Since its start in 1972, the Memorial Student Center Opera and Performing Arts Society (MSC OPAS) at Texas A&M University has brought professional productions of theater, music and dance from around the world to Aggieland’s own backyard. Completely student-run, members of MSC OPAS learn valuable leadership skills, partake in community interaction and collaborate with others who share a passion for the performing arts. For Jeremy Byrd ’00, joining OPAS during his freshmen year of college shaped his future for decades to come.
“OPAS helped me become a better person, leader and advocate,” said Byrd, who served two years as the organization’s student chair and later as the vice president of the board of directors. “I look back on my time at Texas A&M, and especially with OPAS, as a pivotal time in my life – one that helped mold me into the man I am today.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M, Byrd accepted a job as a volunteer coordinator for Bass Hall, Fort Worth’s premier venue for performing arts. More than a decade later, he advanced to the position of director of production and scheduling for the venue. “Working alongside the amazing and dedicated OPAS staff, I was able to leave college with the equivalent of a four-year internship in the music business,” said Byrd. “It set me way ahead of other graduates interested in the performing arts or music business.”
In 2013, Byrd decided to support the organization that shaped his future and established a planned gift of life insurance through the Texas A&M Foundation that will create the Jeremy Byrd ’00 MSC OPAS Endowment.
“OPAS helped me be the leader and manager that I am today, and has guided my heart to always want to give back,” said Byrd. “For that, I decided to make a gift so that the organization could remain strong and continue to not only bring world-class music and arts to the Texas A&M campus but also to continue to shape students into stellar adults.”
A planned gift of life insurance can fund an endowment that will support the area of Texas A&M you choose in perpetuity. You can make the Foundation owner of a new or existing life insurance policy and receive an income tax deduction based on the value of the policy. You may retain ownership and make the Foundation beneficiary or partial beneficiary.
After 13 years at Bass Hall, Byrd received a new opportunity that expands upon the skills he learned at Texas A&M. “I had the exciting opportunity to join Trinity Habitat for Humanity to help them run the 2014 Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Work Project in Fort Worth,” said Byrd. “I served as project manager, and we built 20 homes in one week alongside 600 daily volunteers, former President Jimmy Carter, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and many other celebrities.”
Byrd now serves as the director of events and volunteers for Trinity Habitat for Humanity, managing over 8,000 volunteers, helping build over 40 homes a year and coordinating all fundraising events for the organization.
“OPAS taught me to listen, work well with a broad mix of associates and find my passion and be great at it,” said Byrd. “I worked alongside staff, professors, students and community pillars – all of whom helped me understand the inner workings of a business and taught me to respect the dynamics of fundraising, programming and planning. That’s what I’m doing at Habitat for Humanity, and I learned it all from OPAS.”
In conjunction with the university’s comprehensive Lead by Example campaign, OPAS seeks to raise $5 million. Funds will boost its permanent endowment and help accomplish its two key goals: subsidize ticket costs to provide less costly performances and attract the highest quality performances available to Texas A&M, with a wider range of options.
“All gifts, no matter what size, are important,” said Byrd. “Using this life insurance policy was a great way for me to dedicate a gift that would pay down the road and give back to the amazing school and program that shaped me into who I am today. I encourage everyone to ask questions, be open to finding what works best for you and make a difference for all future Aggie generations to come.”
To make an online donation, visit www.give.am/SupportMSCOPAS. For more information on planned gifts and supporting your favorite organizations, contact the Office of Gift Planning today.