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Athlete Who Never Played Here
Is Honored With Endowment

The Sam Houston State University men's basketball program has hit a gusher.

Larry Kyle The late Grady Isbell, who drilled oil wells throughout the world, has provided almost $163,000 in funding for the Sam Houston State University men's basketball program.

Isbell, who lived in Elkhart and died in March 2000 at the age of 95, directed in his will that stock he owned in the Chevron Corporation be given to Sam Houston State University in memory of his late wife, Evalena Kyle Isbell, and her nephew, Larry James Kyle (right).

Larry Kyle played high school basketball in Houston and was offered an athletic scholarship in 1968 to play at Sam Houston State. He died in a fall on the summer job he was working on a Houston dock in July of that year.

"He loved basketball," his father, J. L. Kyle of Elkhart, said. "He loved any kind of sports and was looking forward to attending Sam Houston State."

Mr. and Mrs. Kyle attended a ceremony at Sam Houston State University recently during which the Grady Isbell gift establishing the Evalena Kyle Isbell and Larry James Kyle Men's Basketball Endowment was announced.

Several Sam Houston State University officials expressed their appreciation for the gift. "We're very grateful to the Grady Isbell family for this donation. It comes at a good time, and will be put to good use," said Bob Marlin, SHSU men's basketball coach. "The endowment will provide money for program expenses and for scholarships for many future teams and players."

Bobby Williams, SHSU athletic director, said that $100,000 of the gift will be placed in an endowment and that $63,000 will be used over a three year period for basketball program improvements. B. K. Marks, SHSU president, expressed appreciation on behalf of the university.

"It is most gratifying to know that this university, with its long and great history, is remembered with affection by those whose lives we touched in some way," said Marks. "To receive a gift of this kind is reassurance that we have made a positive impact on the lives of those with whom we have developed relationships in years past."

Although the classroom is the primary vehicle for learning in college, it is not the only vehicle, said Marks. Intercollegiate Athletics is also a vehicle for learning, and some 300 student athletes at Sam Houston State University have the opportunity to learn through the vehicle of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Furthermore, he said, many of those student athletes could not attend college without intercollegiate athletics.

Marks pointed out that the overall grade point average and the overall retention rate of our student athletes is higher than for the general student population, and that for continuing success, we must have the partnership of people such as Mr. Grady Isbell.

"Through the vision of people such as Grady Isbell, we are able to offer the learning opportunity to more student athletes, and to do a better job of recruiting, retaining, and educating them," he said. "We are grateful for Mr. Isbell's insightful support of our Athletics Program. Such gifts encourage all of us to give our best efforts to help our student athletes achieve success, both on the playing field and in the classroom."

Gary A. Bouse, executive director of university advancement, worked directly with the executor of Grady Isbell's estate.

"Bequests such as the one provided by Mr. Isbell make a big difference in the quality of a university's programs, in a era when the university must continue to rely on philanthropic support," said Bouse.

Presentation Ceremony
Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Kyle of Elkhart, left center, participated in the announcement of the Evalena Kyle Isbell and Larry James Kyle Men's Basketball Endowment. Other participants were Thelma Douglass, left, vice president for student services; Bobby Williams, right center, athletic director; and Gary Bouse, right, executive director of university advancement.

Isbell, who was born in Anson and went to work for the Gulf Oil Company in Texas oil fields in 1928, provided for 14 non-profit and humanitarian organizations in his will. He and his wife were married 43 years, but had no children. She died in 1988.

Isbell's nephew, Taylor Paul of Tyler, remembers him as a highly successful oil finder, and one of the Gulf Oil company's most trusted employees.

When Isbell went into the military during World War II, Paul said, within 10 days the Gulf company had secured his discharge so that he could be sent on a mission as important as killing enemy soldiers--that of producing fuel for war's machines.

He was sent to the Middle East, where he drilled the first wells in Kuwait. He later drilled in Venezuela and in Sicily, where the Italian government wanted to tax Gulf Oil heavily because they knew it was a big, successful company.

When he told his superiors at Gulf what the Italians were asking, Paul said, Isbell was told to form his own company--the Isbell Oil Company--which he did, and he handled exploration, production and distribution at a much lower cost.

"He was a driller who knew how to drill," said Paul.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Feb. 24, 2001
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