Houston lawyer, LU alum gives $1 million to establish student fellowships

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 13, 2007, 11:00am

When David Beck arrived at Lamar for registration, a government professor noticed his academic record and suggested that he study law.

More than 40 years later, Beck has received national recognition for his work as an attorney. As a way to thank that Lamar professor and his alma mater, Beck has established the David J. Beck Fellowship through a donation of $1 million to the Lamar University Foundation.

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

Beck grew up in Port Arthur, one of five children of a Gulf Refinery worker and a housewife.

"I grew up in Port Arthur, and, had it not been for Lamar, I would not have had the opportunity to earn a college degree. Lamar also gave me a great foundation for law school," Beck said in university press release.

As a student at Lamar, Beck joined the pre-law program via a bachelor's degree in government, the registration-day suggestion of Irving Dawson, then chair of the government department.

"He was the first person I met when I showed up at Lamar to register . . . He looked at my test scores and said, 'You know, you really ought to look into government and history.' Professor Dawson was a wonderful mentor. 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."

A graduate of the class of 1961, Beck served the college as president of the Student Government Association. In 1987, Beck became a trustee of the LU Foundation, and served as board president in 1991-92. In 1993, Gov. Ann Richards appointed Beck a regent of the Lamar University System. He was honored as a Lamar University Distinguished Alumnus in 1999. In 2002, Beck established a scholarship in political science for students who need financial assistance to attend college.

He began the Beck, Redden & Secrest LLP firm in Houston in 1992. Beck, Redden handles high-stakes litigation for corporate defendants. It was named one of the Top 5 "boutique" firms, firms specializing in litigation, in the country.

Beck is president of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the membership of which is limited to the top 1 percent of trial lawyers in the country and works with lawyers and judges throughout the United States and Canada to improve the system of justice and foster higher ethical standards.

The David J. Beck Fellowship will be awarded on a competitive basis to outstanding undergraduate scholars who demonstrate financial need. Beck Fellows will receive full academic scholarships (including tuition, books, fees, university room and board), with the addition of a stipend for summer study, research, internship opportunities or international study.

The fellowship will be awarded for one academic year but may be renewed upon successful reapplication. Applicants will submit a proposal that includes their personal and professional goals and how the Beck Fellowship will advance those goals. Applicants also will be asked to define how they expect the opportunity afforded by the Beck Fellowship to prepare them to contribute to society.

The David J. Beck Fellowship initially will fund two fellows each year. The annual cost per fellow will be approximately $25,000, including up to $10,000 for summer stipends.

Beck hopes the fellowship will give outstanding scholars with financial need even more opportunity than he had as a student-opportunity to study and research in their chosen field and accept internships or the educational enrichment of travel rather than being tied to an outside job, sometimes more than one, unrelated to their major.

"The academic and leadership opportunities made possible by this generous investment in Lamar University will enable exceptional students, with the assistance of faculty mentors, to participate in a unique undergraduate experience. Beck Fellows will be graduates well prepared as scholars and as leaders to make a difference in the world," said Stephen Doblin, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Lamar University.

The university, a member of the Texas State University System, has more than 10,000 students.

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