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Why I Give: John J. Wheir (’70)

May 2016

For John J. Wheir of Austin, giving is best summarized by a quote from the late John Lennon, “It’s not what you get, it’s what you give.”

A member of Texas Tech Law’s first graduating class, Wheir established himself as a leader in the tax-law field. Wheir fondly recalls the early times at Texas Tech Law and the skills and knowledge he gained.

“Tech Law afforded me the tools to excel in the practice of law,” Wheir said. “The first class was exposed to a fabulous array of professors whose background and experience was second to none. They brought a great sense of energy with them. Most importantly, they were very generous and available to us.”

Generosity is not the only thing Wheir learned from his professors. His passion and knowledge for tax law developed from a professor Wheir now considers a friend, Walter Ray Phillips.

“Federal Income Tax was a required course and somewhat dreaded by most of us,” Wheir recalled. “On the first day of class, Professor Walter Ray Phillips sauntered into class with a pile of books under his arm. After making a few introductory comments, his eyes began to view the class, and then suddenly his eyes fixated on me, and he blurted out ‘Mr Wheir.’ He proceeded to ask me a barrage of questions. For the rest of the semester, Professor Phillips started each class with two words accompanied with a question mark ‘Mr Wheir,’” Wheir said. “I made the highest grade in the class. Since that time, he and I have become quite good friends.”

In fact, Phillips’s impact led Wheir to create the Walter Ray Phillips Scholarship Endowment, which provides a scholarship to a law student every year. Wheir committed financially to Texas Tech Law to honor the professor that deeply impacted him.

“Walter Ray Phillips was the smartest professor I ever had,” Wheir acknowledged. “He was available and he took an interest in me. In the past few years I have made it a point to find those in my life that made a difference. I have sought them out and let them know what a positive impact they made. Ray Phillips was one of those people.”

Wheir’s long career led to many accomplishments, including being chosen as attorney-advisor to Judge William Goffe at the United States Tax Court in D.C. and graduating first in his class from SMU Dedman School of Law’s LL.M. in taxation program.

Through these great accomplishments, Wheir always remembered all he had received during his time at Texas Tech Law.

“I took a great deal from Tech Law, and now it is my time to give back,” Wheir said. “There is nothing greater than helping others. Having been there, I know the needs students have and the difficult times they can undergo. Giving is a celebration I cherish.”

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