Education is a gift. It comes with many benefits and has evolved over the years. It accelerated an agricultural country with horses and buggies, where only 12% of Americans could read and write in 1820, to a nation preparing an expedition to Mars with a 98% literacy rate today. The gift of literacy has catapulted technology and innovation while improving a person’s chances of a better job and perhaps a better life. While foundational literacy is important, the gift of a diploma, degree, or technical certification is a basic requirement of the United States job market.
If your student attends Wylie ISD, they have a 99.4% chance of earning a high school diploma, compared to the Texas average of 84%. According to a recent study, 80% of good-paying jobs will require either a work-based certification or a college diploma. The Texas Public Education Information Resource indicates that around 40% of Texas high school graduates enroll in either a 2-year or 4-year college compared to 81% of Wylie ISD students. We have a great deal to celebrate, and we are happy that our kids are using the gift of education as a pathway for a better future.
We are grateful for the parents and educators who support our kids in helping them learn and grow, the Wylie Way. A Greek philosopher once said that “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” We are grateful for the taxpayers who support our school district. We are also grateful for what may be the biggest single reason Wylie ISD graduates are twice as likely as their Texas counterparts to attend college.
Nearly 150 years ago, the Birmingham family started a journey to raise a family and make education a priority to Wylie residents. Miss Willie Pearl Birmingham was born on Christmas Day in 1877 to Ed and Lucretia Birmingham. Pearl was the youngest of five children and lived in Texas her entire life. Miss Pearl, as her friends and students knew her, spent her life as a schoolteacher. She began her teaching career in Wylie where she taught first and second grades. She also taught and lived in Dallas for many years. Miss Pearl never married and passed away in 1946 at the age of 68. In 1947, her brother, Frank Birmingham, established the Miss Pearl Birmingham Scholarship Fund to comply with a request by his sister. In her will, she 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. The scholarship charter stated, “it is the hope and the intention of the donor that this scholarship shall redound to the benefit of the students of the T.F. Birmingham High School of Wylie, Collin County, Texas, from generation to generation even until time shall be no more.” The first recipient of the Miss Pearl Birmingham Scholarship was the Wylie High School valedictorian of the Class of 1948, Harvey Moore. Moore received payments of $25 per month, $1,000 over the course of four years. Moore became a successful architect.
Throughout the years, the value of the common stock grew as the Standard Oil Company grew. Through stock splits, the original 1000 shares grew to 24,168 shares by 1987, with an approximate value of $1,700,000.
In 75 years, Wylie ISD has grown from a graduating class of 27 seniors and 279 students in the district to 2 high schools, 1330 seniors, and nearly 18,900 students overall. The guidelines for the scholarship have remained relatively unchanged for 75 years (although a secret vote by students and teachers is no longer taken).
Scholars are required to be of good moral character, have attended Wylie ISD schools for all four years of high school, submit autobiographies and participate in a personal interview with three judges.
For many years, the recipients of the Miss Pearl Birmingham Scholarship have been honored at an annual dinner. These dinners were traditionally held in the WHS cafeteria and served by home economics students. Although the setting has changed over the years, scholars continue to celebrate their accomplishments surrounded by friends, honored guests and Wylie ISD leaders.
CELEBRATING 75 YEARS!
2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the first Pearl Birmingham Scholarship award. To commemorate this special occasion, Wylie ISD is hosting a reception to honor all Birmingham scholars at the Virdie Montgomery Center March 27, 2023 at 7 p.m.
All former Birmingham Scholars are invited to attend the reception to honor the historic legacy of the Miss Pearl Birmingham Scholarship. During this year of celebration, we hope to recognize all 790 scholars, including 2023 scholars, which have received a grand total of $6,223,000.
ATTENTION FORMER BIRMINGHAM SCHOLARS!
If you have been recognized as a Birmingham Scholar, we want you to join in the fun and be celebrated as a part of this rich tradition. Please complete this survey to be contacted about this celebration.
Have a question? Please contact Executive Director of Secondary Education, Dr. Stephen Davis, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-429-3013.
Watch for and “Like” the Pearl Birmingham Scholar Program – 75th Anniversary Celebration on Facebook. The district will post fun facts and celebrations leading up to the reception in March.
Thanks in advance for celebrating 75 years of academic excellence and the gift of learning for hundreds of students, the Wylie Way!