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Honoring a departed friend

Giving News

David Walter and Harris Kerr

By Tod Francis

Harris Kerr’s time at The University of Texas is steeped in history. He recalls watching the Senate Watergate hearings with his fellow law students and waiting in line overnight to walk past Lyndon Johnson’s casket, which lay in state at the LBJ library. While these events certainly stand out in Kerr’s memory, it is his friendship with a fellow UT Law graduate he met years after leaving campus that may have the most special meaning for him.

Kerr and David Walter both earned two University degrees — each has a BA from the College of Liberal Arts and a JD from the School of Law. They didn’t meet, however, until well after they left the Forty Acres. In addition to their UT connections, it turned out that Kerr and Walter both went to high school and junior college at the New Mexico Military Institute. They became friends by chance at an NMMI alumni gathering.

“David was one of those people who, five minutes after you met him, you knew would be a lifelong friend,” says Kerr, who currently has a law practice in Midland. Once the two learned that their time at UT had overlapped — Walter earned his BA in government in 1970, Kerr his in history in 1972; Kerr received his JD in 1974 and Walter earned his in 1977 — their instant camaraderie was strengthened even further.

Unfortunately, Walter died unexpectedly in 2003 at age 55. To honor his friend, Kerr recently decided to create a President’s Associates Endowment in his memory. Kerr says Walter put great stock in his UT degrees. “He really believed in the benefits of education. He had a wonderful life and career because of it.” He adds that Walter, who went to school under the G.I. Bill, understood firsthand the impact of financial support on a student’s life. “David thought helping a student who needed financial assistance was about the best thing you could do.”

The President’s Associates program began in 1972. Since then, nearly 50 permanent endowments have been created to support a wide variety of programs across campus, in addition to thousands of yearly memberships. Kerr’s President’s Associates Endowment in memory of David Walter will provide the Office of the President with funds that may be used to support student scholarships and other critical priorities.

Kerr says that Walter’s untimely death prevented the Texas Exes Life Member from giving back to UT in as meaningful a way as he would have liked. “David believed in helping other people, and creating the endowment strikes me as something he would have done,” says Kerr. “I hope it will help young people who attend UT to graduate as idealists who can change the world.”

Burnt orange memories: David Walter is pictured at top in the left photo, from the 1970 Cactus yearbook. Harris Kerr is on the right, from the 1972 Cactus.

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