A planned gift from Barbara and Donald Zale ’55 will support the Corps of Cadets, the Center for Retailing Studies and the College of Liberal Arts.
By Dorian Martin '06
November 1, 2021
Garrett Watts ’21 and Brock Jones ’21 credit Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets with strengthening their understanding of leadership and giving them the opportunity to learn how to guide others. Both are in the early stages of applying those lessons as they move into their careers.
The Corps, which has a long and storied tradition of developing leaders for both the military and the civilian world, is committed to creating a new generation of leaders who are equipped to navigate the world’s turbulence.
“The Corps tends to view ethical leadership as the hope and antidote for some of the symptoms that we’re seeing in the world around us,” said Dr. David Keller, director of the Corps’ Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership. “When students come to us, they are raw talent, but that raw talent is mostly undeveloped. Through experiences in the Corps and in the classroom, we are equipping them to be ethical leaders who can step into the fray right after they finish their time in school so they can make an immediate impact in the world around them.”
Many cadets choose to deepen their leadership skills through specific Corps experiences. One of note is the Hollingsworth Center, which offers classes, conferences, a leadership certificate program, and a career readiness program for Drill and Ceremony (D&C) cadets who do not plan to pursue a military commission. Cadets also may participate in the Corps Global Leadership Initiative, which organizes international excursions that focus on the elements of national power—diplomacy, information, military, economic. These educational trips allow cadets to meet with members of the U.S. diplomatic corps, U.S. corporations doing business in the country, and networking with students from local universities.
These opportunities happen with strong support from private donors. “The ROTC students largely get their funding from the Department of Defense, but the Corps itself is largely dependent on donors to be able to do everything that we do,” Keller said. “It’s certainly the donors who create the margin of excellence that allows us to be a unique and uncommon developmental experience for students at Texas A&M.”
Based on his own experience as a cadet, Donald Zale ’55 and his wife Barbara have named the Corps’ leadership development initiatives as one of three beneficiaries of their planned gift. The couple will also support Mays Business School’s Center for Retailing Studies and the College of Liberal Arts’ efforts to support a Jewish-Israeli studies program. “I’ve always felt that Texas A&M University is as careful in managing their money and utilizing their resources as any institution I’ve seen,” said the former CEO and chair of Zale Corporation. “The work they do is extraordinary. The students I meet on campus and after they graduate are extraordinarily well-trained.”
The Zales opted to use charitable remainder unitrusts to support these three Texas A&M entities. “The charitable remainder unitrust concept was discussed by my attorney and my investment advisor. It just made good sense,” Zale said. “It is a pretty standard way of taking a portion of your estate and dedicating it for a nonprofit activity.”
A charitable remainder unitrust is a giving vehicle that distributes a portion of the income or principal to the donor over a lifetime. The remaining donated assets go to the Texas A&M Foundation. As an added benefit, this type of gift offers an immediate charitable income tax deduction. Donors also avoid up-front capital gains taxes.
Both Jones and Watts credit the Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership with taking their understanding of leadership to a higher level. The center focuses on 12 core leadership competencies that are embedded throughout its offerings. These core competencies are professionalism and a strong work ethic; critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration and teamwork; good communication; an ability to use and leverage technology; career management; ethical leadership; an understanding of the world and global fluency; adaptability; resiliency; financial literacy; and physical and emotional well-being.
The center’s faculty encourage cadets to apply what they are learning to their life in the Corps. “Whenever we would go to class, the professors would usually ask about what had been happening in the Corps and any Corps-related issues,” said Jones, who plans to graduate in December with a degree in industrial distribution and is applying to medical schools. “For example, the Corps does transition training at the end of the academic year, where we’re teaching the underclass students how to prepare for the next grade level and then trying to transition them into leadership roles for the next year. We would talk in class about what the transition training was looking like and how we were treating the people that we were leading and instructing.”
Both Aggies are already applying what they learned in the Hollingsworth Center as they begin to enter the work world. “The interview prep really helped me,” said Watts, who earned a degree in agricultural leadership and development and plans to be a game warden. “Some of the questions that Dr. Keller asked were actual questions that I heard in my interview for my internship at Texas Parks and Wildlife.”
The Zale planned gift will also support Mays Business School’s Center for Retailing Studies (CRS), which teaches students about the key elements of a retail or consumer brands business. For example, the CRS is adding a digital merchandising course to prepare students to be leaders in digital as well as physical retailing. Additionally, a new retail capstone class will require students to apply what they’ve learned in the program to running a retail business.
The center is also home to two student organizations—the Student Retailing Association and the M.B. Zale Leadership Scholars—that complement and expand the learning that happens in the classroom. These student organizations provide numerous opportunities for Aggies to interact with business leaders, learn about leadership, network and practice interviewing skills.
The center’s staff is focused on innovation to keep up with evolving industry standards. “The dynamic and rapidly changing retail industry requires us to be constantly reviewing, refining and updating our programming to stay ahead of the industry’s talent needs,” said Scott Benedict, the center’s director. “Endowments will allow us to invest in the facilities, faculty and programming that will keep our program moving forward and leading—not following—the best practices of retail education in the 21st century.”
The exploration of Judaism offers a unique way to look at human development. “Judaism is an extraordinary story—it’s a global story that stretches back through much of human history and touches on many subjects that we as a university community find compelling,” said Dr. Adam Seipp, professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts. “It’s the story of the human experience writ large.”
Unlike its peer and aspirant peer institutions, Texas A&M does not have a Jewish studies program, but significant interest exists in adding this area of study. “There is a really excellent cohort of faculty, mostly but not entirely in the College of Liberal Arts, who are engaged in various ways with the history, culture and religious traditions of Jews and Judaism across time and space,” Seipp said. “There are anthropologists, philosophers, literary scholars and historians who have been working together in various ways through the Glasscock Center’s working group.”
Additionally, the vibrant Texas A&M Hillel community underscores the presence of Jewish students and faculty on campus. “That makes it even more remarkable that the connections haven’t been made between the small but long-standing Jewish community among students and faculty and an academic program at the university,” Seipp said.
Noting the increasing interest, the working group has developed a vision for adding a Jewish studies program at Texas A&M. This effort will start small, through creating an initial certificate program that could eventually expand into a minor.
Donor support is an important part of this effort. “Having this moral support and the commitment of financial resources has been crucial for us to make the claim that this is important and relevant,” Seipp said. “These are people who are outside the university but who are also part of the university community who are interested in these questions and supporting us. That matters!”
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