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Spirit is published three times per year by the Texas A&M Foundation, which manages major gifts and endowments for the benefit of academic programs, scholarships and student activities at Texas A&M University.

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Feature Stories

Evans Medal

Sterling Stewards

Sterling Stewards

The Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees has recognized three Houston couples as the 2019 recipients of its highest honor, the prestigious Sterling C. Evans Medal. Selected annually, Evans Medal recipients have a long history of supporting Texas A&M University through philanthropy, service and leadership. Honorees have supported scholarships, student development, faculty, athletic programs and academic innovation. They have also given their time on committees and boards that are instrumental in maintaining Texas A&M’s place among the world’s top public higher education institutions.

Craig Brown '75 and his wife, Sue, have helped attract the nation's top talent to Texas A&M University through their Brown Scholarship Program, which awards competitive scholarships to high-achieving students.

Honoree: Craig Brown ’75

Founder, Chairman and CEO of Bray International Inc.

Honoree: Sue Harris Smith

Community Volunteer & Leader

Campus Benefactors: Craig and Sue have been generous patrons of numerous Texas A&M campus building projects, such as the Memorial Student Center (MSC), Zachry Engineering Education Complex and the John D. White ’70 – Robert L. Walker ’58 Music Activities Center. They have also supported all STEM colleges, especially engineering and business, but perhaps their greatest impact on Texas A&M has been through student scholarships.

The couple’s flagship program is the Craig and Galen Brown Foundation, which awards competitive scholarships to well-rounded, high-achieving students – primarily STEM and business majors –recognized as National Merit Finalists. During the past 28 years, the couple has personally recruited and provided scholarships to more than 400 Aggies through the Brown Scholarship Program, attracting the nation’s top talent to Texas A&M. Brown Scholars include more than 40 doctors and veterinarians, 300 engineers (including more than 40 chosen as Outstanding Senior Engineers), Corps Commander and Corps Staff Officers, Student Government and MSC Presidents, Rhodes and Goldwater Scholars, and University Scholars. Brown Scholarships supplement any other academic awards students receive to provide fully-funded college scholarships. This fall, more than 140 Brown Scholars will enroll at Texas A&M.

Gifts of Time and Talents: Craig and Sue are highly involved in recruiting Brown Scholars to Texas A&M and sharing why Aggieland is such a special place. “There are a lot of great universities in the United States, but Texas A&M’s ability to combine stellar academics with a focus on developing students’ people skills is unique from other institutions,” said Craig, who holds both a bachelor’s degree in engineering and an MBA in accounting from Texas A&M. In large part due to the Brown Scholarships, Texas A&M ranks No. 1 in Texas for National Merit Scholar enrollment, No. 3 among public U.S. universities and No. 7 nationally. Additionally, the Craig and Galen Brown Engineering Honors Program at Texas A&M has ranked first nationally in the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled in its freshman class the last three years and now has more than 1,800 engineering honors students enrolled. In addition to the Brown Scholar Program, Craig has given his time serving with the Engineering Advisory Council, the Engineering Honors Executive Committee and the Corps of Cadets Board of Visitors.

"I invest in Texas A&M because the experience I had as an Aggie made such a positive impact on my life. With its culture of friendliness and selfless service, along with the core values and excellent academic opportunities, Texas A&M truly gives students the best well-rounded college education any young person could experience.”

-Craig Brown ’75

Former Brown Scholar Clare Elizondo '18 created the Brown Mentorship Program to pair incoming freshmen with a sophomore or junior mentor to build a sense of community among Brown Scholars.

Heart for Healing: Sue is involved in recruiting and interviewing Brown Scholar applicants in STEM fields, especially for Texas A&M’s new EnMed program, due to her interest in medicine. She is a founding member of the Translational Research Initiative at the Houston Methodist Research Institute as well as a member of the President’s Leadership Council of Houston Methodist and the Houston Methodist Capital Campaign Steering Committee. A graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston Law School, Sue is past president and a member of the Board of Directors of Bo’s Place, a nonprofit that helps families dealing with grief. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of KIPP and holds an executive office on the Board of Directors of Brighter Bites, a nonprofit that delivers fresh food and nutrition education in school settings to disadvantaged families.

