Cardinal Cadence Spring/Summer 2012

The life-enriching value of education

LU Foundation President Marsha Hoffer, Patsy Morphew and President James SimmonsPatsy (Smith) ’65 and Sam Morphew ’63 built a successful life together with the education they began at Lamar University and chose to spend their lives educating others.

Lamar provided a foundation for them in many ways—from finding each other to identifying career aims. They met at Lamar in 1962 through a mutual friend. High on their entertainment list were tennis matches; Sam became a trainer for the tennis team in his last two years at Lamar. They attended numerous football and basketball games together and discovered much in common. Patsy’s mother was a homemaker, and her father worked for the electric company in Sweeny. Sam’s father worked for Union Carbide in Texas City, and his mother was a bookkeeper for Texas City Refinery. They did not attend college, but, Patsy said, “it was always understood that we would go to college. Both our parents saw it as a way to a better life.”

Patsy knew she wanted to major in math, and both she and Sam chose Lamar on its merit as a strong engineering school. Sam began as a chemical engineering major but found an affinity for physics. “I really had some very good professors, and so did he,” Patsy said. A National Science Foundation loan, half of which would be forgiven if the recipient chose a career in education, helped fund Patsy’s tuition. The nation was focused on Sputnik and the space race, and government loans incentivized students to pursue math and science careers.

After graduation, the pair married and then lived and taught in Oklahoma, Alabama and Dallas. Sam earned a doctorate from Auburn University and taught physics at the University of Central Oklahoma for several years before deciding to leave education for information technology, and the couple moved to Dallas. Sam’s career spanned 29 years in the field, working for a number of companies, including Texas Instruments and the utility company TXU, where he worked in mainframe computer planning, and Patsy taught at Richland College.

When Sam developed health problems, the couple decided to move to San Antonio, near Patsy’s sister. Patsy had retired from teaching and started volunteering. Sam taught at Northwest Vista College before his death in 2010.

“We decided to create the endowment in our will to Lamar because of Juan Zabala. He was in San Antonio, and he asked to see Sam and me. He came to our home and was very friendly. Since then, we’ve discussed all that is happening at the university.

“He is genuinely interested in the alumni and wants us to know what’s going on. In the course of our conversations, he told me about the [Lamar University] Foundation. I think maybe I was aware of it, but I didn’t realize it was something I could participate in.

“We never made a huge amount of money, but we were pretty good savers, and we inherited a little bit of money, not very much, but some that helped,” Patsy said. “We always learned to live within, or with a little less than, what we made. We could never have done it without the education. It provides stability and opportunity.”

When the couple began planning their wills, they chose to give to education, to the institutions where they had trained and worked for so many years and to the students they had watched struggle financially to make something of their lives. “We’ve just always thought education is the way to a better life for people who are really motivated to go to college, but so many have problems with finances,” Patsy said. “If we can help somebody in some way to get that education, that is what we wanted to do.”

Sam and Patsy chose to focus their gifts toward helping students in pursuit of bachelor’s degrees rather than supporting research. “Of the universities that we have given to—and we have given to all of them that we attended—Lamar is the only one that seemed really interested in focusing attention on the bachelor’s degree courses and having good people to teach the classes,” Patsy said. “That’s what we need. To get that bachelor’s degree, you need somebody that wants to teach—and enjoys that—seeing kids succeed. And that’s what Sam really enjoyed.”

Patsy happened upon a former student of Sam’s who works at her bank and who is a testament to the influence a teacher can have on students and the enjoyment of learning. “That young man got his sister and his brother-in-law both to take classes from Sam. We’ve always felt that education was important—and, if we were able to, that we would like to give as much as possible to Lamar.”

by Cynthia Hicks

May 2012

Contact information

If you wish to consider a planned gift to Lamar University, please visit our website at and follow the Lamar University Foundation tab, or contact:

Floyd F. McSpadden, Jr.

Director of Planned Giving

Lamar University

PO Box 11500

Beaumont, Texas 77710

(409) 880-8422