as the ministry does. I am positive that teachers can make a great impact, if they are dedicated.''

After 10 years at Sabine High School, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon discharge, he returned to Longview and began a career in the oil and land business. There he met Gladys Chaffin, who was teaching in Longview schools. They were married in 1948.

A graduate of Baylor University with a major in French, Mrs. Whitaker also grew up in a family that stressed the importance of education. After graduation, she taught at South Ward Elementary School in Longview and eventually substituted in several schools in the Longview area.

Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker are excited about UT Tyler LUC and the educational opportunities available to students there. They hope their contribution to the campus will inspire others to give. "Perhaps some of the kids I taught will find out about the scholarship endowment and over time will add to it,'' Whitaker said. "I want this campus to grow.''