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Musical legacy
Scholarship honoring matriarch benefits keyboard students

Music teacher Luna Ruth Tinker came to UT Arlington (then North Texas Agricultural College) as a young bride in 1941. She and her husband, Tom, the school’s basketball coach, lived on campus in a rent house owned by the college. Those early years cast the die for an everlasting relationship with the University.

Luna Ruth Tinker at the piano
Luna Ruth Tinker, 87, teaches piano lessons and plays for her church every Sunday. "As long as there is athletics or music, the Tinkers will be part of UT Arlington," says her daughter, Carolyn Tinker.


“As long as there is athletics or music, the Tinkers will be part of UT Arlington,” said daughter Carolyn Tinker, who earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1966 from what had become Arlington State College.

Carolyn taught in Arlington schools and completed her master’s degree at UT Arlington in 1975. She was associate director of development for the University of New Mexico until her recent retirement.

The Tinker family’s life revolved around the campus, athletics and music.

Athletics Director Pete Carlon, who came here in 1981, says the late Tom Tinker was like a grandfather to him. A few years ago, Carlon found an old photo of Tinker, Chena Gilstrap and Burley Bearden. The trio comprised the entire athletic department back then.

Carlon had the image enlarged and framed, and it hangs in his office. He says he looks at it every day to remind him what an athletic program should be.

As a coach’s wife, Luna Ruth sat through scores of athletics banquets, watching her husband distribute awards. She beamed as he received numerous honors himself. Once she quipped that coaches were lucky because piano teachers didn’t get to hand out awards or have things named after them.

So Carolyn thought, “Why not?”

She set up the Luna Ruth Tinker Keyboard Scholarship, pledging to contribute $1,800 annually. She plans to permanently endow it from her mother’s estate or, should her mother outlive her, her own.

Carolyn anticipates that the annual funding, which her sister, Lou, supports as well, will continue for many years. Her mother is 87 and still teaches piano and plays every Sunday morning at Arlington’s First Christian Church.

“The Music Department invites me to sit in on the scholarship auditions,” Luna Ruth said. “It’s just wonderful to hear how talented these young people are.”

Carolyn says she and her family cherish the thank you notes from scholarship winners, some of whom come from other countries.

“Most people want to honor their parents after they’re gone,” she said. “But it is so much better to do it when they can be a part of it. It’s really fun to know you are changing lives.”

Online: www.uta.edu/giving

— Sue Stevens

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