The Texas A&M Foundation has named three recipients of its Partner in Philanthropy Faculty Award for 2017: Janet Bluemel, professor of chemistry; her husband John A. Gladysz, distinguished professor of chemistry and holder of the Dow Chair in Chemical Invention in the College of Science; and M. Edward Rister, professor and holder of the M. Edward Rister ’74 Chair in Rural Entrepreneurship in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Rister received his award at a presentation by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences earlier this month, and Bluemel and Gladysz received their award at the College of Science’s “Frontiers in Texas A&M Science” lecture on Jan. 27.
The Foundation established the Partner in Philanthropy Faculty Award to celebrate faculty members who demonstrate dedicated commitment to philanthropy at Texas A&M University. This accolade acknowledges faculty efforts to build long-term productive relationships between the university, former students and other private partners in philanthropy.
To be selected, faculty must be nominated by a member of the Texas A&M Foundation development staff. Recipients are chosen based on their participation and commitment to creative leadership and philanthropy.
Janet Bluemel and John A. Gladysz
Bluemel and Gladysz are longtime philanthropic supporters of higher education. The couple made substantial provisions in their estate to support Texas A&M by creating two endowed faculty chairs and an unrestricted fund in chemistry. Their support bolstered chemistry department programs, the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study and the College of Science. A separate gift also guarantees a happy home for their cats at Texas A&M’s Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center.
Each of their generous contributions counts toward the goal of the university’s “Lead by Example” campaign.
Bluemel and Gladysz are outspoken proponents of the importance of philanthropy. In 2015, the couple presented at a “Lead by Example” campaign leadership summit, providing personal insights into their desire to promote giving to Texas A&M. They explained that well-funded programs attract the best and brightest students and faculty, creating an environment for world-class teaching, research and service.
“As advocates for the power of philanthropy, Dr. Bluemel and Dr. Gladysz have helped build awareness among their colleagues about the importance of strengthening academic programs through high-quality faculty and the role that philanthropy plays in this mission,” said Otway Denny, a Texas A&M Foundation trustee.
The couple gives a substantial amount of time to host donors at their home and in their laboratories. In addition to supporting Texas A&M, each has supported their respective alma maters and mentored family members who also wish to leave behind a legacy of philanthropy.
"This award is a great honor for us because it represents the mission of philanthropy, a cause that we hold very dear to our hearts," Gladysz said. "We have taken great pride in watching our family adopt the spirit of giving in their own lives. With guidance from Janet and myself, my parents left their entire states to higher education, with a particular focus on encouraging female engineering students."
Beyond their passion for philanthropy, Bluemel and Gladysz are global innovators in inorganic and organometallic chemistry. Bluemel, who completed her own graduate education at the Technical University of Munich with the help of a fellowship for highly gifted students, holds two patents and has published nearly 100 papers in leading chemistry journals. Gladysz has authored more than 400 papers and patents. A past Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Grant recipient, he received the 2013 Royal Society of Chemistry Award for Organometallic Chemistry.
M. Edward Rister
Rister, a professor of agricultural economics, has supported fundraising within his department for over a decade. Aside from his personal giving to multiple initiatives across the university, including recent gifts to support the “Lead by Example” campaign, Rister leads efforts within the Department of Agricultural Economics to develop and promote philanthropy among his former students. Because of Rister’s efforts, his department saw a record year in fundraising in 2014.
“Dr. Rister has demonstrated consummate leadership in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to support the philanthropic activities that bolster our educational mission,” said Jorge Bermúdez, a trustee for the Texas A&M Foundation. “He was one of the first faculty members to join the college’s development council, and his legacy of contact with former students is unsurpassed.”
Outside of his regular contact with former students, Rister hosts donors at Aggie football games and sends hundreds of handwritten letters each semester thanking those he meets. His commitment to maintaining relationships with former students and their families led to the establishment of the rural entrepreneurship faculty chair in his name.
“Working with our former students is humbling and inspiring,” said Rister. “Their generosity and devotion to excellence challenge us to create innovative programs that impact our students’ professional and personal lives, and subsequently their communities.
“Working with the Texas A&M Foundation, particularly with Patrick Williams and Jody Ford, has facilitated development of numerous teaching, research and extension opportunities for Aggies throughout Texas, across the United States and internationally. I am most appreciative of this award, and I want to acknowledge the financial support and time spent by legions of former students who are committed to excellence in and beyond Aggieland.”
Rister’s passion for recognizing former students is apparent in his role in the Tyrus R. Timm Honor Registry, which honors graduates from the Department of Agricultural Economics for their significant accomplishments. As chair of this honor registry, Rister has dramatically increased the number of recognized former students from 13 to 100.
In the classroom, Rister fosters small-business development by building entrepreneurial capacity in his students. Several of his students have taken these skills to build businesses as far away as South Africa, South America and Central America.
Since he began teaching at Texas A&M in 1981, Rister has supported students who aspire to have careers in agribusiness, finance, land economics, production and processing, and wholesale and retail trade. In many of his courses, Rister emphasizes hands-on experiences, as he helps students plan, develop and evaluate a start-up business opportunity. An integral component of his courses is networking and the opportunity to receive mentorship from experts, including former students.
Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance excellence at Texas A&M.
“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 Bush Presidential Library Foundation. With a goal of $4 billion, it is the largest higher education campaign in Texas history and the second largest conducted nationally by a public university. The campaign will generate gifts in three major areas: Transformational Learning; Discovery and Innovation; and Impact on the State, Nation and World.
From now through 2020, former students and friends are uniting with our faculty and staff in the campaign to enhance Texas A&M’s ability to tackle real-world problems—such as the global demand for energy and the advancement of human and animal health—while also preparing future generations of uniquely qualified leaders. For more information on the campaign, visit leadbyexample.tamu.edu.