Dr. Joseph Coulter ’50 always joked that it was a lack of required math courses for veterinarians that drew him to major in veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University. This self-effacing story suited the humble and quiet man. However, his family suspects a different event is a more likely origin story. As a boy growing up in Brownsville, Texas, Coulter always had animals, including a beloved palomino horse named Bob. A turning point in Coulter's life came when he was 15 and Bob contracted tetanus, a painful and fatal illness. Coulter had to put the horse down himself.
After such a traumatic experience, some might decide to never have a pet again and to avoid the pain that comes with emotional investment in animals, but Coulter went the other direction.
He dedicated a record-setting career to the care of creatures great and small, and his home was always full of dogs, cats, cattle and horses. He couldn’t help Bob, but he did help countless other pets, livestock and even some zoo animals during his nearly seven decades in veterinary practice.
Not content with the care of only the animals in his region, Coulter’s reach extended further. Through decades of giving and leadership at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Coulter would eventually touch the lives of hundreds of veterinary students and, by extension, thousands upon thousands of their patients.
When the good doctor hung up his lab coat in 2017 at the age of 92, he was the longest licensed veterinarian in the state of Texas, having operated the Brownsville Veterinary Hospital for 67 years. By that point, his daughter Barbara Goodman ’75 recalled with a chuckle that he no longer said he was “practicing” veterinary medicine. “He said he pretty much knew what he was doing,” she said.
Leading by Example
If veterinary medicine was Coulter’s primary passion, Texas A&M was his second. “He was a great motivator and a leader in South Texas in support of the vet school,” recalled his friend Bubba Woytek ’64, vice president for development and director of alumni relations for the CVM. Woytek said Coulter was a founding member of the college’s development council and was highly respected among his peers. “He gave, and he also got others involved in supporting the program,” Woytek added.
Over the years, Coulter would eventually give $500,000 to the university for veterinary student scholarships.
Coulter’s daughter, Barbara, carries on her father’s legacy today, as she and her husband, Paul Goodman ’76, have created an estate gift for endowed scholarships and to support two programs in the CVM that are especially meaningful to them: the Veterinary Emergency Team and the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center. “Taking care of traumatized and injured animals was so important to my dad, so I thought, ‘Why not do something similar to what he did?’” Barbara explained.
Barbara said that’s just the way she and her three siblings were raised. “Dad’s motto that he constantly repeated to us was, ‘Enough is plenty,’” she recalled. Unconcerned with wealth-building, Barbara said her father was happier giving money away than spending it. He was especially eager to give back to the university that prepared him for the profession that gave him so much joy and fulfillment. “He wanted to return the money to those who had helped him,” she said. “That was certainly Texas A&M and the vet school.”
A Family Tradition
In 2009, Coulter and his wife, Elaine, set up multiple charitable gift annuities that would benefit the family as well as endow a veterinary graduate scholarship. “It was a continuing show of love from him,” Barbara said. It was also a way for Coulter to inspire others’ involvement in his vision for the CVM.
Just like his wife, Aggie values were also a family tradition for Barbara’s husband, Paul. His father, Robert Lee Goodman ’46, was an engineering graduate (as Paul would be 30 years later). “My dad gave to Texas A&M every year of his life,” Paul said. “He always wore two rings—his Aggie ring and his wedding ring. He never removed them.” Today, Robert’s Aggie ring is on display in The Association of Former Students Alumni Center.
“Our fathers took very similar paths,” Barbara said, explaining that both men were born in 1925, served in World War II (Coulter in the Navy and Goodman in the Army), overlapped as students at Texas A&M and even lived in the same residence hall on campus. The two men didn’t meet until years later when their children became sweethearts during their own Aggie experience.
For Barbara and Paul, continuing the legacy of giving to the university is as much about honoring the past as it is about building the future.
“I was born and raised an Aggie,” said Paul, who recalled his dad joking that there was no other choice for his college education. As a student, Paul received scholarships for academics and athletics, so it only seemed fair to him to pass that gift on to others. “I want to ease the burden of cost for other students and pay it forward as best I can,” he said.
Paul’s father passed away in 2014 and Barbara’s followed in 2019, but the deeply-rooted Aggie Spirit of these great men lives on in their children’s continued dedication to Aggieland.