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75th Anniversary Celebration of Birmingham Scholar Program


Group photo

Wylie ISD hosted the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Pearl Birmingham Scholarship Program at the Montgomery Center March 27.

To honor all previous Birmingham scholars, including the 2023 scholars just announced three days prior, the event was a celebration of the legacy of Miss Pearl Birmingham.

In 1947, in her will, Miss Pearl left 1,000 shares of common stock in the Standard Oil Company of Ohio to support an annual scholarship to be given to an outstanding Wylie ISD High School graduate. Throughout the years, the value of the common stock grew. That first $1,000 scholarship has increased over the years, as has the number of recipients. This year, both Wylie ISD high schools awarded an equal number of two-year scholarships. Currently, the program provides three $7,500 scholarships and seven $5,000 scholarships at each high school. Over 75 years, the initial gift of 1,000 shares of Standard Oil Stock has resulted in 790 scholarships.

From the very first recipient of the Miss Pearl Birmingham Scholarship, the Wylie High School valedictorian of the Class of 1948, Harvey Moore, to the Class of 2023 recipients, the program has gifted $6,223,000. To read more about the Birmingham trust, visit our Miss Pearl Birmingham Scholarship Page.

Dr. Stephen Davis, Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum, wanted to do three things to honor Miss Pearl’s Legacy at the anniversary celebration.

“We wanted to recognize our prior Birmingham Scholars and invite them home to celebrate, fully tell the story of Miss Pearl and her scholarship, and calculate the financial impact of Miss Pearl's gift,” Davis said.

Dr. Davis speaking.

Each scholar in attendance, or a family member who attended on their behalf, was called on stage to be recognized and gifted with a pin commemorating the 75th anniversary.

Scholars receive pins. 

Scholars receive pins.

Scholars receive pins.

“Our team wanted to tell the story of Miss Pearl, but what we discovered along the way is that Miss Pearl’s story is the story of Wylie,” Davis said. “It’s a story of growing from a one-room schoolhouse to 20 incredible campuses including two 6A high schools.”

The committee spent the last 10 months reaching out to scholars to invite them to the anniversary celebration.

“We researched through yearbooks and historical documents to attempt to name and recognize every Birmingham Scholar,” Davis said.

From the Class of 1955, Mr. Wally Watkins, namesake of Watkins Elementary, to scholars from the Class of 2023, Birmingham scholars from each decade were in attendance. A total of 71 Birmingham scholars attended the anniversary celebration.

Mr. Wally Watkins with the board.

Families of scholars unable to attend were invited to represent their scholars on stage. 

Rick and Leigh Spillyards represented their two sons, Kevin and Carter, as well as their niece, Allie Spillyards, who were all unable to attend.

“We wanted to acknowledge that the Birmingham Scholarship positively impacted all three of the Spillyards students who were honored to receive it,” Leigh said. “They all wanted to be at the anniversary, but distance and work conflicts prevented them from attending. Rick and I were honored and pleased to be able to show our thanks and respect to the Birmingham Scholarship program on behalf of our sons and niece.”

Parents receive pins for children.

Jacquie and Gerard Hiddink attended on behalf of four of their children who are Birmingham scholars, Neil, Seth, Erica and Jennifer.

“They all wanted to come to the celebration and are very thankful to have been Birmingham scholars,” Jacquie said. “Unfortunately, they could not come to the event as they live far away so I told them I would take cutouts of them with me. They just laughed.” 

Parents receive pins for children.

Student organizations also helped make the night a commemorative one. WHS National Honor Society members took scholars and their families on a tour of Wylie High School and the Montgomery Center. The WHS floral design students created floral arrangements that were on display for the evening and AV students documented the evening by filming it.

To help tell the story of Miss Pearl Birmingham’s legacy, historical artifacts, yearbooks and photographs of scholar banquets were on display during the reception. 

The reception refreshments.

“We will see you all again in 2048 to celebrate 100 years of Birmingham Scholars,” Davis said at the end of the night.

If you were unable to attend and would like a commemorative pin, please email