Outside Texas A&M University’s Hart Hall dormitory, a shaded bench bears the name of the late Jerry A. Hajek III, a young man who exemplified what it means to be an Aggie.
“Jerry always did the right thing, and he never spoke badly of others,” said Bernadette “Bernie” Hajek, Jerry’s mother. “He had lots of friends and always brought people together.” She even recalls getting a phone call from his high school principal when Jerry tried to break up a fight on a school bus.
Full of life, Jerry loved adventure. His parents speak fondly about their fearless son, who preferred riding motorcycles and flying airplanes to studying. “We liked to rebuild motorcycles and play music together,” said Jerry Hajek Jr., his father. As pilot and flight instructor, he taught 16-year-old Jerry how to fly planes, which became a shared passion of theirs.
Sadly, Jerry passed away unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm in December 2012 while visiting friends at Hart Hall. Today, the Hajeks are honoring his memory through a dual giving method: a scholarship gift created during their lifetimes supplemented by a bequest in their will.
A Friend of Texas A&M
Jerry initially enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, but found that it lacked the sense of camaraderie he sought. He transferred to Blinn College for one semester and lived with an Aggie who introduced him to Texas A&M’s traditions and friends of his who lived in Hart Hall. While Jerry ultimately moved back home and transferred to the University of Houston to study computer engineering, he continued to return to Aggieland to visit the friends he’d made there.
“They invited him to participate in student-organized bonfire, and he attended all the Hart Hall holiday parties and Aggie yell practices,” Bernie said. “When Jerry passed away, the residents named him an honorary Hart Hall resident and carved his name into a bench.”
Bernie and Jerry Jr. felt incredibly touched by the kindness shown to them by all those who were friends with their son. To show their gratitude, they created an endowed scholarship in 2013 for Hart Hall residents who have financial need and embody the Aggie Spirit.
In 2014, a memorial scholarship banquet for Jerry was hosted on campus by Hart Hall residents. “The students and staff did an amazing job putting the event together,” said Jerry Jr. “It was heartwarming to see Jerry’s friends again and to meet the first three recipients of his named scholarship.”
As the couple continued to interact with future recipients of Jerry’s scholarship over the years, they decided to make another gift in 2017. They stipulated that 55 percent of their estate be added to Jerry’s endowed scholarship after both of their lifetimes. This dual-giving option is powerful: In the Hajeks’ case, it allows them to make a cash gift and experience the joy of interacting with current Aggie students, while also supplementing their gift with a bequest so that many more students benefit from their scholarship after their lifetimes.
“Aggies have proven time and time again to be genuine, hardworking and respectful,” Bernie said. “We want to help other young people like Jerry complete their college education.”
The Hajeks have accomplished careers in their respective industries. Bernie works as chief of staff in the flight operations directorate at NASA Johnson Space Center, where she’s been since starting as a summer co-op student in 1984. Jerry Jr. is a control systems engineer with Shell Oil, where he’s worked for 42 years.
“The world has given so much to us,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to have wonderful educations and good jobs. Now, we can help others.” As an employee of Shell, Jerry Jr. took advantage of the company’s matching gifts program—which matches donations dollar-for-dollar up to $7,500—to create their current scholarship.
“I wasn’t aware of the matching gift program until after we’d already established the scholarship the previous year, but Shell even went back a year and matched that giving as well,” he said.
Today, the Hajeks enjoy camping, hiking, traveling and spending time at their retirement home in Arizona. Jerry Jr. still loves flying airplanes and plays electric bass in a local band. Their beloved son is buried in Webster, Texas, where Bernie and Jerry Jr. plan to be laid to rest on either side of him. Until then, they keep him in their hearts.
To learn more about making a bequest or adding to your current gift through a bequest, contact Angela Throne below.