About TCU's Endowment Fund


Early History


In 1873, Addison and Randolph Clark founded AddRan Male and Female College in Thorp Spring, Texas. The Clark Brothers began the year with 13 students at a tuition rate of $50, ending the academic year in June of 1874 with 75 students.1


The failure of a major Wall Street investment bank, Jay Cooke & Co., caused the Financial Panic of 1873. The Clarks' had hoped that their real estate holdings in Fort Worth, Texas would cover start-up costs and help establish an endowment. However, The Panic caused Fort Worth real estate values to plummet.2


In June of 1877, the school building was exchanged and the deed to Thorp Spring cancelled after "Old Man Thorp" called the note after a disagreement with the Clarks' father Joseph.3 This left the college without buildings or grounds for the 1877-78 session. To buy property and construct buildings, Addison and Randolph Clark were forced to sell their Fort Worth real estate just as property values were beginning to recover.4


In the next decade the school built a solid reputation and consistent enrollment. But when the janitor receives more money than the college president, financial stability is uncertain.5


The Clarks ultimately decided to institutionalize what was essentially a family business by transferring the college to the Christian Church in 1889. The quest for an endowed college was a primary driver in this decision. After gifting the school to Christian Churches of Texas, the college was renamed Add-Ran Christian University. Enrollment that year was 426, representing 82 counties in Texas and six other states.6


The Clarks' gift of their life's work could be interpreted as TCU's first endowment gift. Though the transfer did help put the college on firmer financial footing initially, fires and an ill-conceived move to Waco in 1896 led to "Seven Lean Years" and a 22-year delay in realizing an endowment.7


In 1908, Chalmers McPhearson was appointed endowment secretary – he was more a Whelan than a Hille. An endowment company was formed, but again it was more of a development office. Investments were in the form of bank deposits.8


In March of 1910, a fire destroyed the main building in Waco. Fort Worth seized the opportunity and offered the institution a fifty-acre campus and $200,000. TCU moved onto its present campus in 1911, the same year the endowment received its first direct gift. Dr. Lucas Charles Brite II gave $25,000 and in 1914 Brite College of the Bible, renamed Brite Divinity School in 1963, was established.9


The school's fiftieth anniversary in 1923 was marked by a gift that assured its survival: Mrs. Mary Couts Burnett left to TCU the majority of her estate, valued at $3 million*, plus half interest in several thousand acres of ranchland. Particularly when oil production began on the land, the Burnett trust became the heart of the university's endowment. The Mary Couts Burnett Library was completed in 1924, the same year in which the campus was expanded to 187 acres.10


1 Clark, Randolph. Reminiscences. (Wichita Falls: Lee Clark, 1919). pp. 42-44.

2 Hall, Colby D. History of Texas Christian University. (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1947). p. 37.

3 Hall. p. 37.

4 Clark. p. 53.

5 Clark. p. 55.

6 Clark. p. 57.

7 Hall. Chapter VIII.

8 Moore, Jerome A. Texas Christian University: A Hundred Years of History. (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1974). pp. 64-5.

9 Hall. p. 103.

* $25,000 is roughly $500k in today’s dollars.  $3M is roughly $34M in today’s dollars

10 Hall. p. 226.