Attorney establishes Lamar University scholarship in honor of college mentor

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 9, 2009, 5:22am

David Beck

Attorney David Beck clearly remembers his first day at Lamar University; that was the day a professor looked at his academic record and encouraged him to study political science and law.

Beck took the professor's advice and 40 years later is one of Houston's most successful lawyers. Not forgetting his college mentor, the attorney has established a scholarship in the professor's honor.

The Irving Dawson Scholarship is named in honor of the former chair of the political science department at Lamar University. Beck established the scholarship as a tribute to his teacher's mentorship and compassion for higher education.

Beck grew up in Port Arthur, one of five children of a Gulf Refinery worker and a housewife. He has said that without Lamar, he would not have had the opportunity to go to college at all.

"Professor Dawson was a wonderful mentor," said Beck. "He knew my economic background and helped me get part-time jobs to make some money and stay in school. So he was a tremendous influence on me."

As a student at Lamar, Beck joined the pre-law program via a bachelor's degree in government.

Professor Dawson impacted Lamar students' lives for 20 years as an instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and full professor in the department of political science. A Montana native, Dawson came to Lamar in 1951 where he served until 1971. From 1960 until 1971, Dawson served as department chair.

According to Beck, Dawson's students thought of him as more than just a professor while chair of the department. His thoughtful demeanor and caring personality created a unique camaraderie between him and many of his students who were looking for mentoring and wisdom from a knowledgeable perspective.

Also a prolific author, Dawson published several articles focusing on such topics as employment practices in the petrochemical industry, judicial politics in Jefferson County, the operation of civil service commissions, municipal labor relations in Texas, the impact of the Texas constitution on education, and collective bargaining in state and local government.

One of his most impressive efforts was his co-authorship of Governing Texas, a widely used textbook in Texas colleges and universities.

In 1971, Dawson became chair of the department of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he remained until his retirement. Since his retirement, he has remained an active author and researcher.

The Dawson Scholarship is not Beck's first act of generosity to Lamar. He established the David J. Beck Fellowship through a donation of $1 million to the Lamar University Foundation.

The fellowship is awarded to undergraduate students in financial need who exhibit high academic performance in any discipline.

For information about establishing an endowed scholarship, contact the Lamar University Foundation at (409) 880-2117.

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