David and Leslie Lawson - Chapman Legacy Society
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Gifts Established:

  • Lawson Family Nursing Simulation Center and Skills Laboratory Endowment Fund | Est. 2017
  • Natalie Lawson Dooley Endowed Scholarship in Nursing | Est. 2017
  • David and Leslie Lawson Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship for the Collins College of Business | Est. 2010
  • Gayle and Emilee Lawson Endowed Presidential Scholarship Fund | Est. 2003
  • David and Leslie Lawson Endowed Presidential Scholarship Fund | Est. 2002
brick engraved with name David and Leslie Lawson

David and Leslie Lawson

David Lawson learned to appreciate the value of hard work the old-fashioned way – by doing what his father’s employees did. At age 13, David, one of eight children, began spending summer vacations working in one of the various manufacturing businesses owned by his father, Gayle. According to David, with each job he was given more responsibility and introduced to another aspect of the business.

He chose his major based on one of those summer job experiences. Two accountants were helping his dad on a business matter, and one drove “the nicest Corvette I had ever seen,” he said during an interview for TU. Right there, he decided he wanted to be an accountant. During this time, he attended Union High School and later the University of Oklahoma before choosing The University of Tulsa for “its small school environment.” He graduated with a BS in Accounting in 1970. He interviewed with two TU alumni at Arthur Andersen, the same firm his dad had engaged that earlier summer. One of them was the Corvette owner. And Lawson, after retelling the car story to them, was hired.

After 12 years with the prestigious firm, David moved into banking, eventually serving as chairman of Western National Bankcorp from 1986-1993. He went into other aspects of the financial industry, heading two other firms and serving as President and CEO of Capital One Auto Finance before retiring in 2008.

Throughout his career, David maintained a strong relationship with TU, giving freely of his time and talents in a variety of ways. He began serving on the Board of Trustees in 1989, and he served as Chairman from 2008 to 2012. He maintained his connection with the Board of Trustees as a Trustee Emeritus until he passed away in 2019. During his tenure, he was a member of the Executive Committee, the Advancement Committee, the Finance Committee, the Investment and Audit Committee (Chair 1998-99), and the Athletics Committee (Chair 1994-95). He was recognized as a TU Distinguished Alumnus in 2003, he was inducted into the TU Business Hall of Fame as Outstanding Entrepreneur in 2014, and he also served as president of TU’s Alumni Association (1982-88) and twice as president of the Golden Hurricane Club.

David’s wife, Leslie Lawson, served as a member of the volunteer leadership for The University of Tulsa’s successful Embrace the Future Campaign, chairing the Student Scholarships and Programs Committee. Through this campaign, the university’s dedicated volunteers and donors increased TU’s scholarship funding – tripling the permanent endowment and also nearly tripling the university’s ranks of endowed professors with 47 new endowed positions. Leslie also has long been a patron of Hillcrest Medical Center Associates.

Leslie Lawson and her three children, Clint Lawson (BS ’94, Marketing), Natalie Dooley (BSN ’94), and Matthew Lawson, continue to direct and manage the Dallas-based David and Leslie Lawson Family Foundation. Personally and through the foundation, the Lawson family has given more than 200 gifts since 1970 to support a wide array of TU programs and initiatives in both academics and athletics.

Among those gifts, the Lawsons established five endowments, beginning in 2002 with the David and Leslie Lawson Endowed Presidential Scholarship Fund. In 2003, David and Leslie Lawson chose to honor his parents with a similar gift, establishing the Gayle and Emilee Lawson Endowed Presidential Scholarship Fund. Gayle Lawson, who was vice president of Mobile International before retiring in 1984, also served as a member of the Union School Board and had a number of small manufacturing businesses. Emilee was a homemaker and member of the Saint Francis Auxiliary. They were members of the Memorial Drive United Methodist Church of Tulsa. In addition to David, they reared seven other children: Mark, Cindy, Charles, Dan, Linda, Bill and Julie.

In 2010, David and Leslie Lawson graciously offered to modify yet another existing scholarship endowment by significantly increasing their financial commitment to create an endowed chair within the Collins College of Business. Beginning in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the David and Leslie Lawson Family Foundation Trustees Scholarship Endowment Fund (originally established in 2007) was changed in name and purpose to be known as the David and Leslie Lawson Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship for the Collins College of Business.

In 2017, Leslie Lawson wanted to show her appreciation for the nursing profession, establishing two major endowments to strengthen TU’s nursing program. The Natalie Lawson Dooley Endowed Scholarship in Nursing pays tribute to the Lawsons’ daughter, who chose nursing as her profession, and this scholarship fund provides opportunities for those who are following in Natalie’s footsteps in TU’s School of Nursing. The Lawson Family Nursing Simulation Center and Skills Laboratory Endowment Fund will provide perpetual funding to support this important training center for Oklahoma’s future health professionals.

The University of Tulsa will be forever grateful for the vast amount of time and talent that David and Leslie Lawson devoted to help move the institution forward as one of the nation’s most accomplished private universities. TU also is indebted to the Lawsons and their children for their extraordinarily generous financial gifts, which will help make a quality education possible for TU students for generations to come.