June 20, 2023

In 1996, Peter Gerlich ’73 made a decision that would impact not only his life but also countless others for generations. In that year, he created an endowed scholarship at Texas A&M University that would be the catalyst in jump-starting lasting friendships and careers that impact communities.

When Gerlich created the Clara and R.W. Gerlich ’40 Endowed Opportunity Award, he had two goals: honor his parents by continuing their legacy, and benefit future generations. “I was fortunate enough that my parents paid for my college education,” Gerlich explained. “Over the years, I was trying to decide, ‘What can I do to honor them and thank them for all they’ve done for me?’ I also wanted to help deserving students cover the cost of college and achieve their dreams.”

The story of Gerlich’s scholarship reveals the power of one of the most impactful types of gifts out there: an endowment. Every endowment created through the Texas A&M Foundation is invested in a long-term investment pool to provide annual returns that support students year after year. Because of this, scholarships like Gerlich’s are permanent philanthropic tools. In less than 30 years, his scholarship has already helped multiple recipients earn their degrees and start careers, impacting not only their lives but also creating ripple effects through every life they touch. Meet three of these recipients, hear where they are now, and get a glimpse of the power of an endowment.

The Health Care Hero

Dani Kennedy ’05 was planning to attend the University of Arkansas and was in the process of choosing her dormitory there when a letter prompted her to reevaluate. “Congratulations!” It told her. “You have been selected to receive the Clara and R.W. Gerlich ’40 Endowed Opportunity Award at Texas A&M!” The financial advantages offered by the Gerlich scholarship turned the would-be Razorback into an Aggie.


“I’m drawn to helping others and giving back, as I see how fortunate I’ve been to have people in my life who support me,” Coates added. “The support and friendship provided by the Gerlich family has been a major part of that story, and I’m forever appreciative of them.”

The Future Physical Therapist

Caroline Burslem ’24 started working to save for college when she was only 16 years old. She was finishing up a shift as a Starbucks barista when she received the news she’d been awarded the Gerlich scholarship. “It’s been a big help, because I’m paying for college completely on my own, including tuition, rent, food and my car,” the current Gerlich scholar said. “Having that extra financial assistance every year goes a long way.”

Now a senior at Texas A&M, Burslem has used the support to work much fewer hours outside of school and focus on her journey to become a physical therapist (PT). She was first inspired to study physical therapy by watching her 5-year-old sister, Julia, benefit from it. Julia has Angelman syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that causes major physical delays, intellectual impairment, and lack of cohesive speech or coordinated movement. Even with speech therapy, Julia will never talk, but physical therapy has made a world of difference.