February 11, 2019

Cydney Donnell ’81, Master of Real Estate Program Director

John R. Carmichael ’73 had an innate talent for business, a drive to create unique and welcoming environments, and a desire to help others succeed. Not surprisingly, his decision to establish a real estate excellence fund will help foster each of these traits in students enrolled in Mays Business School’s Master of Real Estate (MRE) Program.

The Dallas businessman, who passed away unexpectedly in 2016, used a charitable bequest to earmark $1 million from his estate to create the excellence fund through the Texas A&M Foundation. As one of the easiest ways to make a planned gift for Texas A&M University, a bequest requires the inclusion of specific language in your will or trust. That language identifies the exact gift, which can be a percentage of your estate, a gift of a specific asset or a gift from the balance of your estate.

The Carmichael Excellence Fund will help the MRE Program, which is the top-ranked U.S. public school and the fifth-ranked internationally among all schools, remain competitive and affordable. Most of the program’s students do not have relevant commercial real estate experience. Thus, the 16-month MRE Program gives students the opportunity to explore the industry as they develop their knowledge in finance, real estate law, economics, market analysis and negotiations. “There has been increasing pressure within the industry for students to become specialized in the commercial real estate field,” said MRE Program Director Cydney Donnell ’81. “Our overriding mission is to create professional commercial real estate industry leaders.

Fulfilling Their Father’s Gift

John Carmichael ’73 grew up around horses but put aside that passion when he attended Texas A&M. Almost 40 years later, Carmichael reconnected with Jack Newton, a leader in the Dallas cutting horse community and his mentor. Soon, the real estate developer was back in the saddle. Carmichael, who was in his 60s, started training regularly, often with the elderly Newton in attendance. Eventually, he competed in—and won—cutting horse competitions.

To honor his mentor’s influence on his life, Carmichael created a gift agreement with the Texas A&M Foundation. His dream was to name a room for Newton in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Thomas G. Hildebrand DVM ’56 Equine Hildebrand Complex. Sadly, Carmichael passed away before his gift was fulfilled.

However, his three adult children decided to personally fund the gift—and add their father’s name to the honor. “We wanted to honor the commitment because we knew his intention,” said daughter Taylor Wynkoop ’04. “We believed in what he believed in—furthering the cutting horse community, providing kids with the opportunity to be in that culture, and the spirit of his mentor and what mentoring means to young people.”

John Carmichael ’73 and his family.

A Multi-Family Real Estate Leader

Carmichael gained a strong foundation in business and honed his leadership skills while at Texas A&M. “Being an Aggie was one of the most impactful things of his life,” said his son, Brody Carmichael. “To him, being an Aggie was really about character. It wasn’t just an education or an experience; it was true character building for him."

Carmichael spent the early part of his career working with Trammell Crow Residential, a multi-family real estate company that developed projects across the nation. Almost two decades later, the Dallas native used the knowledge he had gained while working with the industry leader to co-found Westwood Residential.

John R. Carmichael ’73 senior Corps portrait

Westwood completed more than 200 apartment communities, including traditional garden style and high-density developments, since its inception in 1992. “One of the biggest philosophies of my dad’s business was adding value to projects,” Brody said. “He set a precedent of making sure that people wanted to live in these properties. He always had a top-notch team that ensured that his projects were almost fully leased before they opened.”

Unlike many of his counterparts, Carmichael especially enjoyed offering input into the design portion of the company’s multi-family residential projects. “He had a dynamic and creative side,” said his daughter, Taylor Wynkoop ’04. “He loved to design and create an ambiance and feel. He always tried to put his personal stamp on his properties.”

Carmichael used his personal experiences to influence the property’s designs. “He was an avid traveler and the trips he took over the years influenced the design choices he made,” said Carmichael’s daughter, Meredith Hart ’06. “The landscape of the Southwest, the lodges in Colorado, and the opulent pools of Las Vegas are just a few of the details he admired and thoughtfully incorporated into the apartments he built.”

As a leader who wanted to help the company’s employees grow, Carmichael regularly mentored young staff members and often hired Aggie graduates. Ultimately, his entire adult life was infused by the Aggie Spirit, and his gift serves as a testament to his kindness. “I didn’t realize the extent of how meaningful Dad’s gift to the MRE Program was until I received an email from Professor Donnell,” Wynkoop said. “It was wonderful to hear that students will be blessed by his hard work and generosity. That’s just like my dad—quietly being generous.”