The Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees recognized Patricia “Trisha” and Charles “Chaz” Neely ’62 as recipients of the prestigious Sterling C. Evans Medal, the Foundation’s highest award. The honor, given annually, was bestowed during a reception at the San Antonio Country Club on May 17.
Selected by the Foundation’s trustees, Evans Medal recipients have a long history of supporting Texas A&M through philanthropy, service and leadership. Honorees have supported scholarships, student development, faculty, athletic programs and academic innovation. They have also given their time on committees and boards that are instrumental in maintaining Texas A&M’s place among the world’s top public higher education institutions.
“Chaz and Trisha Neely have been instrumental in making our university a global leader,” said T. Randall Cain ’82, chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees. “Their philanthropy spans the campus and has been a game-changer for our business programs, our Corps of Cadets, Texas A&M athletics and capital building projects. They have a remarkable vision for Texas A&M’s future.”
Unwavering Resolve to Earn a Degree
As the first in his family to attend college, Chaz realized that earning a college degree would significantly increase his options personally and professionally. However, his underdeveloped study skills became a problem in college, and he had to leave Texas A&M twice due to a shortage of money and grade points.
Chaz re-enrolled after each absence, determined to earn his degree and return to his Corps of Cadets unit. “If I had gone to another school, I wouldn’t have finished,” the San Antonio native said. “I missed my cadet family. I credit them with me returning to graduate.”
By his third trip back to Aggieland, Chaz’s resolve to finish his education was unwavering. He was married to Trisha at that point and with her help, finished his remaining three semesters. These challenges helped him develop persistence, an important trait that allowed the businessman to weather life’s storms. “Your plan doesn’t always work out,” he said. “You think, ‘What do I need to change to make this work?’ I just continued to figure out how to make things work for me.”
Many family members have followed in Chaz’s footsteps to attend Texas A&M, including his three children and a granddaughter. “We hope the same values will be taught to my granddaughter as were taught to my husband,” Trisha said.
A Career Strong as Steel
Chaz, now retired, enjoyed a long and storied career. He started with Sinclair Refining Company in 1963 before moving to Hertz Corporation’s truck leasing division. In 1970, Chaz joined Knowlton’s Creamery, where he served as a senior manager and honed his marketing and distribution skills.
In 1979, Chaz purchased San Antonio Steel Co. At that time, the firm bought large quantities of nails and wire from manufacturers for resale to contractor suppliers and lumberyards. Through his leadership, San Antonio Steel grew into the largest wholesale distributor of agricultural fencing in the United States. During Chaz’s tenure as president, the company was named one of the Top 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies by Inc. Magazine and one of the Top 50 Private Companies in San Antonio by the San Antonio Business Journal.
In recognition of his professional and personal achievements, Chaz was inducted into the Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor and received The Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Alumnus Award as well as Mays Business School’s Outstanding Alumnus Award. He was an inaugural member of the “Aggie 100,” which recognizes the 100 fastest growing Aggie-led businesses in the world. Chaz was also recognized as the Ernst & Young LLP Entrepreneur of the Year for its Central and South Texas Region in 1997.
Leading by Example
The Neelys have generously contributed both their time and money to Texas A&M. The couple has served on several Texas A&M Foundation capital campaign committees, including the current Lead by Example executive cabinet. Chaz also held leadership roles with Mays Business School, The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation and the President’s Board of Visitors for the Corps of Cadets.
The Neelys’ philanthropy spans Texas A&M’s campus. They have strong ties to Mays Business School, including a commitment for the Trisha and L.C. “Chaz” Neely ’62 Chair in Marketing as well as the creation of the Trisha and L.C. “Chaz” Neely ’62 – Hagler Institute for Advanced Study Chair, a graduate fellowship and endowed Business Honors scholarships that can support up to 12 students. Chaz’s dedication to the Corps of Cadets is highlighted through the creation of numerous Corps 21, General Rudder and Sul Ross scholarships. The Neelys were also major donors to the Memorial Student Center renovation and contributed a substantial gift to the new John D. White ’70 – Robert L. Walker ’58 Music Activities Center. The couple was also a major contributor to the Slocum Nutrition Center as well as to the Kyle Field and Blue Bell Park renovations.
The Neelys are committed to ensuring that future generations of Aggies benefit from the same high quality of education that Chaz did. “I want to leave things better than I found them,” he said. “I believe so much in Texas A&M. It’s an outstanding institution, and maintaining that is important to me.”
The other recipients of the 2018 Sterling C. Evans Medal are Rhonda and Frosty Gilliam Jr. ’80 of Odessa.
Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that unites generosity and vision to raise and manage major endowed gifts that support the future of Texas A&M University. For additional information and for photographs, please contact Dunae Crenwelge at email@example.com or (979) 845-7461.
“Lead by Example” Campaign
Launched in 2015, Texas A&M University’s third comprehensive fundraising campaign, “Lead by Example,” is a joint effort between Texas A&M and its affiliate organizations: the Texas A&M Foundation, The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. With a goal of reaching $4 billion by 2020, it is the largest higher education campaign in Texas history and the third largest conducted nationally by a public university. The campaign will generate gifts in three major areas: Transformational Education; Discovery and Innovation; and Impact on the State, Nation and World. For more information about the campaign, visit leadbyexample.tamu.edu.