In Memoriam: Philanthropist Louis A. Beecherl Jr. chaired UT System Regents

By Rachel Donihoo / October 2011

Louis A. Beecherl Jr., dedicated public servant and former chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, died in July at age 85.

A longtime friend of UT Southwestern, the Dallas oilman was twice elected chairman of the Regents board, where he strived to expand and improve education statewide. Among his priorities were providing better health care and education to all, explained Dr. Kern Wildenthal, president of UT Southwestern from 1986 – 2008 and now president of Southwestern Medical Foundation.

Louis A. Beecherl Jr.
Louis A. Beecherl Jr.

“Louis Beecherl not only was a legendary leader in the petroleum industry, he was equally highly regarded throughout Texas for his unwavering commitment to excellence in higher education and research,” he said. “As chairman of the Board of Regents in the 1980s and ‘90s, he led an intense effort to steer UT’s universities and medical centers toward top-tier status and to convince the Texas Legislature that investments in high-quality education and research are vital to the State’s future.

“He continued to be a leading political advocate for higher education until his death.  Moreover, he and his wife, Julie, were exceptionally generous personal philanthropists to UT Southwestern, whose many gifts were of crucial importance for the development of the medical center’s research and clinical programs.”

Mr. Beecherl, a Dallas native, was born in 1926. After graduating from Highland Park High School, he served in the Navy at the end of World War II. He received two bachelor’s degrees, one in engineering from the UT Austin and one in mathematics from Tulane University.

He worked for several independent oil companies before joining Texas Oil and Gas Corp. in 1955, where he served as chairman and chief executive officer for 20 years. After retiring from the oil and natural gas business, Mr. Beecherl focused on investments and a second “career” in public service. One of his first appointments was as chairman of the Texas Water Development Board from 1980 to 1986. Water and soil conservation remained of paramount importance to him for the remainder of his life.

“Louis knew his own mind, and was very passionate and devoted to the causes he believed in,” said W. Plack Carr Jr., a longtime friend and vice president of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “Long before others got on the bandwagon, he would stand up for what he thought was right. UT Southwestern and, indeed, all of Texas, benefited immeasurably from his love of education and advocacy for research. He was someone who firmly believed that knowledge was power, and those of us who knew him will always remember him for his great convictions.”

In 1987, Gov. Bill Clements appointed Mr. Beecherl to the UT Board of Regents, where he was elected Chairman in 1989 and 1991. He also was active in numerous other civic organizations including the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, where he was secretary of the board; the Gaston Episcopal Hospital Foundation, which he chaired for many years; the Dallas County Salvation Army, where he was on the advisory board; and the Baylor Health Care Foundation, where he served as a director and vice chairman. He also was chairman of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, president of the Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America and a member of the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

Mr. and Mrs. Beecherl offered significant philanthropic support to UT Southwestern through major gifts toward construction of University Hospital - Zale Lipshy, creation of the Center for Basic Research in Molecular Immunology, and the endowment of the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science and the Nadine and Tom Craddick Distinguished Chair in Medical Science. Friends of the couple honored them by establishing the Julie and Louis Beecherl Jr. Chair in Medical Science at UT Southwestern in 2005.

In 1996 the couple was given Southwestern Medical Foundation’s highest honor, the Charles Cameron Sprague Community Service Award. Mr. Beecherl was an honorary trustee of the Foundation.

He is survived by his wife, three daughters, five sons, 35 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Dr. Wildenthal holds the Carolyn P. and Frank M. Ryburn Jr. Distinguished Chair in Basic Research in Heart Disease.