Feature Stories

Student Impact

Best of the Best

By Tyler Allen '18

Student Writer

Best of the Best

By Tyler Allen '18

Student Writer

There are a multitude of scholarships available to members of the Corps of Cadets, but Noorddin Alsawfta ’19 (above) is the recipient of an uncommon one. In fact, he didn’t even apply for it. As first sergeant of the Rudder’s Rangers company and an aspiring U.S. Army infantry officer, the award reflects his own personal accomplishments, but also pays homage to a cadet who came before him—one whose charisma, passion and legacy inspired the premier form of financial compensation available to Texas A&M University cadets.

Alsawfta is one of two inaugural recipients of the Kupfer Award, which pays out $7,500 annually—the most of any scholarship limited to cadets. The award’s namesake, Harold Kupfer ’54, served in the U.S. Army and led a successful career as a Wall Street stock trader. Because recipients are selected by a committee of Corps leadership and not subject to a traditional application process, Alsawfta initially didn’t know what the award was or anything about the man behind its name.

“It was a huge surprise,” he said, “but I was so grateful to learn I was a recipient, as I’m paying my own way through school.” Alsawfta only realized the full extent of the award when he met Gerald Ray ’54 and Donald Zale ’55—the benefactors of the scholarship and Kupfer’s fellow cadets—who fully acquainted him with the character of the award’s namesake.

“After hearing about Harold Kupfer from two of his lifelong friends, the prestige of this honor really sunk in,” he said.

After meeting at Highland Park High School in Dallas, Donald Zale ’55, Harold Kupfer ’54 and Gerald Ray ’54 (left to right) remained friends during and after their time at Texas A&M. Ray and Zale have established an award for members of the Corps of Cadets to honor Kupfer's legacy.

A Close-Knit Trio

When Ray, Zale and Kupfer met at Highland Park High School in Dallas, it was the start of a lifelong friendship that continued despite being placed in different Corps outfits at Texas A&M. Kupfer was placed in field artillery and was active in the Fish Drill Team. He was assigned to Battery “A” and progressed to cadet major of the Second Battalion staff by his senior year. He was also an avid intramural boxer. In fact, as a prank, Ray once entered him in a Golden Glove boxing tournament in Houston without Kupfer’s knowledge. Never one to back down from a challenge, Kupfer competed. Ray said that demonstrates the nature of their relationship.

“One of Gerald’s greatest thrills in life was aggravating Harold,” said Zale. “He loved to pull his chain.”

Kupfer was also an active member of the Texas A&M Business Society and the Dallas Aggies Club, as well as editor of the 1954 Aggieland yearbook. He graduated and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army before serving in Germany with a mechanized division artillery. Upon returning to civilian life, he entered the securities industry as a block trader specializing in large stock transactions.

“Harold spoke this unique Wall Street language, and he often called my office to give my secretary wild market speculations,” said Zale, who served as CEO of Zale Corporation until the company was sold in 1986 as the world’s largest retail jewelry store chain. “He could endear himself to anyone. He was extraordinarily competent in his trade and had a network of friends and relationships nationwide. He was a breath of fresh air.”

Ray, who started his own investment firm in Dallas after graduation, said Kupfer often called him to propose spur-of-the-moment trips to New York or other cities he frequented. When Ray told him he couldn’t due to other responsibilities, Kupfer went by himself and invited him again next time. “He was a true renaissance man,” added Ray.

The three friends remained close long into their careers. Things didn’t change until Kupfer reluctantly told them he had been diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer. At that point, Ray and Zale agreed to make Kupfer’s remaining time exciting and well spent. Of everything they did for him, the most notable was throwing an honorary black-tie dinner. “There were people from New York, California and all over the country who came down to celebrate him,” said Ray. “I’m not exaggerating: The place was jam-packed.”

Remembering Harold Kupfer '54

Passing Down the Spirit

In July 1985, Kupfer passed away after his battle with cancer. To resurrect the memory of their friend and commemorate him at Texas A&M, Ray and Zale endowed the Kupfer Award as a permanent source of support for cadets.

“Since Harold was such a unique and successful person, this award celebrates success and leadership,” said Ray. “Recipients are awarded this money as a reward for what they’ve accomplished in the Corps and around campus. It’s a meaningful dollar amount that can pay handsomely for tuition, and we thought Harold would really like that.”

The Kupfer Award will be awarded annually to a junior and senior cadet who exemplify Kupfer’s leadership and promote his sense of competitiveness and camaraderie. Recipients must have at least a 3.25 GPA, and demonstrated leadership in the Corps and on campus is one of the main selection criteria—a factor Alsawfta agrees should be celebrated. “When you have effective leaders, it creates a more effective and efficient organization that has meaning behind it,” he said. “If people are just going through the motions, the organization will be empty and hollow. But when you have leaders who genuinely care, they’ll inspire those under them through their actions.”

A leader himself in his company and his ROTC organization, Alsawfta said the Corps allowed him to obtain the discipline needed to solidify his decision to join the Army after college. He is pursuing a degree in international studies with a minor in Arabic before he plans to earn a Master’s of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Alsawfta believes that opportunities present themselves in the Corps for those who are willing to work for them. This ideology is what aligned him with Ray and Zale’s mission for the Kupfer Award.

“If you stand out among your peers, maintain your grades and adopt a leader’s attitude, opportunities will find you,” he added. “Things will work themselves out if you persevere. I am so grateful to have received this life-changing honor.”

To learn how you can support students in the Corps of Cadets, contact Matt Jennings '95 (below).