“Once upon a time, a very special 18-year-old girl came into my life, and she has been there ever since,” Frances Vick said about her friend and 2010 Pro Bene Meritis recipient Ellen Temple during the April 22 awards reception.
“She is very special because once you are her friend — or her cause, or her love, or her family — you have her forever,” said Vick, who won the same award in 2009.
Temple came to The University of Texas at Austin from Lufkin as a freshman in 1960.
She met Vick at Clark Intramural Field while watching Vick’s husband and Temple’s boyfriend play softball. Vick’s three children would play around the bleachers where the two friends would sit and talk about books.
“Our shared love for the university, for reading, and later publishing, was the beginning of our friendship,” says Temple, who graduated with honors with a bachelor’s in English and history from The University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s in English from Stephen F. Austin University. “And our common bonds were nurtured through sharing laughter and loss, good times and hard times.”
During her time at The University of Texas, one of Temple’s most prized possessions was her stack permit, which professors could give to select students, granting them special access to go into the library stacks in the Tower to search for books without waiting at the desk for someone to find them.
“It was a privilege to have one,” Temple says. “And I spent many hours up in the stacks doing research and reading. UT libraries are an absolute treasure not only for students but for all Texans.”
During the 1980s, while living near Lufkin with her husband Buddy and her four young children, Temple’s love for books continued. She attended a two-week publishing program at Rice University sponsored by Texas Monthly Press and Rice. In 1986, she published her first children’s book “Pauline and the Peacock,” written by Doris Daniel.
As Temple’s publishing career blossomed, she began to shift her interest toward women’s issues — particularly women in Texas history. Two of her favorite books she published are the only books published about the woman suffrage movement in Texas: “Citizens at Last: the Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas,” which is the basis for a popular Humanities Texas traveling exhibit by the same name; and “A Texas Suffragist: Diaries and Writings of Jane Y. McCallum.” Another favorite among the works she published is the novel “The Train to Estelline,” by Jane Roberts Wood, which became a best seller and remains in print.
“My experiences here have shaped my life and made it better,” Temple said during her Pro Bene Meritis acceptance speech. “How grateful I am to the legions of people who teach and do research and manage so that a student like me from a small town in East Texas can have a world-class education.”
Temple has served on the University of Texas System Board of Regents, chaired the University of Texas Development Board, served on the Commission of 125 and the new Liberal Arts Building Steering Committee. She was named a University of Texas Distinguished Alumna in 2000. She established the Ellen Clarke Temple Excellence Fund in the History of Women. As a member of the Liberal Arts Executive Council, she supported the successful effort led by her husband of 40 years, Buddy Temple, and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation to establish the Charlie Wilson Chair in Pakistan Studies in the College of Liberal Arts.
Buddy Temple is a former state lawmaker, railroad commissioner and businessman. He serves on the Board of Directors of Temple-Inland, Inc.
In addition to her service to the university, Temple has also served in other capacities, chairing Humanities Texas and serving as president of the board of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, now part of The University of Texas.
Much of her family has followed in her Longhorn footsteps. Her stepdaughter Whitney Temple, 43, earned her bachelor’s in advertising and psychology and her daughter Susie Temple, 39, earned her master’s in English from The University of Texas at Austin. Her other children are John Hurst, 42, (whom she had with first husband John Hurst, a University of Texas graduate and Marine pilot who died in Vietnam in 1968) and Hannah Temple, 38, who has a law degree from Stanford University.
She also has four grandchildren, all aspiring Longhorns.
“The best thing is that my love affair with this university did not come to an end with graduation,” Temple says. “It’s thriving today.”