A Strong Foundation: Craig credits much of his success to his parents, Galen and Virginia. “They were inspirational and great role models for me,” he said. He took the work ethic and life lessons learned from his parents, paired them with the education he received in and out of the classroom—Craig was chosen as Outstanding Senior Engineer at Texas A&M—and turned them into a successful entrepreneurial career. After working a few years as a financial analyst at Exxon and U.S. president of Keystone International, Craig co-founded Bray International, a rotary valve and actuator manufacturer. Thirty-three years later, under his leadership, Bray has grown to be the largest global manufacturer of these products. It is a conglomerate of 80 companies and 3,000 employees located in more than 50 countries worldwide.

Howdy and Selfless Service: Craig believes that traditions like "Howdy" make Texas A&M special. “It's a simple tradition, but first impressions are important,” he said, noting that the Aggie tradition of a friendly greeting and smile is invaluable in both the business world and everyday life. Membership in the Corps of Cadets was similarly formative. “The Corps emphasized that you’re only as good as the weakest link on your team, and everyone must strive to be the best team member for the team’s success,” he said. The important life and leadership insights acquired at Texas A&M led him to great success in life. “Most importantly, through Texas A&M, my family and my wife, Sue, I have learned that the greatest gift one can give themselves is to give to others through selfless service. In life, it’s not what you take with you; it’s what you leave behind that counts.”

At the 25th anniversary of the Brown Foundation, Craig’s impact was best summed up by Andy Sanchez ’13, a former Brown Scholar and Rhodes Scholar finalist. “I believe the most appropriate expression is ‘life-giving,’” he said. “It was amazing to see so many people express how thankful they were for their time at Texas A&M and for Craig’s generosity in enabling their journeys."

The late Robert "Bob" Allen '50 and his wife, Judy, have been ardent supporters of Texas A&M, particularly of the Bush School of Government and Public Service.

Honoree: The late Robert “Bob” Allen ’50

Former Managing Partner, Challenge Investment Partners

Honoree: Judy Ley Allen

Partner, Allen Investments

Charitably Minded: Judy Ley Allen and her late husband, Bob, have provided extraordinary leadership at Texas A&M for more than 40 years. They have provided endowed funds for a professorship, a graduate fellowship and a discretionary fund for Mays Business School. They have supported the expansion of the Wehner Building, which houses the business school, and the continued growth of the business honors program. They were also instrumental in helping complete the campus of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, honoring their dear friends George H.W. and Barbara Bush. In gratitude, the campus' main building bears their name. 

Dedicating Time and Talents: Bob served on numerous advisory boards and councils at Texas A&M over the years, culminating in a term as a university regent (1995-2001), appointed by newly-elected governor George W. Bush. He was serving in that capacity when the Bonfire collapse occurred in 1999 and was instrumental in helping the university recover from the tragedy. Judy was an ardent supporter of Bob’s efforts at Texas A&M despite her deep family ties to Rice University, where she played a leadership role for many years on its Board of Trustees.

A Will to Work and Thrive: Bob was a certified public accountant who began his career at IBM. At age 27, he was offered the position of CFO at a client's company, Gulf Sulfur. Soon, Bob was made CEO of what he would build into the Fortune 500 company, Gulf Resources & Chemical Corp. Bob served as chairman and CEO from 1960 until retiring in 1982. More recently, until his passing in 2015, he served as managing partner of Challenge Investment Partners, which is active in mining ventures in the U.S., Canada and South America.

