Courtney Kiolbassa ’18 grew up in San Antonio loving school and loving learning.
“I found a lot of fulfillment and passion in writing,” said Kiolbassa, the 2014 salutatorian at San Antonio’s Reagan High School. “In fourth grade we were given writer licenses, and I still have mine! We were assigned a two-page story, and I wrote seven pages!”
Kiolbassa started in business honors at Texas A&M University but could not forget her passion for writing. She loved the essay assignments in her philosophy class and wrote poetry during her math class. During her sophomore year, she changed her major to English.
“It felt like I was in fourth grade again, like I had a new writer’s license,” said Kiolbassa, “and it’s in part because I have the financial freedom to do so. I take that very seriously.”
Kiolbassa’s financial freedom comes from her selection as one of the first Haynes Scholars, a new merit-based undergraduate scholarship program that will be established through an estate gift to the Texas A&M Foundation.
The gift is one of the latest in an incredible legacy of philanthropy to Texas A&M through the Haynes Family Foundation, begun by Reta and the late H.J. “Bill” Haynes ’46.
Bill and Reta Haynes started their 64-year marriage with a deep belief in giving back regardless of their station in life. They began giving to Texas A&M in the 1970s, and Reta continued that tradition after Bill’s passing in 2009. Among her endowed gifts that assist undergraduate students are 14 Corps 21 scholarships. She and her daughter, Sharon Early, regularly visit campus to meet with her scholarship students.
Haynes’ decision to create the new scholarship program grew out of her deep admiration for Texas A&M students’ quality and character. Haynes’ estate gift will support dozens of students in the future, but her passion for Aggie students moved her to jumpstart the program in 2013 with annual cash gifts that support two students per year. For four years, Haynes Scholars receive annual stipends equal to 50 percent or more of the estimated total cost of attending Texas A&M.
These students are determined to be teachers, leaders and examples to others as they live their lives," she said. “It means so much to help these young Aggies.”
Haynes Scholarship: A Huge, Humbling Honor
Six students currently hold a Haynes Scholarship. When fully funded, the Haynes Scholars Program will support up to 10 students each year for no more than four years. When a full slate of scholars has been selected, freshmen through seniors, the program will support about 40 undergraduate students annually.
The Haynes Scholars Program consists of three endowments: one to support a program director, a second to provide educational enrichment opportunities, and a third to create the Reta and H.J. “Bill” Haynes University Scholarship Fund.
“It is among the most significant individual scholarship commitments received by Texas A&M,” said Tyson Voelkel ’96, Texas A&M Foundation president. “Mrs. Haynes is leading by example, making an impact on the world and constantly finding ways to make a difference in the lives of Aggie students. We can't thank her or her late husband enough for trusting us with the responsibility of managing their philanthropic investment.”
Kiolbassa said that the scholarship changed how she approaches her education.
“The Haynes scholarship has given me the freedom to deeply pursue my passion,” she said. Kiolbassa is a former dancer who has choreographed a campus musical and writes for a spoken word poetry group. “I believe in the power of communication, and I believe in the power of writing. As an English major, I’ve had so many opportunities to write in class and also pursue opportunities outside of class.”
The second inaugural Haynes Scholar is Cullen Reeves ’18, a member of the Corps of Cadets and an agricultural systems management major from Pineland, Texas. He chose Texas A&M because of its agricultural heritage. “I also wanted to attend a school that could put me in a position to excel after graduation.”
Post-college, Reeves envisions managing large-scale agricultural operations or working in professional sales. He said the scholarship has given him and other recipients “a platform to expand our future.”
“Some of us are already thinking about graduate school,” he added.
Reeves met Mrs. Haynes on her last visit to campus. “She’s such a genuine person,” he said. “She’s one of those very rare individuals who, you can tell, just loves people. It’s hard to put into words what it means because it’s such a huge honor. It’s humbling to realize that you’re one of six people out of 60,000 who can say they are a Haynes Scholar.”
Four Decades Later: A Legacy of Generosity
The Haynes family has supported students, faculty and programs through funding for merit-based scholarships, faculty chairs and fellowships and facilities in the College of Engineering, the College of Geosciences and the College of Education and Human Development. Other endowments have benefitted the Corps of Cadets, the Singing Cadets and The Association of Former Students. Their gift to The Association led to the creation of the Haynes Ring Plaza, a campus landmark. In 2007, friends honored Bill Haynes by raising funds to endow the Harold J. Haynes Dean’s Chair in Engineering. In 2013, the Texas A&M Foundation recognized the couple with the Sterling C. Evans Medal, the Foundation’s highest philanthropic honor.