In Louisiana, Texas, and throughout this great nation, the name “Patrick F. Taylor” is synonymous with access to quality education. A successful oilman, inspiring leader, and a prominent citizen in his community, Mr. Taylor wholly committed himself to the ideal that every young person should have the opportunity to achieve a quality college education in the United States.
Mr. Taylor was born in Beaumont, Texas, on June 12, 1937. He received a full scholastic scholarship from The Kinkaid School in Houston and graduated, despite leaving home at age 16. After high school, he left Texas to attend Louisiana State University. Because LSU did not charge tuition, Mr. Taylor was able to receive a college education. During his sophomore year at LSU, Mr. Taylor joined the Marine Corps PLC Officer Training Program. Unfortunately, a heart condition prevented the completion of his senior course, and Mr. Taylor was honorably discharged from the Corps on October 16, 1959.
After graduating from LSU with a degree in petroleum engineering, Mr. Taylor worked for Texas oilman John Mecom, Sr. until 1966. Later he formed his own consulting and production company, before starting Circle Bar Drilling Company with Mr. Mecom in 1974. That very successful drilling contracting company was sold in 1979, at which time Mr. Taylor formed Taylor Energy Company in New Orleans. Taylor Energy Company was the only individually-owned company ever to explore for and produce oil and natural gas in federal offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico until the oil and gas producing assets were sold in 2008. Mr. Taylor was the Chairman, President and CEO of Taylor Energy Company until his death on November 5, 2004. Mr. Taylor died of complications due to bacterial endocarditis.
In March of 1988, Mr. Taylor was asked to speak to 183 underachieving and troubled inner-city 7th and 8th grade students who planned to drop out of school. Remembering the significance of his own college opportunity, Mr. Taylor decided that he would not give a typical “role model” speech. Instead, he promised the kids that he would see to it that they went to college. They would be required to stay in school, stay out of trouble, and complete a college preparatory high school curriculum with a B average. The response from the students and their parents was overwhelming. Many went on to college, and five of those students were recognized in Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
During the course of these efforts, Mr. Taylor realized for the first time that an entire generation of America’s low-income youth was growing up thinking that college was “for other folks.” Mr. Taylor initiated research in Louisiana to determine the reason for this belief. That study confirmed that a full three-quarters of Louisiana families could not afford college for their children. Moreover, this was not limited to Louisiana.
Convinced that all children are entitled to the opportunity to achieve success, Mr. Taylor conceived and prepared legislation for Louisiana to address the issue. The first bill introduced provided for state-paid college tuition for academically qualified students from families with less than a $25,000 annual income (income cap has since been removed). Applicants had to complete an advanced high school core curriculum with a 2.5 grade point average and receive a minimum score of 18 on the American College Test (raised to 20, effective Fall 1999). After a ferocious battle in the Louisiana Legislature, this bill became ACT 789, and the first “Taylor Plan” was signed into law on July 10, 1989. In Louisiana, a college education for all children was now based on their ability to learn rather than their ability to pay.
In the meantime, the national media coverage of Mr. Taylor’s unique offer to the original 183 “Taylor’s Kids” had attracted the attention of Mike Wallace, longtime CBS newsman. Mr. Wallace had CBS cover the legislative battle during the summer of 1989, and he personally interviewed the kids and their parents. In September of that year, 60 Minutes ran a feature on the “Taylor’s Kids”, the Taylor Plan and Mr. Taylor. The national attention caused by the 60 Minutes feature led to a flood of invitations for Mr. Taylor to carry his message around the nation.
What began in Louisiana as the first state-paid, merit-based tuition program has now spread to include 23 states with Taylor Plan programs. To honor Mr. Taylor, in 2008 the Louisiana Legislature renamed the Louisiana Tuition Opportunity Program for Students to Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS). Today, thanks to Mr. Taylor, millions of American children have the opportunity to go to college based on their ability to learn, and not their ability to pay.
In 1985, Mr. and Mrs. Taylor founded the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, a philanthropic organization benefiting education, law enforcement, military, charitable community organizations and other humanitarian efforts.
Mr. Taylor received awards and honors from many organizations, including the United States Marine Corps, Marine Forces Reserve, Marine Corps League, Department of the Navy, Veterans of Foreign Wars, U.S. Olympic Committee, Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Urban League and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the Medal of Benemerente, the highest award given by the Vatican to a non-Catholic. Numerous local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. Secret Service have cited Mr. Taylor’s efforts. In addition to his numerous awards and honors, Mr. Taylor received several Honorary Doctorates from colleges and universities. He served on various boards of national charitable foundations, as well as the National Petroleum Council.
Mr. Taylor was recognized as the first and only billionaire from Louisiana by Forbes magazine’s 400 Richest Americans List (October 2004 issue). As a poor kid from east Texas, he had never chosen to publicly emphasize his wealth, but preferred to be recognized for his contributions to education, law enforcement, the military and his community.