January 9, 2019

Sarah Hlavinka '86 

Former students of Texas A&M University are part of the Aggie family, but for Sarah Hlavinka ’86, her kin ARE Aggie family. Hlavinka is one of five siblings who received degrees from Texas A&M, but the family’s heritage extends to uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws for a total of easily more than three dozen Aggies.

Their heritage also includes philanthropy. In 2004, Hlavinka and her siblings established the Patty and Joseph Hlavinka, Jr. ’56 President’s Endowed Scholarship in honor of their parents. She later established two more scholarships for students in the College of Liberal Arts and committed a gift for The Gardens at Texas A&M.

Now, Hlavinka has created a $2 million planned gift that will endow scholarships for students in liberal arts and agriculture. She was inspired by the university’s Lead by Example comprehensive campaign, which publicly launched in November 2015 with a goal to raise $4 billion by 2020. Support raised through the campaign will empower Texas A&M to continue to be recognized as a world-class, top-tier public research institution and provide students with access to an affordable education with the best faculty. As of December 15, 2018, the campaign total stands at more than $3.3 billion.

“The announcement of the campaign triggered my thinking about the importance of the university continuing its path to the next level,” said Hlavinka. “My thought was that paving the way financially for students who may not otherwise be able to afford the quality of an education available at Texas A&M could change their lives and perhaps the world, thereby reflecting well on my beloved alma mater.”

Hlavinka created her planned gift through a bequest in her will. A bequest can be made as a percentage of your estate, a specific asset, or the balance or residue from your estate. Benefits include the ability to retain assets during your lifetime, lessen the burden of taxes on your family and support Texas A&M in whatever capacity you choose, whether it be a program, department, faculty member, student scholarship or student organization. The Texas A&M Foundation can supply you and your attorney with the appropriate language.

A history graduate, Hlavinka took tremendous pride in her liberal arts education. Growing up in East Bernard, Texas, a rural town of only 2,000 people, she appreciated how her liberal arts degree expanded her worldviews and helped her develop critical thinking and communication skills.

She chose the path less taken in the Hlavinka family, straying from the family business in agriculture.  She took her diploma and followed in the footsteps of her two uncles—Charles Hlavinka ’54 and Victor Hlavinka ’58—and attended The University of Texas School of Law. Since then, she has gained extensive experience as a senior corporate counsel and currently serves as Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Itron.

The family’s roots in agriculture began with Hlavinka’s grandfather in 1939 when he started Hlavinka Equipment Company, which is now run by her father, Joseph Hlavinka Jr. ‘’56 and brother, Terry Hlavinka ’85. The company supports farmers and builders along the Texas Gulf Coast by providing agriculture and construction equipment. Her other brother Kenneth Hlavinka ’90 runs Hlavinka Cattle Company, which complements the equipment company and gives the family hands-on involvement in both operations. “My family only has two topics of conversation: Texas A&M and agriculture,” joked Hlavinka.

Having grown up in a small town, Hlavinka said her time as a liberal arts student prepared her for her life’s journey from Aggieland to Austin and then ultimately to New York City for her career where her family background and Texas A&M education prepared her to go toe-to-toe with some of the most interesting people in business.  She is now thrilled to be back in Texas in her current role at Itron.  Her family’s dedication to Texas A&M demonstrates the strong importance they place on higher education. Now, with the creation of this planned gift, she can help other students earn a worthwhile educational experience just like hers.

“I believe education is one fundamental to a fulfilled life,” she said. “It gives people hope and the opportunity to do amazing things.”

To learn how a bequest can benefit you, your family and the university, contact Angela Throne ’03 in the Office of Gift Planning at athrone@txamfoundation.com or (979) 845-5638.

A similar article, History Grad Leads by Example with Scholarship Endowment, focused on the legacy aspect of Ms. Hlavinka’s giving, appeared in the College of Liberal Arts Spring 2018 newsletter.