The Brightwells: Giving Is About Changing Lives

Both native Texans, George ’57 and Barbara Brightwell met some 65 years ago at First Methodist Church in Fort Worth. After high school, the two sweethearts set off for Houston — George to Rice and Barbara to the University of Houston.

When George matriculated to Rice in the fall of 1953, it was a tuition-free institution.  He still has the notes that his father kept detailing his other college expenses, including an entrance fee of $108.70, a room fee of $135, and $50 per month for meals. Books were approximated at $50, and he paid $5 for health services. “This looks like nothing today, but I imagine it was quite a stretch for my parents,” George remarks. “Neither went to college, but it was always Dad’s dream for me to attend Rice, because it was the best school in Texas, and it still is.”

Grateful for their own positive experiences in college, Barbara and George are enthusiastic supporters of The Rice Investment. “We think there is a distinct need to pay it forward,” George explains. With their hearts set on extending the Rice experience to a new generation, the couple recently established the Barbara and George Brightwell Scholarship Fund.

Their gift was two-fold: a generous donation will benefit students immediately, and their endowment will be augmented with a bequest from their estate. George was clear about their intent: “I look at Rice: at the institution, at what it does, what it has done, and at its incredible potential. Giving goes beyond dollars or numbers — it’s about changing lives.”

George recalls how his own Rice experience shaped his life and is grateful for both the social and academic experiences. He fondly remembers his years as a resident of East Hall, which later became Baker College. “I had some great professors, some great times. I sang in the men’s glee club and was a cheerleader junior and senior years. At that time, there were no women living on campus, so it was wild after hours.”

At the same time, Barbara was busy at the University of Houston. She was a cheerleader and helped start Chi Omega on the University of Houston campus. George calls her “my jumper cables” because “she’s always helping somebody start something.”

George left Rice with a bachelor’s degree in economics and went to Northwestern for an MBA. Barbara earned a master’s in education from the University of Houston. The couple married in October 1958 at St. Paul’s Methodist Church on Main Street, and soon after Barbara pursued a doctorate in ministry from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Together, they spent over 20 years in higher education, working at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Barbara was the dean of student development, and George was the registrar — roles that solidified their belief in the potential of institutions and individuals to better themselves, their communities and the world we live in.

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