On Sept. 12, 1953, a group of 21 Texas A&M former students and regents gathered to officially create an organization they have long discussed. Peering into the future, they knew that the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas would eventually need large charitable gifts to continue offering a quality academic experience.
Utilizing the Texas Trust Law, the Texas A&M College Development Foundation was formed with an initial $100 in assets. Wofford Cain ’13, Sterling Evans ’21, Herman Heep ’20, W.P. Machemehl ’33 and A.F. Mitchell ’22 were named its first trustees.
A New Name
Following the lead of Texas A&M in 1962, the Texas A&M College Development Foundation changed its name to the Texas A&M University Development Foundation.
President's Endowed Scholarships Are Born
In the 1960s, Texas A&M was maturing from an all-male, military and technical college into a full-fledged university. To help it along, five of the university’s most illustrious former students funded five four-year scholarships. These scholarships—intended to raise the quality bar for Texas A&M students—became the President’s Endowed Scholarship (PES) program. Awarded to high-achieving high school seniors, these scholarships inaugurated the Foundation’s most visible giving program.
Since 1968, more than 4,500 students have attended Texas A&M with the financial help of a PES award. In addition to a multitude of Foundation donors, these students have the program founders to thank: Ford Albritton Jr. ’43, Les Appelt '41, John Lindsey '44, W. C. "mAggie" McGee Jr. '31 and Royce Wisenbaker ’40.
In the 1970s, the number of trustees serving on the Foundation board increased from five to seven. The term of office for Foundation trustees also decreased from 10 to seven years.
Now a 501(c)(3)
The Foundation, initially formed as a Texas Charitable Trust, officially separated from the university and was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation. Bob Rutledge became its executive director.
Capital Campaign: A Top Priority
For decades, Texas A&M’s fundraising mindset mirrored that of many public universities: asking former students for an annual “tithe.” But the 1980s saw a change in that trend as major-gift fundraising became more popular. A capital campaign planned for the mid-1980s was shelved when the economy plummeted, but when William H. Mobley became university president in 1988, a fundraising campaign was among his top priorities.
Capturing the Spirit, A&M’s first capital campaign, established a six-year goal of half a billion dollars. At the time, it was the largest campaign goal ever set by a public university. John Lindsey ’44 accepted the position of national chairman while Bill McCord ’49 became the campaign’s nucleus fund chairman.
In 1992, the campaign was publicly launched, and in 1996, a full 10 months ahead of schedule, the Capturing the Spirit campaign reached its $500 million goal.
A Fresh Face and Fiscal Direction
Ed Davis took the helm of the Foundation in 1993. With a change in leadership came a new focus. Davis led the charge to take a long-term portfolio strategy approach to its money management. In the 1992-93 fiscal year, contributions jumped 31 percent from $46.9 million to $61.4 million.
A New Home, A New Name
Jon Hagler ’58—a prominent member of the Investment Advisory Committee—presented the Foundation with a lead gift of $5 million for the Foundation’s new headquarters. The completion of the Hagler Center in 1999 provided new offices and meeting areas for Foundation administrators and staff. More importantly, it offered a central location on the university campus to recognize and celebrate philanthropy.
When the Gruy Fountain in front of the Hagler Center was formally dedicated December 14, 2007, Rae T. and H.J. “Hank” Gruy fulfilled a dream of leaving a tangible landmark on the Texas A&M campus.
The Texas A&M University Development Foundation capped off a successful campaign and completion of its headquarters with a new name: the Texas A&M Foundation.
The Foundation Excellence Award
In 1998, the Foundation created the Foundation Excellence Award (FEA) program to aid students from historically disadvantaged groups often underrepresented in the student body, including minorities and those who face significant economic or educational hurdles.
Since its founding, more than 1,000 students from under-represented groups have attended Texas A&M with the help of an FEA.
The Foundation began the “silent phase” of the One Spirit One Vision campaign in 2000. If a $500 million goal in the previous decade’s campaign appeared audacious, this campaign’s $1 billion goal seemed nothing short of staggering, especially with the capital markets reeling since the Internet bubble burst in March 2000.
The campaign came to a close on Dec. 31, 2006. By the time all the checks were counted, more than $1.5 billion in gifts and pledges had been made to the Foundation, the Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation and the Bush Library Foundation during the seven-year campaign period.
Texas A&M Legacy Society is Born
By 2004, the Foundation combined Texas A&M’s two premier donor recognition societies, the Forsyth Heritage Society and University Associates, to become the A&M Legacy Society. This society recognizes donors whose cumulative, current giving to A&M totals $100,000 or more, and individuals who plan to make future gifts through their estates. Learn more about A&M Legacy Society membership.
