Memorial scholarship fund established in honor of late WT student Joe Hoot

CANYON — On Tuesday, West Texas A&M University (WT) announced a memorial scholarship fund that has been set up in honor of a student who died in October.

"Joe Hoot was a young man who’d stop and hold the door for anyone, even when the line would ceaselessly keep streaming in. Who’d give the sweatshirt off his back to an acquaintance who was cold. Who’d give his own food away to a stranger who was hungry," a WT news release says. "Now, following his unexpected death at age 22, his generous spirit will live on in the form of a new merit scholarship at West Texas A&M University."

According to previous reports, on Oct. 31, the Randall County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to a train accident near North 24th Street in Canyon on reports of a death involving a pedestrian, who was identified as Hoot.

Hoot was a senior biology major in WT’s Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences, the school said. In the wake of their loss, Hoot's parents, Andrew and Brenda Hoot of Canyon, have established the Joseph Bramhall Hoot Memorial Merit Scholarship.

Following the death of Joe Hoot in October, his family established the Joseph Bramhall Hoot Memorial Merit Scholarship at West Texas A&M University. Holding the portrait of Joe that was displayed at his funeral are father Andrew, from left, brother Tom, sister Alex and mother Brenda Hoot.
Following the death of Joe Hoot in October, his family established the Joseph Bramhall Hoot Memorial Merit Scholarship at West Texas A&M University. Holding the portrait of Joe that was displayed at his funeral are father Andrew, from left, brother Tom, sister Alex and mother Brenda Hoot.

The Hoots gave seed money, then watched memorial donations pour in from family, friends, coworkers, the WT and regional communities, acquaintances and total strangers, WT said. "Joe’s short life touched many, including dozens of online gamers he’d met from around the country. The fund has already reached $150,000 and will provide a minimum of $1,000 per year to one or more students beginning in the fall," the release says.

“This is an opportunity for us to give to other students in Joe’s name,” said Brenda Hoot, an Amarillo healthcare professional. “It keeps his spirit with WT.”

A 2018 graduate of Ascension Academy, Joe Hoot was a proud Buff, said his parents and older sister, Alex, a 2022 WT graduate. Brother Tom, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, is also attending WT, while younger brother Bob is a senior chemistry major at Washington College in Maryland.

“He was very engaged on campus, just a gregarious and kind young man,” said Andrew Hoot, also an Amarillo healthcare professional. “He loved being at WT and being engaged with the Buff community. We want to use this as an opportunity to help someone who’ll be similarly engaged and motivated.”

In addition to working in Residential Living and being a fixture in Gunther Hall, Joe Hoot worked the operations crew team WT’s Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

“Joe was by far one of the smartest, hardest working, most dependable and personable student employees I’ve had the pleasure of working with at the JBK,” said Chari Hill, JBK assistant director. “Joe was also very funny. His witty comments when filling out building checklists and shift notes had me laughing quite often.”

The Hoots said they were heartened by the outpouring of support they received.

“Several dozen people donated to the scholarship fund, adding up to much more than I expected,” Andrew Hoot said. “Endowed scholarships such as this are similar to planting a tree, which will grow and yield a bounty to be shared with future generations of Buffs pursuing their dreams. This can continue in perpetuity.”

The merit scholarship can be given to any student in WT’s Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, with a preference for biology majors. Merit scholarships are awarded based on students’ high school achievements, not based on need. Merit scholarships automatically renew for four years or until students complete a bachelor’s degree, whichever comes first.

Joe Hoot was one such high-achieving student, WT said; he was a studious biology major who was planning to pursue a master’s degree in entomology within the Texas A&M University System.

“Joe Hoot was truly a fine young man,” said Dr. David Sissom, professor of biology and head of the Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences. “As a student, he was always interested in learning and really seemed to enjoy natural history. I had the pleasure of teaching five of his classes. It is wonderful that his memory will be honored with a merit scholarship to help majors in the field of endeavor he enjoyed so much.”

Mostly, his family said they will remember Joe’s good-natured, kindhearted spirit, which Joe Hoot told his family was enhanced by his time at WT, where he learned that others didn’t share the privileges that his life had afforded him.

His mother recalled one random act of kindness he performed on a family vacation in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, in 2022: “Joe, Alex and I were walking on the boardwalk, and he noticed a homeless man,” Brenda Hoot recalled. “He offered him a bag of chips, then stood in a long line at a popcorn stand. We had just eaten dinner, so I wondered why he was there. Joe said, ‘Well, I gave him something to eat, so I’m sure he’s thirsty, too.’

“Hundreds of people didn’t even notice him,” Brenda Hoot continued. “But Joe saw someone in need and did something to help.”

“We hope to perpetuate his spirit of engagement and friendliness and kindness,” Andrew Hoot added.

That sentiment echoes words Joe Hoot himself wrote in a school journal 10 years ago, while still a student at Ascension Academy, WT said: “Me having a good heart is what I hope people will remember.”

To donate to the Joseph Bramhall Hoot Memorial Merit Scholarship, visit wtamu.edu/hoot.

Gifts to WT, whether to scholarship funds or any other avenue, contribute to the WT's $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which publicly launched in September 2021 and has raised more than $120 million, the school said.

This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Memorial scholarship established in honor of WT student Joe Hoot