June 1, 2020

A young James "Cop" Forsyth poses for his senior portrait in 1912.

“We have all received more from Texas A&M than we can ever give back.”

This was the philosophy that the late James “Cop” Forsyth, Class of 1912, lived by and used to inspire others to give back to Texas A&M University. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and establishing his business, Forsyth Engineering Co.—a heavy power plant company—Forsyth worked tirelessly to repay what he considered to be his debt to Texas A&M. As one of the university’s earliest financial contributors, he embodied selfless giving. 

Dr. Robert L. "Bob" Walker '58, a longtime university development officer who worked with Forsyth on several gifts for Texas A&M, recalled his commitment to ensuring the financial success of Aggieland and answering the call to give. “In a meeting, he was always the first to say, ‘I will give,’” Walker said. “Cop was resolute in his belief that there was nothing he or anyone could do to repay Texas A&M for the opportunities they were given.”

A Philanthropic Trendsetter

Forsyth enjoys a visit with friend and development officer Dr. Robert "Bob" Walker '58.

Forsyth and his late wife, Ada, were early supporters of the Texas A&M Foundation’s President’s Endowed Scholarship (PES) program, personally endowing three scholarships. Forsyth aspired for his graduating class to have the same opportunity. He served as Class Agent for the Class of 1912 and was crucial in coordinating with his classmates to establish the first class-sponsored PES, donating $12,500 and challenging his classmates to match his gift to endow the scholarship. He relentlessly contacted his former classmates, making personal visits to solicit their support. Forsyth received many donations but was short $2,000 of his endowment goal, learning that many of his classmates wanted to contribute but were not financially equipped to do so. 

In order to meet the $25,000 financial requirement to endow a PES while respecting his classmates’ individual financial needs, the determined Aggie partnered with Walker to devise a plan that would become one of Forsyth’s most notable philanthropic achievements for the Foundation and its donors for years to come. They constructed the idea that the Class of 1912 could plan their giving. They encouraged Forsyth’s classmates to donate to the endowment by leaving the money in their estate or will, and the gifts agreed upon would take effect after they passed away. This proved successful as they funded several scholarships entirely from the Class of 1912 through planned gifts, dubbing Forsyth as the Foundation’s “father of planned giving.”

Texas A&M's head football coach, Emory Bellard (right), presents Forsyth with a plaque to recognize him as the first donor to permanently endow an athletic scholarship.

A Beneficial Legacy

Cop Forsyth was an Aggie ahead of his time. His commitment to help Texas A&M grow by way of unconventional giving methods made him a true planned giving pioneer. What began as a method to provide giving options for those who couldn’t afford a cash gift has now grown to so much more. Many Aggies and friends of the Foundation have realized the numerous benefits planned giving offers, from tax relief to income payments for themselves and loved ones.   

Forsyth’s charitable contributions speak for themselves. However, his contribution to lead future donors to a more beneficial giving method has, in many ways, created a brighter future for Aggieland. 

Interested in using a planned gift to benefit your family and leave your footprint in Aggieland? Contact Angela Throne ’03 at giftplanning@txamfoundation.com or (979) 845-5638.

Have you already included a gift to Texas A&M in your will or living trust? Contact us today at giftplanning@txamfoundation.com, so you can become a Heritage Member!