Houston Treasures for 2004
Photo by: Alexander’s Fine Portrait Design
June and Virgil Waggoner were born in Arkansas, reared in small towns and attended Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. After graduating with honors in 1948, they married and moved to Texas where Virgil attended graduate school at the University of Texas, and June worked for two attorneys to pay the bills.
After 35 years as a successful executive in the petrochemical industry and retiring twice, Virgil and Gordon Cain negotiated the purchase of the Monsanto Texas City Plant and formed the legendary Sterling Chemicals, Inc. Virgil served as President and CEO from the firm’s founding on August 1, 1986, until its sale and his retirement “again” in 1996. During his leadership, Sterling Chemicals became a public company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and was included in both Forbes and the Fortune 500.
The Waggoners are actively involved in community and civic service. In 1993, The Waggoners Foundation was formed and focuses on giving in four areas: (1) the homeless and underprivileged, (2) medical research and support, (3) sciences, and (4) education. A major gift of a $5 million grant was made by the Foundation to the College of Natural Sciences, at the University of Texas in Austin, to establish the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research which investigates the molecular genetics of alcohol dependence.
In recognition of their support, the Waggoners have been honored by The Cancer League, Northwest Heart Association, The Women’s Home, Trees of Hope, Boys and Girls Country, Houston Museum of Natural Science and ORBIS International (the world’s only flying eye hospital). Virgil is also a member of the Board of Visitors for M.D. Anderson. He was chairman of the Advisory Council of the College of Natural Sciences at U.T., a member of the Board and Executive Committee of Houston Museum of Natural Science, is a lifetime director of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, a member of the Board of the Good Samaritan Foundation and ORBIS International and serves on other charitable, business and professional organizations. June serves on the Boards of the Trees of Hope, The Houston Council for Alcohol and Drugs and The Teen Health Clinics.
June and Virgil have enjoyed 55 years of marriage,but June says, “she was only three when they were married.” They enjoy spending time with their family, which includes three grandchildren. The Waggoners’ family philosophy and commitment to global needs has been summarized by Virgil in the statement: “When you’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and see the tremendous needs that exist, you know how very important it is to help. The ultimate achievement for each of us is for others to say that the world is a better place because you were here. When you have been as fortunate as we have, it should not be considered an opportunity but an obligation to help others. Winston Churchill said, ‘You make a living by what you earn, but you make a life by what you give.