As a first-generation Aggie, Elizabeth Hamburg ’07 didn’t truly understand the power of Texas A&M University’s alumni network until she joined the Houston A&M Club after graduating. “I really enjoyed meeting and learning from fellow Aggies who were at different stages in their careers,” she said. “I also had the opportunity to see what a nonprofit looked like from the inside.”
The communication graduate soon decided to donate to the club’s scholarship fund but could only afford to give the minimum amount. However, her small initial donation was rolled into the club’s fundraising effort and helped create a scholarship for a worthy Texas A&M student. “I’ve always been proud of how much the A&M Clubs prioritize creating scholarships,” said Hamburg, who now serves as the Houston A&M Club executive director. “Our club traditionally hosts an event where scholarship recipients visit with our members. It’s especially amazing to see the first-generation students. That’s when you really get that feel-good moment of hearing how a scholarship makes a difference in their lives.”
A&M Clubs, which comprise one of the largest alumni networks in the world, are an integral part of fundraising for both the Texas A&M Foundation and The Association of Former Students. “Through their fundraising efforts, A&M Clubs help many deserving students attend Texas A&M,” said Texas A&M Foundation President Tyson Voelkel ’96. “The clubs’ assistance in creating scholarships passes the torch to a new generation of Aggies.”
A World of Support
Each A&M Club is chartered by The Association of Former Students, which evaluates the group’s sustainability. Approximately 250 A&M Clubs are in existence worldwide, and more than 90 percent of Aggies live within an A&M Club’s boundaries. While 126 of these clubs are based in Texas and 89 in other parts of the United States, A&M Clubs are also established in Europe, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. A true ranking doesn’t exist, but officials at The Association of Former Students believe that Texas A&M ranks second nationally in the number of alumni club networks behind Notre Dame (which has 271).
Clubs are required to hold three events annually; often, one of these is a local Muster ceremony. Other activities range from dances and Mardi Gras celebrations to crawfish boils and socials with the Yell Leaders. In addition, many A&M Clubs participate in community service projects with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics.
Besides offering opportunities for fellowship, A&M Clubs provide significant financial support to the university. In total, 84 A&M Clubs have given almost $4.5 million to the Texas A&M Foundation to support scholarships. While some of these scholarships are one-time gifts, many clubs establish endowed scholarships that support Texas A&M students in perpetuity.
Not surprisingly, A&M Clubs in major Texas metropolitan areas attract the most Aggies and have a significant track record of giving back through the Foundation. For instance, the Houston A&M Club is the largest worldwide. “There are about 90,000 Aggies in Houston, and we communicate regularly with about 45,000 of those individuals via email,” said Hamburg. “Our goals are to foster the Aggie Spirit in Houston, give back to Texas A&M and give money to Houston-area students who attend Texas A&M.” The club, which traditionally gives 30 scholarships annually, raises most of its scholarship funds during its annual Coach’s Night and through a member campaign where Houston-area Aggies pool their money.
Similarly, the Brazos County A&M Club leverages its members’ proximity to Texas A&M’s campus to raise scholarship funds. However, many A&M Clubs in less populated areas of Texas—such as Wichita Falls A&M Club, LaSalle County A&M Club, Greater Temple Area A&M Club and Gonzales County A&M Club—have also raised enough funds to create endowed scholarships. Additionally, members of A&M Clubs in California, Alaska, Tennessee, Louisiana and Missouri strengthen the Aggie Spirit across the United States by contributing to scholarships.
Clubs also offer generous support to The Association of Former Students. “To date, A&M Clubs have donated nearly $2 million dollars in gifts and scholarships to The Association through the Annual Fund, the Endowed Century Club, Aggie Ring Scholarships and Memorial Scholarships,” said Michael J. Hardy ’13, the organization’s director of fundraising.
Ultimately, members of A&M Clubs around the world are dedicated to helping make Texas A&M an affordable option for students in their communities. “We all know that the cost of higher education is an important factor in a student’s decision to enroll,” said Lisa Burton ’10, president of the Brazos County A&M Club. “It is imperative, now more than ever, for families to receive some financial relief. Providing scholarships to students from our respective communities gives our members a common cause to support. Scholarships represent an investment in the students who’ve grown up in our midst.”