At his alma mater, Dr. Ray McGlothlin Jr. (’49) was known to call Board of Trustees meetings to order by starting a song instead of rapping a gavel. He loved to sing.
Not everyone who knew him knew about the oil company he founded, or the medical software company, or the corporate and bank boards he served on, or his graduate degree in Greek. But everyone knew he loved to sing.
In fact, many McGlothlin photos in Abilene Christian University’s files show him leading singing – at Commencement, in Chapel, at Opening Assembly. Every part of his life – as a businessman, entrepreneur and church leader – was underscored by his love of music.
Known to many as an ACU benefactor for his role in construction of the McGlothlin Campus Center and support of numerous other projects, his liberality extended well beyond financial gifts.
“He was just so generous,” recalled Dr. Gary McCaleb (’64), vice president of the university emeritus and former Abilene mayor. “He and his wife, Kay (Dollar ’49), and Harold (’50) and Jeannette (Scruggs ’49) Lipford, sang for hundreds, maybe thousands of funerals and weddings, and he never said, ‘I’m too busy.’ ”
McGlothlin died June 28, 2023, at his home in Abilene surrounded by family. He was 95.
ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) called him “a renaissance man.”
“He excelled in everything he did and he devoted his life to that which mattered most – serving Jesus, caring for the downtrodden, and loving well his friends and family,” Schubert added.
Schubert is the first ACU president since before the tenure of Dr. John C. Stevens (’38) in the 1960s and 1970s who did not work with McGlothlin as a trustee. McGlothlin served on the board from 1964-95 and as chair 1974-84, led two presidential search committees and oversaw Abilene Christian’s growth from college to university.
One of those presidents was Dr. Royce Money (’64), who led the university from 1991-2010.
“His influence over ACU can be seen far and wide,” Money said. “He has done so many things for good in terms of physical facilities but also mentoring, coaching and friendships.”
McGlothlin graduated from ACU in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in Greek then earned a master’s degree in the same field in 1951 from The University of Texas at Austin. He served as director of the Church of Christ Bible Chair there from 1951-56.
That background informed his world view and contributed to his renaissance reputation.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people, ‘Don’t let your major limit what you do,’ ” McCaleb said, often pointing to McGlothlin as an example. “That never limited what he did – he was involved as a very successful businessman and in so many other ways.”
Everyone who knew McGlothlin in any of those roles talked about his mentoring influence. Dr. Jack Griggs (’64) was a trustee while McGlothlin was board chair and later served as dean of ACU’s College of Business Administration.
“Several times when I didn’t know what to do and wanted to do the right thing, I would seek Ray’s advice,” Griggs said.
McGlothlin was born Sept. 1, 1927, in Grand Prairie, Texas, to Evelyn and Ray McGlothlin Sr., and was the oldest of their three sons. He graduated from Abilene High School in 1944 and came to ACU where he met classmate Kay Dollar from Memphis, Tennessee. They sang together in the A Cappella Chorus and married Dec. 15, 1947.
While still directing the Bible Chair in Austin, McGlothlin entered the oil business, serving as vice president and later president and director of the McWood Corporation, from 1954-67 and as vice president and director of Texas Calgary Company from 1955-59. The couple returned to Abilene with two young daughters, Karyn and Nita. Two more, Danna and Caryl, were born in Abilene. All four graduated from ACU.
In 1971 he formed E-Z Serve, Inc., which initially was a motor fuels wholesale operator but transformed into a gasoline retail business and by the mid-1980s had more than 900 gasoline retail outlets, primarily convenience stores, and was pioneering pay-at-the-pump technology. By 1984, E-Z Serve was listed among the top 10 biggest private companies in the state in Texas Business’ annual listing. The company was sold in 1986 to Harken Oil & Gas for $36.3 million.
The following year, McGlothlin founded and led SoftSearch Inc., a distributor for DXplain, a medical diagnostic tool developed by a Harvard Medical School professor. Under McGlothlin’s leadership, that company expanded to again engage the oil business with the purchase of Dwight’s EnergyData.
McGlothlin’s involvement with ACU was equally diverse and extended over seven decades. In 1968, together with his brothers Jack and Hal and their families, and Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Corbin, McGlothlin honored his parents with the construction of the McGlothlin Campus Center.
He wrote regarding its opening, “The Christian atmosphere of Abilene Christian College has profoundly influenced our lives and we are pleased to help provide a center on the campus for students who are, after all, the very heart-throb of the college.”
Having honored the previous generation, the McGlothlins were, in turn, honored in 2015 by their own family and many friends with the naming of The Quad, bordered by the Onstead Science Center, Hardin Administration Building, Phillips Education Building and the Halbert-Walling Research Center.
In the decades in between McGlothlin touched virtually every major project undertaken on the campus, whether through his board leadership, financial support or both. And his interests on campus were as diverse as his business experience.
A consummate fan of Wildcat athletics, especially women’s basketball and softball, he and Kay with other family members funded the Kay and Ray McGlothlin Women’s Basketball Team Suite. They honored their longtime friend and ACU voice professor with whom they sang for decades with the Jeannette Lipford Stage in the Boone Family Theatre. They helped build buildings and endow scholarships. In 1984 the couple was honored as recipients of the university’s inaugural Christian Service Award, and he was named ACU’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1976.
Supporting students was central to everything McGlothlin engaged in – at the university, and in his church life. And the relationships he built with those students often began in the family’s living room where for decades college students from Hillcrest Church of Christ gathered for “Song and Supper,” a meal and hour or so of singing, led by McGlothlin.
At one point, the McGlothlins even renovated their home to expand the living area and better accommodate the monthly gatherings.
More songs await at a memorial service Saturday, July 1, at 2:30 p.m. at Hillcrest Church of Christ in Abilene where McGlothlin served as an elder from 1972-84. This service will be livestreamed and can be watched at the button below. A family visitation will precede the service at 1:30. The graveside service is scheduled for Thursday, July 6, at 11 a.m. at Elmwood Memorial Park.
McGlothlin was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Kay; a brother, Hal McGlothlin (’58); and a grandson, Bryce Daniel Oliver. Among survivors are four daughters and their husbands: Karyn (McGlothlin ’74) and Ralph (’74) Henley of Nashville, Tennessee; Nita (McGlothlin ’75) and Dr. Tim (’76) Rampey of Victoria, Texas; Danna (McGlothlin ’80) and Eric (’81) Oliver of Abilene; and Caryl (McGlothlin ’82) and Scott (’81) Parker of Nashville; a brother, Jack McGlothlin (’51) of Abilene; 10 grandchildren; and 27 great-grandchildren.
Those wishing to honor his memory may do so with a gift to the Kay and Ray McGlothlin Endowed Scholarship Fund at ACU (ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132) or a gift to Pregnancy Resources of Abilene.\
– Dr. Cheryl Mann Bacon
June 29, 2023