REL grads create engineering scholarship at A&M

Jack and Marilyn Hopper, both Robert E. Lee High School graduates, have established the Marilyn and Jack Hopper Endowed Scholarship at Texas A&M University. Their hope is that the $25,000 endowment will provide support for first-generation undergraduate students in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering. (Submitted photo)

Two Robert E. Lee High School sweethearts are now giving back to help students wishing to enter the oil and gas industry. 

Jack and Marilyn Hopper have established the Marilyn and Jack Hopper Endowed Scholarship at Texas A&M University. It will support first-generation undergraduate students in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering. The endowment is for $25,000.

“That generates whatever percentage A&M has in their policy for a scholarship,” Jack Hopper said. “They have to have it for a year in order to generate the interest.”

Jack Hopper said he knows how important endowments are for schools. He helped establish another one at Lamar University where he was a professor and dean emeritus in the university’s chemical engineering department. That scholarship is worth $280,000 and helps a total of six chemical engineering students. 

‘If you have the resources and giving back to these institutions where you got the education that gave you the great jobs is what people should be doing, Jack Hopper said.  

Jack Hopper, a lifetime member of the Lee College Foundation, said it is important for students to understand the significance of getting into the petrochemical industry.

“Along the Gulf Coast, the oil and gas industry is king,” he said. “And chemical engineers are kings of the industry.” 

Jack Hopper was born and raised in Highlands, where his father, Bonnie P. Hopper, was the principal of Highlands Elementary and Highlands Junior (and later namesake of Hopper Primary). In the 1950s, both he and his wife graduated from REL. 

Then, Jack Hopper went to Lee College in 1959. 

“It was a great teaching school,” he said. “I went to a lot of schools, and that was the best teaching school out of any of them. The math and science programs were exceptional, and I was extremely well-prepared when I transferred to Texas A&M University.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University, Jack Hopper went to work for the Humble Oil Refinery and Research Center in Baytown, which later became ExxonMobil. After three years, he saw others earning a Ph.D., so he decided it was time to pursue one. 

“So, I went to the University of Delaware, got a master’s degree, and my first child was born,” he said. 

In 1964, Jack Hopper came back to work at Humble Oil. Then he went to Louisiana State University and earned his doctorate. Then he went to Lamar University in 1969, where he started as an assistant professor and later became a department head. Three years later, he chaired the Chemical Engineering Department, a position he held for 25 years before serving as the dean of engineering for 14 years.

Marilyn Hopper graduated one year after Jack Hopper from REL in 1956. She ended up going to Lamar University to earn a teaching degree and then taught kindergarten and first grade in Nederland until retirement. 

The Hoppers now live near Beaumont.

Beth Harris, Marilyn Hopper’s sister, said along with the news of the endowment, the story of the Hoppers is one to remember.

“I think this is wonderful,” Harris said. “Jack’s forte is for everyone to have an education. He’s been in the academic world practically all of his life. I am so proud of them doing this and doing something for the young chemical engineering kids. Jack has always been that way, helping the younger generations. They are from the Baytown area, and there are so many Texas A&M alumni here. I am very proud of them.” 

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