Though James Royce Whatley ’47 was a brilliant businessman whose successful career spanned four decades, it is not his financial acumen he is remembered for. Instead, Whatley’s legacy is a history of philanthropy that has touched the lives of countless thousands, including students at Texas A&M University. Though he passed away in 2005, Whatley’s contributions and love for Texas A&M University have not stopped. His final gift to his alma mater was recently announced: $2 million for endowed faculty chairs in Mays Business School and the College of Geosciences.
“Mr. Whatley’s dedication to Texas A&M University and Mays Business School has been inspiring,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “It is former students like him that make Texas A&M University a special school. We are grateful for his generosity to Mays Business School, with this gift that will have a tremendous impact on our faculty.”
Whatley’s association with Texas A&M began in 1943, when he enrolled in the business program and donned his corps uniform. Like many young men of that era, Whatley put his academic pursuits on hold to defend his country in World War II, serving as a Navy merchant ship gunner. When he returned home in 1946, he had a renewed zest for his education. He quickly completed both a bachelors and masters degree in accounting and became a CPA. It was during that time he also met his bride, Elizabeth, with whom he shared 58 happy years. The couple had one son, James, who was lost to leukemia at a young age.
The majority of Whatley’s career was spent with Kaneb Services, a petroleum engineering pipeline company. Over the course of three decades with the firm, Whatley served in a number of roles including CFO, controller, vice president, president, and CEO. He also was involved in commercial banking and investments.
One of Whatley’s proudest achievements was his contribution to the founding of Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant. Whatley was part of the original board of trustees that secured the funding and set about to build the college from the ground up. “There were a lot of people in that area who could afford to send their kids to college, but there were even more that couldn’t,” said Mrs. Whatley, who says her husband was passionate about providing opportunities for young people to get the education they might not otherwise have access to. Whatley provided many scholarships to students at NTCC; the most promising ones also received funding to achieve advanced degrees at A&M.
Adding to his philanthropic activities, Whatley also enjoyed supporting the arts in East Texas, Texas heritage and history, cancer research, and A&M football. For all of his personal and professional contributions, Mays Business School presented him with an Outstanding Alumni Award in 2002.