Khator, community come together to honor philanthropist’s legacy

Pat Werlein, left, Elizabeth Rockwell’s sister, spoke at the memorial celebration, along with John Phillips, Rockwell’s close friend and UH President Renu Khator. | Tap Nguyen/The Daily Cougar

The freezing weather Thursday afternoon didn’t stop family and friends from going to the memorial celebration of the life of philanthropist Elizabeth Rockwell.

The Rockwell Pavilion in the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library was filled with 150 people, with some having to stand.

“I am most impressed by the sincere expressions of appreciation for her numerous contributions to the University and its students,” Richard Bonnin, executive director of media relations, said. “She was a true friend of the University. Her support went far beyond philanthropy, as she cared deeply about education and was sincere in her desire to help others.”

Besides staff and faculty, students were also in attendance.

“Her generosity inspires me a lot,” Tammy Ngo, an Honors college freshman, said. “One day, if I’m successful, I will give back to UH as Rockwell did.”

At the celebration, Pat Werlein, Rockwell’s sister, shed tears as she reminisced about her childhood with Rockwell.

Although they did not live in the same area, they loved each other very much and would sometimes send each other gifts.

Other close friends of Rockwell, such as John Phillips, were also in attendance.

“She is a wonderful lady. I enjoyed my relationship with her, Phillips said. “She was extremely kind and generous with those around her.”

UH President Renu Khator, despite complications with her flight from Dallas, presented at the celebration.

“Rockwell did magic at the airport, so that I can be here on time to share my memories about her,” Khator said.

Khator recalled a memory from her first days as UH president. Rockwell came to her office and gave her “warm hugs,” which made her feel at home.

“Great compassion just came out from everything she said,” Khator said. “Every single time I met her, her smile was brighter than the last, because she believed in this world. She believed in love, she believed in this university.”

Rockwell’s loss is a loss not only for the University, but also for the state, Khator said.

“I know she stays with me and in people’s hearts.”

Rockwell, born May 19, 1921, died Jan. 28. She was a UH alumna, who majored in business adminstration and accounting. She also received an honorary doctorate from UH in 1999.

Leave a Comment