San Antonio’s first female mayor, Lila Cockrell, will be honored with a scholarship in her name at Southern Methodist University, her alma mater, university officials said this week.
The Lila Cockrell Endowed Scholarship‘s initial funding comes from SMU alumnus Bruce Bugg Jr., chairman the Bank of San Antonio and chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, who contributed $10,000.
Cockrell, 97, is in declining health. She and her family were notified of the gift and were appreciative, according to family members and friends.
“I’m counting on a lot of friends that Lila has in the San Antonio community to help us out” with contributions to the scholarship endowment, said Bugg, who received an undergraduate degree from SMU in 1976 and graduated from its law school in 1979. “We need to raise a minimum of $100,000 in order to endow the scholarship.”
Cockrell, who served four terms as San Antonio’s mayor, graduated in 1942 with a bachelor of arts degree and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. In 1967, she was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award and received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the university in 1981.
In 2017, Cockrell received an honorary degree from St. Mary’s University.
Erin Jines, SMU’s director of Leadership and Affinity Giving who is from San Antonio, said she was reminded that Cockrell attended the university after reading a Rivard Report book review of Cockrell’s memoir earlier this year.
“[Cockrell’s alumni status] hasn’t really been on our radar and we realized there was a huge opportunity to really honor her legacy and propel future leaders to follow in her footsteps,” Jines said.
Qualifications for the scholarship are still being determined, Jines said, but SMU will work with the Cockrell family to finalize details. It is expected to be for female students pursuing some form of public service.
“If it’s too narrowly defined, it’s hard to find students that fit that description,” she said.
Cockrell’s public service, too, cannot be narrowly defined.
After college, Cockrell served as a WAVES U.S. Naval Reserve officer during World War II. She served in various civic leadership roles in Dallas and San Antonio before becoming a City Council member and then mayor. After she lost a re-election race for what would have been her fifth term in 1991, she was far from done with civic engagement.
She was the first president of the San Antonio Parks Foundation and continued to serve on various boards and commissions in the city, receiving multiple recognitions and awards. She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.
“We want to help other young women follow in her footsteps and honor her rich history of public service,” Bugg said. “I, along with so many others in San Antonio, just love and admire Lila Cockrell. … We think this will be a lasting tribute to her.”
Jines and SMU staff set up a unique landing page on the university’s website for the Lila Cockrell Endowed Scholarship. People can contribute to the fund online here, by check, or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once roughly $100,000 is raised, the money will go into an account for five years, Jines said. The proceeds can then be used to fund scholarships.
If $125,000 is raised, she said, then the funds will be available for “immediate use.”