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On Oct. 4, 1957, the USSR sent a basketball-size satellite called Sputnik into orbit, capturing imaginations around the world, including that of then-high school senior Terry Alfriend. “Together with my experiences in physics class, that launch made science interesting for me,” he recalled.

Alfriend’s curiosity persisted, leading him to obtain a doctorate in engineering mechanics and embark upon an illustrious career in the aerospace business that has spanned six decades and encompassed the private sector, government and academia.

Today, Alfriend is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a University Distinguished Professor who holds the Jack E. and Frances Brown Chair II in Texas A&M University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering. An honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he also received its prestigious Goddard Astronautics Award in 2022 for his extraordinary contributions in the fields of orbital mechanics and space situational awareness.

Bonnie and Dr. Terry Alfriend created a generous current and planned gift to support future generations of Aggie aerospace engineers.

Alfriend recognizes the profound impact an education can have from firsthand experience. “I grew up in a cotton mill town. Before I went to college, I had never even met an engineer,” he explained.

Following 30 years in roles supporting the Department of Defense and the intelligence community in space, Alfriend initially joined the Texas A&M faculty as head of the aerospace engineering department in 1997 and has been an integral part of the program’s continuing success. During his tenure, he has seen student enrollment rise exponentially, department scholarships grow from zero to more than 50, and the department climb into the nation’s top 10 aerospace programs.

He and his wife, Bonnie, recently contributed to the department in yet another way by creating a generous current and planned gift to support future generations of aerospace engineers. The couple has pledged after-lifetime funds to create an associate professorship and faculty fellowship for early- to mid-career faculty and an endowed scholarship that presently benefits students.

“We decided to launch the scholarship now because we had the money available, and it’s nice to give back while I’m still part of the department,” Alfriend noted. Bonnie added, “We also wanted the chance to see the impact of our gift. Terry is a great mentor, and we enjoy building relationships with students.”

“We’ve seen the difference education makes: It changes lives, and it changes history.”
- Bonnie Alfriend

Current department head Dr. Ivett Leyva lauded the former department head’s numerous accomplishments and praised the foresight reflected in the couple’s gift.

“Dr. Alfriend, though widely recognized for his expertise in spacecraft guidance, navigation and control, is also a prolific mentor of graduate students who are now leaders in government, industry and academia,” she said. “I am enormously grateful for the couple’s vision to support students and focus their faculty gifts on rewarding early- and mid-career professors, as there are already programs in place to attract highly accomplished full professors.” 

The Alfriends are delighted to make a difference. “We’re committed to education and helping anyone we can,” Bonnie concluded. “We’ve seen the difference education makes: It changes lives, and it changes history.”

Interested in establishing your own planned gift? To get started, download our free estate planning kit below or contact Kevin Westerman '11, senior planned giving officer, at the bottom of this page.

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