Community Leader Shari Griswold Donates $2M for Scholarships

Lifting the Voices of Future Generations: Community Leader Shari Griswold Donates $2 Million for Scholarships through Her Estate


Tired of simply taking. Shari Griswold is ready to give.

“I worked in the corporate world for many years, and that was very lucrative for me,” shares Shari candidly. “Yet, I felt as though I was just taking and taking.”

Shari, a geophysicist, managed multi-million dollar projects for Shell Oil for 32 years. Determined to leverage her leadership skills and resources to benefit underserved populations, Shari quickly transitioned into a life of community and public service following her retirement in 2017—first, through volunteer work with the Girl Scouts and CASA Child Advocates, and then through a run for Waller County Clerk in 2018.

“I had come to know the special history and population of Waller County,” says Shari who resides on a quiet ranch in Hempstead raising cattle and show horses. “Running for public office, however, introduced me to the vast array of incredible people who make our community truly unique—the men and women of Prairie View A&M University are top among them.”

Shari was particularly impressed by the students, faculty, and alumni she met through IGNITE, a national, non-partisan association that encourages young women to become active participants and leaders in politics. Prairie View’s IGNITE is among the first chapters established at an HBCU (Historically Black College and University).

“IGNITE exposed me to the powerful ways that the university launches students into their careers,” states Shari. “I was both humbled and blown away by the widespread impact Prairie View alumni make not only in the region but also around the world.”

On November 6, 2018—Election Day—Shari would be amazed again as she marched alongside more than 500 students to the voting polls. “It sent shivers down my spine to witness that drive for voting rights—that resolve to be counted and heard,” she says. Her admiration is palpable and brings a silence into the room as she pauses to reflect upon the day and her days at Prairie View.

“Sadly, we continue to see systemic discrimination and inequity across sectors. HBCUs such as PV are critically important as we strive to increase diversity and inclusivity in our communities. The next generation of leaders is here, and I want to help lift their voices.”

A trained opera singer, Shari knows a lot about lifting voices and she did not hesitate to make her first gift to the university to establish the Shari Griswold Scholarship after her initial visits with students. She would subsequently pledge $77,000 to support the fund. “I received a scholarship as a student at California State University at Bakersfield—the C.E. Strange Scholarship,” Shari recalls with visible gratitude. “The support enabled me to pursue my dreams without the burden of debt, and I hope to give the same opportunity to students at PV.”

She continues, “I try to impress upon students the importance of following your dreams and being true to yourself. People whom I saw thrive pursued their passions—and those who did not were less successful.”

Now passionate about Prairie View, Shari considered ways to do more for students through her estate after receiving a university mailer highlighting planned giving. It did not take her long to take steps to leave $2 million in her will to establish an endowed scholarship fund in her name.

“I could leave my estate to my family, but that’s a one-time deal—a dead end that only benefits a few,” states Shari. “By making provisions for Prairie View in my will, I am leaving a legacy that promises to live beyond my lifetime and enable future generations to be leaders and achieve their dream.”

The endowment will benefit students enrolled in the Marvin D. and June Samuel Brailsford College of Arts and Sciences with a preference for students majoring in political science, mathematics, or a science-related program. Upon learning about the scholarship, the Dean of the Brailsford College Danny R. Kelley remarked, “Shari’s support will allow us to raise the bar in interdisciplinary education in perpetuity.”

“The university is sincerely honored to benefit from Shari’s extraordinary generosity, leadership, and compassion,” says Prairie View A&M University President Ruth J. Simmons. “In a short few months, Shari recognized what many of us are privileged to see first-hand—our students are deserving of philanthropic support and every gift helps to transform their lives in immeasurable ways.”

And, as Shari knows well, that’s the gift of giving.