June 15, 2021

  • A New Home for Aggie Veterans

    Housed in the MSC, the VRSC is appropriately located at the end of the Hall of Honor, next to the MSC Veteran’s Lounge and the Student Veterans of America at Texas A&M University’s office.

  • Don and Ellie Knauss

    The center was designed with the overall concepts of providing spaces for student veterans to study, share experiences, grow as students and leaders in their new college environment, and to help newly arriving student veterans adjust to college life.

  • A Place to Gather

    The new VRSC boasts a meeting space with 85” monitors that double as digital white-boards with an attached catering kitchen.

  • Textbook Library

    Also included in the new center is a library study space which houses an 85” white-board monitor.

Passionate Namesakes 

Don and Ellie Knauss of Sugar Land, Texas, committed $5 million in January 2020 to support four areas within the VRSC: $2.5 million was dedicated to renovations for the new center; $1 million will be retained as a facility endowment for maintenance; and $1 million is directed to an excellence fund to provide funding for Texas A&M veteran programs.  

Finally, the couple earmarked $500,000 as matching funds to encourage the creation of new veteran scholarships. During the past year, 18 donors took advantage of the match, resulting in 20 new endowed veteran scholarships. The Knausses had previously given more than $2 million toward 28 endowed student veteran scholarships. 

Their initial connection to Aggieland is their eldest son and his wife, who both graduated from Texas A&M in 2010. But it is their belief in the power of education, authentic leadership, and their passion for the military that makes their relationship with Texas A&M and the VRSC a natural fit. Ellie’s father is a veteran and Don served in the U.S. Marine Corps, earning the rank of captain.  

“The veterans who are returning from serving our country to further their education come with experiences that are quite different from most of the students,” said Ellie Knauss. “These young men and women, who have committed their lives to the safety and security of the United States, deserve the most powerful step up we can provide for them. An education is the best way to ensure they have an opportunity to maximize their full potential.” 

Don Knauss, who was chief executive officer of Clorox from 2006 to 2014, credits the strong leadership of Col. Gerald Smith, VRSC director, and his team as motivation behind the gift.  

“When we saw the limitation in physical space in which veterans could gather and where this talented team does its work, we recognized an opportunity,” he said. “We want the VRSC to have the infrastructure needed to execute these life-changing programs and to grow in the future. We also believe it’s important that student veterans have a central, welcoming place to gather and connect with others who understand their challenges and are dedicated to their academic success.” 

From P&G to Global Philanthropy 

The namesakes of Texas A&M’s center for veterans have spent their lives learning lessons about human nature, leadership, and purpose. These lessons and experiences are culminating in philanthropy and service that will carry the Knauss legacy well into the future.    

Born in Hammond, Indiana, Don Knauss graduated from Indiana University in 1977 with a degree in history. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines, serving in Oahu, Hawaii, with the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines as an artillery officer. Ellie Knauss grew up in the Midwest and attended Duke University. Her first job out of college was at Procter & Gamble (P&G), where she worked in sales management of paper and met Don, who left the Marines in 1981 to work in brand management of paper for P&G. The couple has been together since.