Of the many ways that Texas A&M University has impacted her life, Kalyn Georg Carroll ’12 ’14 will readily tell you that agricultural economics professor Ed Rister ’74 ’76 and the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program he oversees top the list.
The hands-on nature of this notoriously rigorous agricultural economics senior capstone course not only taught Kalyn the kinds of professional skills she now uses as a certified public accountant, but also further reinforced such life lessons as grasping the value of perseverance and resiliency imparted by her parents.
“The program teaches you that even if you’re facing something that seems impossible, you can get it done if you stick with it,” she said.
Kalyn and her husband, Chase Carroll ’10, are already giving back to this program by mentoring current students. But recently, they made a commitment to support the program after their lifetimes by designating the Texas A&M Foundation in their will as a beneficiary of their estate. With the proceeds from this gift and from the Carrolls’ life insurance policies, the Foundation will establish an endowment in their name to benefit the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program.
Positioned squarely in the millennial age category, the Carrolls acknowledge that most donors make significant gift commitments—especially in terms of estate planning—much later in life. But with the input of Kalyn’s sister, an attorney well versed in estate planning, the couple decided the time was right to move forward with their plan.
“Chase and I wanted to make this decision sooner rather than later,” Kalyn explained. “Otherwise, it could become something we never do. We decided that by making this bequest to Texas A&M, we could benefit more people than we could in any other way.”
Chase and Kalyn were both significantly impacted by entrepreneurs from an early age: Chase’s father started his own cattle shipping business in the early ’90s, while Kalyn’s parents still operate the construction company they founded in the early ’80s. Knowing how fortunate they were to grow up in that environment, Chase and Kalyn want to support entrepreneurial Aggies who come from different backgrounds.
While the main purpose of their gift is to benefit the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program, Kalyn also wants Rister to know how much the program and his mentorship meant to her. Housed within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the program challenges undergraduate students to move their entrepreneurial ideas forward through the development of business plans and models. Rister, who serves as associate department head of agricultural economics, has overseen the entrepreneurship program since its creation in 1987.
Rister said that when he was a Texas A&M agricultural economics student in the 1970s, most of his classmates were raised on a farm or ranch. Today, he estimates that fewer than 10 percent of his students come from a rural background. Instead of returning home to run the family agribusiness, most of his students embark on careers unrelated to agriculture.
Whether they’re developing a real-world business plan for a feeder cattle operation or one for a bowling alley, Rister said business feasibility tools like financial statements, risk analyses, budgets and economic appraisals are the same.
By the time students in the program complete and present a detailed business plan, they can determine if their startup or continuing business is economically and financially feasible. In addition, when they cross the stage at graduation, they’ve already developed a vast network of seasoned professionals—like the Carrolls—on whom they rely as mentors while they build their own businesses or embark on other careers.
“The Carrolls’ gesture is huge in terms of the signal it sends,” Rister said. “Their gift will allow us to keep this program’s momentum going, and the impact is only going to get bigger.”
Chase said he is profoundly thankful for his agricultural upbringing and his Texas A&M education. As a teacher, he gives back by sharing his love of agriculture with the next generation. It was this forward-thinking attitude that encouraged the couple to contemplate their legacy. “After our parents and our families, we credit Texas A&M for where we are,” Kalyn said. “If we can use our assets to help someone else, that’s all the better.”
For more information about supporting the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program, contact Cara Collins ’08 at email@example.com or (979) 845-4740. To learn how a planned gift can benefit you, your family and the university, contact Glenn Pittsford ’72 at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 392-3310.