COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The Texas A&M Foundation will bring together donors, outstanding students, and family and friends of Texas A&M University at the 50th anniversary celebration of the President’s Endowed Scholarship (PES) program this Saturday, Sept. 1. Approximately 1,500 are expected to attend the event, which will be held at Reed Arena. There will be a separate convocation during the morning’s program to welcome 271 new inductees into the PES program.
Texas A&M launched the PES program in 1968 to express the Aggie ideal of leadership through academic achievement. Today, it is considered the most prestigious academic merit scholarship awarded by the university, and recipients are chosen solely based on academic achievement and demonstrated student leadership.
According to Dr. Robert “Bob” Walker ’58, a longtime campus fundraiser who retired from his position as senior executive for development in Texas A&M’s Office of the President in 2014, the PES program was designed to attract National Merit Scholars, valedictorians and salutatorians to Texas A&M. Until its creation, the university had a tough time shaking its reputation as an all-male college with a focus on the military and agriculture.
The program was founded by five endowments given by Leslie L. Appelt ’41, Ford D. Albritton Jr. ’43, John H. Lindsey ’44, Royce E. Wisenbaker ’39 and Walter C. McGee Jr. ’31. Beginning with only 20 scholarships that awarded students $1,000 annually (approximately $7,000 in today’s dollars), the PES program began to demonstrate that Texas A&M was a serious academic institution capable of competing for the nation’s best students.
“The challenge to build an entirely new scholarship program at my alma mater was tremendously exciting,” said Walker, who was hired in 1968 and charged with generating the fundraising capital needed to create the PES Program. “Without a doubt, the President’s Endowed Scholarship had the greatest impact on the university’s ability to recruit and retain academically superior students who are pursued by other top universities, more so than any other program we’ve had at Texas A&M.”
Today, Texas A&M ranks sixth in the nation for public enrollment of National Merit Scholars thanks in large part to the PES program, while the endowment for the program has grown to $89.1 million. During the last 50 years, income from these endowments has supported well over 7,000 top undergraduate students at Texas A&M.
“The President’s Endowed Scholarship program has proved highly successful and has grown to 1,079 scholarships today,” said Tyson Voelkel, president of the Texas A&M Foundation. “This anniversary celebration provides us with an opportunity to unite donors and students and reflect on the program’s past five decades of bringing the brightest minds to study at Texas A&M. Many PES scholars have gone on to make significant impacts in their communities and in our state, nation and world.”
For some students, receiving a PES award can be the tipping point in getting to Aggieland. While he was very taken with Texas A&M during a campus visit as a high school student, Tate Banks ’20 couldn’t have seriously considered becoming an Aggie and taking on out-of-state tuition fees without first receiving a PES.
“The day I found out I had received a PES, everything changed,” said Banks, a computer science major from Duncan, Oklahoma. “Receiving a scholarship of this magnitude has been an incredible blessing in my college education. The PES program definitely sends a message that the university prioritizes and rewards being a good student.”
Thanks to his PES, Banks can focus on pursuing his bachelor’s degree from the College of Engineering while enjoying Texas A&M’s one-of-a-kind student experience. He strongly encourages any potential donors to consider giving a PES scholarship. “It’s a great proactive tool for reaching out to students who show academic excellence in high school. I wouldn’t be here without it.”
Scholars receive the award for four years, or eight semesters of undergraduate study, provided they maintain a 3.5 grade point ratio. They also receive a stiped for a study abroad experience.
A PES can be established by an individual or a group with a one-time gift of $100,000 or a series of gifts over a period of up to five years. Because the scholarships are endowed, they will support Texas A&M students forever. Every four years, a new student will benefit from the scholarship. The donor(s) may name the scholarship in honor of individuals—perhaps after family members, an esteemed business colleague or a friend—a class, or an organization.
Students are selected to receive a PES during their senior year of high school based on their scholastic and extracurricular records. Students competing for a PES must have earned a combined SAT math and SAT critical reading score of at least 1360 (620 or higher in the math portion and 660 or higher in the evidence-based reading and writing portion), or a composite ACT score of at least 30 with a score of at least 27 in the math and English portions.
Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of the PES program is that it allows donors to develop relationships with current university students. Donors and PES recipients receive biographical data on each other, and the donor also receives current grade reports each semester from their scholarship recipient. Additionally, a reception is held on campus each fall so that donors and scholarship recipients can meet in person.
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 on how to establish a President’s Endowed Scholarship, please contact Marcy Ullmann ’86 at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-6383. For additional photographs, please contact Molly Kulpa ’15 at email@example.com or (979) 845-7463.