Margaret Lewis Draper and her husband, L.C. Draper, were known in South Texas for their longtime support of education. The Ole Miss graduate joined her husband in making many gifts to the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA).
When Margaret Draper of Edinburg, Texas, passed away, she remembered her alma mater with a gift of more than $108,000, which has been directed to the Barnard Endowment for Faculty Support. The Barnard Initiative is named for one of UM’s most influential leaders, Frederick A. P. Barnard, a renowned scientist who provided leadership as chancellor from 1856 to 1861, before going on to lead New York’s Columbia University.
UM faculty members have garnered international acclaim through outstanding teaching and vibrant research. Now, however, stiff competition exists among leading universities to retain and recruit the brightest scholars, said Provost Morris Stocks. To ensure that Ole Miss can successfully compete with these institutions, the UM Foundation has launched the Barnard Initiative to invest $100 million in teaching and research excellence.
"Our faculty members serve as an important conduit in our efforts to transform students’ lives. They influence students daily in classrooms and labs and through one-on-one interactions. We believe the Drapers would be pleased that their resources will help provide outstanding teachers for our students, particularly since Mrs. Draper chose a career of teaching. Our ability to recruit and retain the best faculty enhances our academic community and provides our students with benefits throughout their lives and careers," Stocks said.
Draper was born in rural Alabama to parents Milton and Lucille Lewis, and the family moved to Laurel, Miss. As a young woman, Draper began her college education at Jones County Community College and finished at Ole Miss in 1942 with an undergraduate degree in education. She was active in Delta Delta Delta sorority.
She and L.C. Draper met and fell in love when he was stationed in Laurel during the end of his service in World War II. The Lieutenant Colonel had been awarded five battle stars for his time in the European Theater as part General George Patton’s drive across Europe. He served in the XIX Tactical Air Command. Before the war, he graduated from Texas A&M University, where he had been an ROTC student.
After they married in 1945, the couple moved to Edinburg, his family’s home, where he continued ranching and farming. Margaret Draper attended Edinburg Junior College to become certified to teach in Texas. The Draper family had joined with other Edinburg families to purchase the land that transformed this junior college into what is now UTPA.
The Drapers became benefactors of UTPA and enjoyed following its ROTC program. They made a practice of attending the ROTC assemblies and the commissioning of cadets. The two, who were married 64 years and died within a year of each other.
Robert S. Nelsen, president of UTPA, told the UM Foundation, "Mrs. Draper as well as Mr. Draper had huge hearts with very special places for students and education. Their legacy will live forever because of what they have done and continue to do after their deaths for others."
Margaret Draper was a retired teacher and was deeply involved in her community, including the Pan American Round Table, Edinburg Hospital Auxiliary, Museum of South Texas History and Tri-Delta sorority. The Drapers were the parents of two sons, David Draper who lives in Edinburg, and Louis Draper who died as a high school student.