A Scholarship Initiative and New Student Organization
Despite the unstable economy, in 2008 the Foundation launched Operation Spirit and MindSM, a scholarship initiative to raise $300 million for scholarships and graduate fellowships. Individuals, foundations and corporations contributed $308.2 million to the initiative between Jan. 1, 2007, and Aug. 31, 2011. That same year, Davis established a new student organization—the Maroon Coats—to serve as student ambassadors for the Foundation. Maroon Coats play a key role in helping the Foundation express appreciation to its donors by providing the student voice at Foundation events and writing or phoning donors to express gratitude for their gifts. Learn more about the Maroon Coats.
Our MSC: A Tribute to Honor
In 2009, the Our MSC campaign began to raise $20 million for the renovation to the Memorial Student Center. Students initiated the project, voting to increase student fees to cover $82 million of the $125 million total cost.
By the rededication of the MSC on April 21, 2012, donors had contributed more than $15 million to the project, including a $2 million commitment from Foundation Board of Trustee Chairman John Bethancourt.
2013: Impressive Numbers and a New Campaign
The end of fiscal year 2013 reflected the Foundation’s continued growth in strength and numbers and was marked by several highlights, including a record-breaking $217 million in planned gift expectancies and $1.3 billion in total net assets.
In January 2013, the Foundation also launched the “silent phase” of Texas A&M University’s third comprehensive fundraising campaign, Lead by Example. As part of this campaign, university leaders identified six specific areas—energy, health, environment, freedom, innovation and education—where Aggies can continue to generate a substantial impact on society and the world. Donor support will allow the Foundation to provide more resources to these target areas.
The campaign entered its public phase in 2015 and will continue through 2020. It is a joint effort between Texas A&M University, the Texas A&M Foundation, the 12th Man Foundation, The Association of Former Students and the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation.
Hail and Farewell: Foundation President Announces Retirement
After more than two decades in a career that pushed Texas A&M University into the nation’s top tier of higher education fundraising, Texas A&M Foundation President Ed Davis announced that he would retire in January 2016. The 1967 Texas A&M graduate, who also received a master’s and doctoral degree from the university, announced the news to Foundation employees in August 2015.
Davis’ experience and insight in higher education administration and finance have served the Texas A&M Foundation well. Since he took the helm in 1993, annual contributions to the Foundation have increased more than 360 percent, from $30.3 million to $111.7 million, and total assets have increased by more than 670 percent, from $263.2 million to $1.8 billion. In 1993, the organization made $19.2 million available to Texas A&M; that figure grew to $88.2 million during its 2015 fiscal year.
The Foundation’s seven-member board of trustees commissioned Witt/Kieffer, a higher education executive search firm, to identify candidates who could serve as his successor. Davis is staying on at the Foundation for several months as a principal gifts officer to “wrap up some outstanding gift plans to fulfill the dreams of some old friends.” Later, he plans to spend more time with his wife Jo Ann in their Bryan, Texas, home and enjoy his children and grandchildren.
2016: A New Captain at the Helm
On December 24, 2015, the Texas A&M Foundation's Board of Trustees announced the selection of Tyson Voelkel as its new president. The U.S. Army veteran and 1996 graduate of Texas A&M University took office on Jan. 20, 2016. Voelkel’s organizational leadership, asset management knowledge and diverse educational experience helped lead to his selection. His Aggie spirit runs deep, with roots that took hold as a leader in the Corps of Cadets and Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, student government, Traditions Council and other undergraduate activities. Voelkel served as Corps commander, the group’s highest ranking member, his senior year. After earning his bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Texas A&M's College of Engineering, Voelkel began a distinguished 14-year career as an Army infantry officer in the United States, Europe and the Middle East. He served in Iraq twice in leadership positions, earning several awards. After leaving the military in 2012, Voelkel worked with private wealth management firms that serve high net worth investors.
Learn more about Tyson Voelkel's background and previous career accomplishments.
"I am honored and humbled at the opportunity to lead the Texas A&M Foundation and look forward to building on the exceptional legacy of Dr. Ed Davis and his outstanding team as we move into the future,” Voelkel said. “My family and I view this opportunity as a call to serve and there is absolutely no other place on earth we would rather spend our time, energy, and resources. We believe in the unlimited potential of the students, faculty, and staff of Texas A&M and know that the work of the Foundation helps change the world through academic excellence and research."