CENTERVILLE—For a man who laughingly describes himself as “dumb as a sack of rocks,” Richard Wallrath, owner of Champion Ranch in Centerville, has become a champion of higher education.
He recently gave a $250,000 endowment to the Texas 4-H Development Foundation to establish scholarships that will help further the educations of young Texans. 4-H is the youth development program of Texas Cooperative Extension.
“I just feel we owe it to the kids to try to help with their educations,” Wallrath said. “A scholarship is something that just keeps on giving; it’s a way to get people off poverty and doing something with their lives.” Wallrath said he himself doesn’t “have any education, but in today’s society, if you don’t have an education, you’re going to be lost.”
Although he claims no formal schooling, Wallrath owns and operates a ranch that covers 4,000 acres and includes 2,500 head of Brangus cattle, 14 oil wells, 25 miles of roads and several private lakes.
He also founded Champion Window Inc. in 1974, which today has $80 million in annual sales. He is also on the board and 25 percent owner of Alenco in Bryan, a window company which has about $70 million in annual sales.
With his financial success came his desire to help others, especially the young people of Texas. He said his inspiration came “years and years ago” when he heard Peter Le Turneau give a presentation during a Chamber of Commerce meeting. “He said, when you give from the heart, for charity, there’s no way you can out-give God.’”
That was the beginning of his support for Texas youth programs. “I’m a firm believer in the 4-H principles and FFA guidance for young people,” he said. “I’ve been to some of those 4-H and FFA conventions, and some of those kids are sharper than some of our politicians! We need to help people like that.”
In the last seven or eight years, Wallrath said, he’s donated about $5 million to scholarship funds, including 4-H.
“Thanks to the generous support of donors such as Richard Wallrath, Texas leads the nation in the numbers and dollar amounts of 4-H scholarship awards,” said Dr. Chester Fehlis, Extension director. “These scholarships are the catalyst for many young people to further their education and to assume greater leadership roles in our society.”
But Wallrath’s giving to youth programs doesn’t stop there. He’s also a member of the board of Boy’s Country in Hockley, where he provided the funds to build two residence homes.
All this support of Texas’ youth is “my way of kind of giving back,” he said. “If you don’t give it back, you cease to receive it.”
But he also expects the youth to do their part. “You can’t just go sit on a rock after you earn your diploma,” he has been known to tell them.
“Until you decide what you want to do, God can’t help you. ... Pick a course, set your goals and go forward with love in your heart.” Wallrath is a member of the Texas 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees, and a member of the boards of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Austin Fair and Rodeo, and the San Antonio Livestock Exposition. He also officiates at county events, and furnishes show calves for 4-H and FFA students.
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