Monday, November 8

I was sad to hear Friday of the passing of Pat Taylor, Louisiana oilman and a member of the Forbes 400 list (#234 with an estimated net worth of at least $1.2 billion). He was the only Louisianian on the list and one of LSU's greatest success stories.

According to some articles turned up by a quick search, Taylor, a native of Beaumont, Texas, hitchhiked to Baton Rouge in 1955 when he learned LSU had free tuition (I didn't know that was ever the case). He graduated in petroleum engineering and eventually formed Taylor Energy Co., from which he made much of his wealth. It's a true rags-to-riches story, and Taylor never forgot his roots.

Perhaps his greatest contribution was the Taylor Plan, which started with a promise to some New Orleans students in 1988 that, if they made good grades, he'd pay their way through college. He kept his promise and the program was eventually adopted by the state legislature to pay the college tuition of all Louisiana students who attend public in-state colleges (the program pays a portion of private school tuition). The requirements are not terribly difficult- maintain at least a 2.5 GPA (and meet a few other requirements) in high school and keep decent grades in college. It's known as the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS.

It's a great program. I and thousands of other students across the state benefit from Mr. Taylor's generosity. I think I've heard that as many as 20 other states now have such programs. I'm pretty sure Louisiana was one of the first, and that's something our state can be proud of.

Over and over in articles about him, those who knew him spoke of his sense of humor and generosity. They said his three passions were education, law enforcement and the military. He not only spoke of these things, he put actions behind his words.

According to the Baton Rouge Advocate:

Young people, he said, should be able to "look at me and say, 'By golly, if he can do it, so can I.'"

...

In the September interview, Taylor said, "What I want most, and I've said this hundreds and hundreds of times in speeches across the country, is for every child born in this country to know that they have the opportunity ... to be whatever they want to be."

...

Close friend of Taylor and former LSU chancellor James Wharton said: "He was a patriot: a great, great, great American who knew what this country runs on. It runs on educated people and it runs on laws."

It also runs on people like Pat Taylor.

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