February 29, 2016

Before James H. Johnson ’86 started a job in Afghanistan last year, he wanted to finish an important item on his to-do list: establish a planned gift for Texas A&M University. 

James H. Johnson '86 will use his agribusiness expertise to develop a sustainable commercial agricultural sector in Afghanistan.

With advice from a lawyer friend in his then-hometown of Washington, D.C., Johnson decided that a revocable living trust was the best giving vehicle for him. “It’s easier to revise than a will. I can move and manipulate the trust distributions when my circumstances change. Revisions wouldn’t create multiple versions of a will, and it will be easier for my friend to be trustee than executor.”

Johnson, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics from A&M, wanted to set up the gift before leaving the United States. Through his job with the Texas A&M-based Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, he manages proposals and implementation plans to develop a sustainable commercial agricultural sector in Nangarhar Province. “I had been thinking about my trust creation for five or six years, and then I needed to finish it in a hurry. I met with an Aggie lawyer in Georgetown, Texas, and we set it up within about a week.”

The revocable living trust makes provisions for Texas A&M University and other beneficiaries of his estate, and Johnson chose a trustee who will carry out his wishes exactly. 

As he made his gift to the Texas A&M Foundation for the benefit of the university, Johnson was surprised at how much he could customize the gift parameters, even down to specific details. “Everything I did is a reflection of who I was and what I became through Texas A&M.”

His trust will fund a Memorial Student Center (MSC) Fall Leadership Conference endowment that will allow for the development of future Aggie leaders in perpetuity. “I think the MSC’s student programs provide the greatest impact to student leaders at Texas A&M. They create a support system that A&M leaders will use now and in the future as well as reinforce the everyday leadership skills that become so valuable in the workplace.” 

In addition, Johnson will establish four endowed scholarships: Two will be Southerland Aggie Leader scholarships that help leaders of student organizations pay for their educations. Two more will assist freshmen or sophomore agricultural economics majors with a preference for Future Farmers of America (FFA) members. “I got my Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo scholarship because of my involvement with FFA. It allowed me to be involved in the ‘other’ Aggie education — becoming active in student organizations — instead of working full-time to pay for school. I wanted to be able to give back to someone like me years from now.

“A planned gift is the perfect vehicle for me. It’s a way of giving to A&M in the future without any financial impact to me today. Every Aggie should include A&M in their estate plan at some level. I’ve always felt A&M was welcome to my money — after I get through with it,” Johnson said with a big laugh. “Once I’m through having fun with it, I want my money to help others.”

By Mary Vinnedge ’75

Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M’s capability to be among the best universities.