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The Daily Tar Heel

Texas A&M Gives Scholarship Gift to UT

Texas A&M University recently endowed a $50,000 scholarship to thank the University of Texas-Austin for its support in the wake of last year's tragedy.

An enormous wooden structure, which is lighted every year on the eve of the A&M-UT game, collapsed early Nov. 18, 1999, killing 11 students and one alumnus.

UT Director for Resource Development Jim Kunetka said the two universities agreed to postpone the football game after the tragedy and UT symbolically darkened its tower to show its condolences.

Officials at both universities said the Bonfire Unity Scholarship is an expression of gratitude from A&M and can be distributed at the discretion of UT officials.

Kunetka said the scholarship, which will be given to one student a year, beginning in fall 2001, is a no-strings-attached gift from A&M.

But A&M officials would prefer if the student selected for the scholarship has passing grades, is a sophomore, is active in student activities and exemplifies "the spirit of unity."

Vick said the scholarship will stand as a symbol of the two schools' ability to put aside their rivalry in the face of tragedy.

"I think there is a lot of bonding between our students and their students, our faculty and their faculty, and our staff and their staff," he said.

"The bonding was most pronounced in 1999 when the crisis occurred. Their was an outpouring of sympathy from our students to their students."

Kunetka said the UT students' strong show of sympathy during the A&M tragedy was partially a reaction to the closeness of the misfortune.

"It was something that could have happened here," he said.

Lane Stephenson, A&M director of university relations, said the support of A&M President Ray Bowen made the scholarship possible.

"The president was the one that got the ball rolling," Stephenson said.

He said Bowen pulled together $25,000 in school funds and private contributions to create the new scholarship.

Then Robert Allen, a member of A&M's Board of Regents, matched the sum with $25,000 out of his own pocket.

Several other scholarships, in memory of those killed in the bonfire collapse, also have been funded in the last year.

Stephenson said Bowen will approve the continuance of the bonfire if certain specifications on the bonfire's dimensions and construction are met.

Stephenson said the success of the movement to resume the bonfire tradition in 2002 is based on the adherence to Bowen's stipulations.

"It's a matter of organization and the nuts and bolts of how it will be designed."

The State and National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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