William A. Brookshire only visited the LSU Student Union once when he was enrolled as a graduate student. He’s quick to explain that trip was only made because “Hatcher Hall was closed, and I couldn’t get coffee.”
Brookshire, the co-founder and chairman of the board of S & B Engineers and Constructors, was all work and little play when he was in school. Now, he’s giving back to the students who share his values.
More than 70 students in the College of Engineering were honored with the William Brookshire Scholarship in Engineering this academic year, and on Wednesday night, they had the chance to meet and dine with the man who has helped fund their education. The scholarship, which has been in place since 2010, is given to full-time undergraduate students who have a combined work and course work schedule of more than 30 hours per week.
“My focus is on the kids that are working their way through school,” Brookshire said, reflecting on his own undergraduate and graduate experience balancing work and school. “I want to help the kids who are trying to help themselves.”
Brookshire began his undergraduate studies at a junior college before transferring to the University of Houston. His father had enough war bonds to pay for one semester, he said, but after that, he was tasked with funding his own education. To makes ends meet, he held a variety of jobs, working as a lab technician, an electrician and the like, and he took classes at night.
He graduated from the University of Houston in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He then enrolled in graduate school at LSU, where he earned his master’s in science in 1959 and his Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1961.
After six years working as a process engineering supervisor for Exxon Corporation in Houston, he invested $10,000—his life savings of $7,000 and an additional $3,000 he borrowed—and created S & B Engineers and Constructors with business partner James Slaughter, Sr. That small company of two employees has since grown to include more than 7,500 employees globally.
“Dr. Brookshire worked hard, and he knows what that can mean for you if you do the same,” Richard Koubek, dean of the College of Engineering, told the students at the ceremony. “Look at what he’s accomplished. It’s remarkable to me. When I first met him, I deeply respected him, and now I have to say that I deeply admire him.”
Brandon Travis, mechanical engineering senior and scholarship recipient, also expressed his gratitude. He was one of two students who made a presentation at the ceremony.
“As a student, husband, father and member of society who holds a full-time course schedule and works up to 40 hours a week, I find each day holds new experiences and challenges,” Travis said, detailing his rural upbringing and financial hardships. “Dr. Brookshire, words cannot express how grateful I am that you provide this scholarship to engineering students … Your selfless sponsorship of our education, which grants us the opportunity to passionately continue in our career development, is now a special part of each of our stories.”
The following are the 2014-15 recipients of the William Brookshire Scholarship in Engineering:
In addition, William Barrett Ainsworth was awarded the William A. Brookshire Graduate Assistantship in Chemical Engineering, as of January 1.