Also In This Issue

New Gifts: Recent Gifts to the Foundation

Ensuring Muster's Future

Aggies the world over cherish Muster, but Mauri ’09 and Aaron King ’09 went one step farther in support of their favorite tradition by creating a planned gift to benefit the Muster Endowment. 

“Muster embodies so much of what it means to be an Aggie—to gather together in celebration of our university and what it stands for, to remember and memorialize, and to remain connected to the Aggie family,” said Aaron.  

Mauri and Aaron received degrees in political science from Texas A&M, with Mauri graduating in 2009 and Aaron in 2012 after a two-year deployment to Afghanistan. The couple lives in New Braunfels with their 18-month-old daughter Elizabeth and their dog Gipper.

Aaron, a high school social studies teacher, and Mauri, a family and hospitality blogger and recently published author of the children’s book "The Adventures of Pootsey the Wonderbug," knew they wanted to give back to Texas A&M as soon as possible. A bequest presented the perfect option. After their lifetimes, their gift will be added to the Muster Endowment, which provides annual payments for the event.    

“When it came to writing our wills and planning the distribution of our finances, allotting some of our future estate to Muster was an easy decision,” Mauri said.

For Country and Texas A&M

An American flag flies proudly outside the home of Dorthy and Jim Staehs ’55 in San Jose, California, calling attention to a plaque below that bears a patriotic quote written by Jim.

The words embody the couple’s patriotism for their country, reflected now in a charitable gift annuity they created that, after their lifetimes, will support Regents’ Scholars in the Corps of Cadets.

“The Corps taught me loyalty, honor, discipline, leadership, the value of hard work, and the spirit of unity and camaraderie,” said Jim. “I hope it will continue to espouse those values and build men and women of outstanding character to serve this nation and their communities.”

After marrying in 1952, he and Dorthy lived on campus while he pursued a civil engineering degree. Despite the fact that he was unable to afford his senior boots, Jim walked proudly across the stage and received his diploma. “It hung on our living room wall for years, even when there was no furniture,” he said.

After graduation, Jim worked for various companies and served three years in the U.S. Air Force. He later began his own manufacturing company, which he sold after 12 years for a sum that enabled him to retire. 

Couple’s Gift Aids First-Generation Students

Becky ’78 and Jim Wilkes ’78 obtained engineering degrees from Texas A&M University as first-generation college students and began their careers with little debt. To give other first-generation students that same opportunity, the couple created a $500,000 endowment to benefit Regents’ Scholars participating in the Engineering Success Program at Texas A&M.

The program provides additional resources to Regents’ Scholars through workshops, company visits, and peer mentor and tutor opportunities that help students navigate the transition to college. The Wilkes’ endowment will expand these opportunities and provide funding for scholars who wish to participate in a research course that includes a 10-day study abroad experience in Mexico.

Before deciding to support the program, the Wilkes met with first-generation students like Julio Resendez Jr. ’18, who credits the program with helping him succeed during his freshman year. Ultimately, retaining and recruiting underrepresented students like Resendez influenced their decision to give.

“Success can change the course of a family’s history,” Wilkes said. “It can break the cycle of poverty, and that’s not an easy thing to do. We feel strongly about the retention of first-generation students and enhancing their chances of success.”

A Father’s Love

Although doctors discovered his leukemia shortly after he graduated from high school, John Kinkead Stiles ’11 refused to let his diagnosis interfere with his educational goals. After two years at a community college, he received admission to Texas A&M.

John planned to earn a BBA in finance and attend law school to become a real estate lawyer. He was so committed to this path that when he was hospitalized for pneumonia, his schoolwork was his top concern.

“He was so worried about having to drop out or getting an F that I contacted senior academic adviser Pam Vernon, who arranged for him to be pulled from enrollment with a full tuition refund and automatic admittance whenever he could return,” said Dr. Frank Stiles ’77, John’s father. “He was absolutely ecstatic. He told me, ‘That’s why we love being Aggies, Dad.’”

The next day, John’s health took a turn for the worse, and he passed. Hearing this news, Vernon re-enrolled John so that he would be honored at Silver Taps and Muster. It was one of many gestures that inspired Frank to establish a $100,000 President’s Endowed Scholarship in John’s memory earlier this year.

“After attending Silver Taps and answering ‘Here’ for John at Muster, I wanted to thank Texas A&M for paying such a tribute to my son,” Stiles said. “My hope is that someone else will be as happy to be here as he was.”

Gift Wrap-Up

  • Deep Aggie Roots

    With a family 41 Aggies strong and counting—a fact she proudly displays on her car’s customized license plate—JoAnn Ledlow-Hobson (center) has devoted her love and much of her career to Texas A&M with positions at the Career Center and University Libraries. As an expression of appreciation for their mother’s lifetime commitment to their Aggie family, the Ledlow children established a $50,000 Endowed Opportunity Award in her honor.
  • Gift Supports Aggie Realtors

    A $1 million gift from Cydney Donnell ’81, a finance professor, will ensure the longevity of the Master of Real Estate Program at Mays Business School and keep Aggies at the forefront of the real estate industry.
  • Axalta Creates Chemical Engineering Chair

    Axalta Coating Systems, a global company that specializes in liquid and powder coatings, endowed a $2 million chair in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering to support a faculty member with teaching and research interests related to paint and coating technology. The company’s chairman and CEO is Charlie Shaver ’80 (third from left).
  • Hometown Hero

    After working to put himself through Texas A&M, commodities trader Adam Sinn ’00 became the second college graduate in his family. To mitigate financial hardships for future students, he gave $1 million to fund business scholarships for students from Dorado, Puerto Rico, where he currently resides, and from Hoopeston, Illinois, where he grew up.