“We wanted to support the Bush School because of the leaders we knew the school would produce. Bob always admired the camaraderie at Texas A&M, as well as the ethics, loyalty and public service that are encouraged there. He thought that was just wonderful.” – Judy Ley Allen

A Successful Set Up: Judy, one of the first women to graduate with an MBA from Harvard in 1963, started her career working for a San Francisco architectural firm. After five successful years, she decided to try something completely different and co-authored a bestselling book about wine. Two days before the launch of the book tour in Houston, a friend gave her a dinner party and set her up with “a tall, dark and handsome man,” whom Judy thought she didn’t have time for. “He picked me up for the party and by the second stoplight, I decided maybe I had more time than I thought,” she said with a laugh.

The couple wed 14 months later and lived in Houston. There, she joined her brothers in the Ley family property development business, where she still works. Her business acumen led her to leadership positions within the Texas banking industry, as she was appointed to the Branch Federal Reserve Board of Houston for six years and elected to the Federal Reserve Board of Dallas for seven years. She has served on many nonprofit boards, including the Houston Ballet, Museum of Natural Science and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Additionally, Mayor Kathy Whitmire appointed her to the Houston Parks Board. Judy is also an avid supporter of FIRST Inspires, a leading promoter of STEM and robotics education for K-12 students.

The late Mike Walker '66 and his wife, Donna, gave $40 million to name the departments of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin.

Honoree: The late James M. “Mike” Walker ’66

Co-Founder of Dril-Quip

Honoree: Donna Walker

Homemaker

Texas A&M Supporters: Mike and Donna are longtime benefactors of Texas A&M, having endowed a scholarship and graduate fellowship for mechanical engineering students. However, it was their $40 million gift in 2018 to name the departments of mechanical engineering at both Texas A&M and The University of Texas at Austin that will have the greatest impact. Their gift will help researchers at both institutions develop new technologies as well as offer additional experiential learning and leadership opportunities for students. In recognition, both universities have renamed their departments of mechanical engineering to honor Mike and his successful career in the industry.

Excellence and Innovation: Mike was a star basketball player and the valedictorian of his high school class in Huntington. His victorious streak continued in college, as he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Texas A&M and graduated first in his class. He went on to earn a master’s degree from The University of Texas on a National Science Foundation Fellowship before returning to Texas A&M for a Ph.D. During his doctoral studies, he also taught at Texas A&M. After college, he worked at Exxon as a subsea engineer. Later he worked for McEvoy, an oilfield equipment company, and Vetco Offshore before starting his own company, Dril-Quip, which specialized in offshore drilling and production equipment.

A Life Well Lived: Mike and Donna were married for 36 years. Donna’s first husband, with whom she had three children, tragically passed away at a young age. Mike loved these children as if they were his own. He was equally devoted to Dril-Quip, which he founded with a partner in 1981. When he retired as chairman, president and CEO in 2011, the company had grown to 2,200 employees worldwide and a market cap in excess of $4 billion. One of the highlights of his career was taking the company public on October 23, 1997, with his partners. “Mike often said he wouldn’t trade jobs with anyone in the world,” said Donna. “He had that kind of commitment to his job and company.” The couple enjoyed eight years together after Mike retired, during which time he was dedicated to his church and family.  

Time for Tribute: Mike was named a distinguished mechanical engineering graduate at Texas A&M and The University of Texas. Giving to the two universities was a lifelong desire of his. Sadly, he passed away in late 2018 shortly after making the gifts. “He told many stories about Texas A&M and his time there,” said Donna, noting how important it had been to her husband to give back. “It was one of the best times of his life, which is why he was so dedicated to making this contribution.”

“My experiences at these two universities certainly helped me grow as an engineer. But they also taught me how to be a leader—how to collaborate on big ideas, persevere through tough challenges and bounce back from failure. My education shaped who I am today, and I want to make that same opportunity available to as many students as I can.” – The late Mike Walker ’66

Contact:

Dunae Reader '15

Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications/Spirit Editor