Jenna Leihgeber '23 is a mechanical engineering major from Tyler, Texas. She is one of the first recipients of a Dean's Scholars Award in the College of Engineering.

At Texas A&M University, the College of Engineering lets the success of its students speak for itself. Consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10 public engineering programs, Texas A&M’s engineering college produces high-quality, proud Texas engineers that serve our state and nation.

When prospective freshmen decide on which university to attend, the level of financial aid they receive is often a key part of their decision. The new Dean's Scholars Award initiative, a competitive scholarship program for incoming freshmen, strives to make the College of Engineering even more successful in attracting the nation's top merit students.

For Jenna Leihgeber ’23, receiving the Delbert A. Whitaker ’65 Dean’s Scholars Award II solidified her decision to choose Texas A&M. Leihgeber is grateful for the opportunities this scholarship will provide her and feels it represents a culmination of all the hard work she put in during high school. “The Dean’s Scholars Award will allow me to prioritize my academics,” she said. “Hours that might have been spent working a part-time job are now hours studying or in the classroom. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to maximize my learning experiences.”

Post-college, Leihgeber hopes to use her engineering degree to help reform underprivileged communities. “Texas A&M Engineering is a strong platform that will help me gain technical insights, leadership development and mature analytical skills,” she added.  

Bigger, Better, Bolder

Envisioned by Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering, the Dean’s Scholars Award initiative was announced in October 2018 as a way to help the college gain a recruiting edge over other Texas and out-of-state universities. The awards are one-year scholarships that provide a $4,000 stipend to freshman recipients to offset the cost of tuition. To receive an award, students must have excelled academically and demonstrated leadership potential.

Linda and Del Whitaker '65, one of the first couples to fund a Dean's Scholars Award, hope the new scholarships will help recruit prospective students to the College of Engineering.

“Competitive scholarship packages are imperative for Texas A&M to continue to recruit and educate the brightest students,” Dean Banks said. “It is vital that we continue to meaningfully invest in our students to further elevate the strong tradition of excellence for which the College of Engineering at Texas A&M is known.”

This fall, the college awarded seven scholarships to its inaugural class of Dean’s Scholars thanks to the buy-in and generosity of numerous donors. Del Whitaker ’65, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and had a successful career with Texas Instruments, was one of the first former students to back the initiative. He and his wife, Linda, were inspired by Dean Banks’ mission to promote Aggie engineering success. “Engineering is an important discipline and one that affects nearly every aspect of society,” Del said. “It’s important to have resources available to continue to bring bright students to Texas A&M in order to produce high quality engineers.”

The college hopes to raise enough of the scholarships to award 5% of its incoming class each year. The awards can be established through a $16,000 non-endowed commitment—in which the donor commits $4,000 per year to award four different freshmen over four years—or as an endowed commitment of $100,000. The endowed option also provides a $4,000 scholarship to a different freshman every year, but because the award is endowed, it will provide awards in perpetuity, not just for four years. These awards can be funded through gifts of cash or through an individual’s estate.

Mary Kay Jackson ’83, another initial donor to the awards, supports Dean Banks’ goal to not only make the engineering program more appealing, but also her push to become one of the best programs available. “It’s one thing to have the biggest engineering program, but it’s another to be the best. I want to see us be both,” Jackson said. A civil engineering graduate with a career in water management, Jackson also personally recognizes the benefit scholarships can have on students.

“I was the recipient of scholarships as a student, and that allowed and encouraged me to focus on academics,” she added. “These awards are about recognizing students’ potential and showing that the engineering college believes in their success.” 

Mary Kay Jackson ’83, another initial donor to the awards, supports Dean Banks’ goal to not only make the engineering program more appealing, but also her push to become one of the best programs available.

Better by Design

While there are many factors that attract students to Texas A&M’s outstanding engineering program, the university’s culture of excellence is a top draw. According to Dr. Mark Weichold, senior associate dean for academic affairs in the college, the traditions and value of Texas A&M play a big role in producing engineers who will go on to be leaders in the workforce. “Texas A&M has the highest sense of ethics and integrity,” he said. “This, coupled with our focus on providing a solid foundation of engineering fundamentals, allows the college to produce high-caliber graduates.”

He believes the Dean’s Scholars Awards will be another top draw that motivate first-year students as they navigate academics and college life. Hopefully, the scholarships also give recipients a boost toward later success on their academic journey.

“Upon graduation, we hope that Aggie engineers are more prepared and more sought after than any other university,” said Weichold. “In turn, these successful students reflect positively on the university, and enhance the overall engineering school quality and excellence.”

To learn more about giving a Dean’s Scholars Award for a freshman engineering student, contact the:

Engineering Development Office
Texas A&M University
3126 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843
(979) 845-5113
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