Texas A&M Engineering scholarship program honors memory of O.D. Pritchett

It was a big dream for a little boy in the Depression years, a dream his widow never forgot. Now Katherine E. Pritchett has honored that dream and her husband's memory with a million-dollar scholarship program for engineering students at Texas A&M University.

O.D. Pritchett grew up near the rural community of Bedias, Texas. As a child he tinkered with equipment on the family farm and soon found his heart set on engineering studies at nearby Texas A&M College. Grades were no problem, and he rejoiced when the college admission letter arrived. Tuition and books presented a serious challenge, but the family tightened its budget even further and young Pritchett worked every odd job he could find to afford that first semester.

Katherine and O.D. Pritchett

Then came the glory day when Pritchett landed a job selling refreshments at Kyle Field during home games of the Fightin' Texas Aggie football team. The income from that venture, repeated each fall and artfully stretched, would be enough to see him through his studies as an industrial education major.

But like so many of his colleagues in the Class of 1940, Cadet Pritchett was not destined to cross the commencement stage. Instead he interrupted college studies to serve his country during World War II, returning home not as a student but as a worker eager to strengthen the nation's labor force.

For several years Pritchett was employed by Todd Shipyard in Houston. He then established what became Pritchett Engineering and Machine Inc. The company was internationally known for precision machining and fabricating services for the petrochemical and oil drilling industries, and repair and maintenance services for the steel industry. A patent from 1965 for a pipe forming machine bears the name of Pritchett and co-inventor Michael Zolton.

Pritchett sold his company to Eagle-Picher Industries in 1976 and enjoyed retirement until his death in 2003.

"My cousin wants to honor her husband's passion for education. They were married for over 50 years and were faithful supporters of Texas A&M," said James R. Harrison Jr., Texas A&M Class of 1961.

"O.D. was a typical Aggie of that generation. He worked hard for everything he had and always credited Texas A&M for giving him the good start to his success," Harrison added. "He was my mentor and inspiration to study engineering at Texas A&M."

The Katherine and O.D. Pritchett '40 Scholars Fund was established with a $1 million gift to the Texas A&M Foundation. Pritchett Scholars will be selected on the basis of academic achievement and extracurricular activities and-in keeping with O.D. Pritchett's own story-with a preference for larger awards to freshman recipients who demonstrate financial need.

"O.D. Pritchett was an Aggie who truly personified 'the greatest generation,' " said G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. "He grew up during the Great Depression, volunteered to support the war effort and contributed to rebuilding the American economy through an ethic of hard work and service. We are grateful for Mrs. Pritchett's generosity and proud to remember her husband's legacy with this scholars program."

The Texas A&M Foundation is a non-profit organization that receives major gifts and manages endowments for the sole benefit of Texas A&M University.