Menu

Spirit Archives

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.

View the full magazine archive

Also In This Issue

President's Letter

Four Billion Reasons to Believe in Tomorrow

Tyson Voelkel ’96, Texas A&M Foundation President & CEO

Five years ago, I joined the Texas A&M Foundation with a clear mission: lead our team during the Lead by Example campaign to raise $4 billion to help build a brighter future for Texas A&M University. The Foundation was already well-known and respected, and I had the benefit of standing on my predecessors’ shoulders. I was also advised by a Board of Trustees that provided world-class governance, wisdom and an unmatched passion for excellence. I have learned a great deal and write to you now with the utmost respect and admiration for the work you have entrusted us.

In the end, donors exceeded the campaign goal of $4 billion and contributed $4.25 billion! In the waning months of the campaign, I stressed that the final dollar amount would pale in comparison to the human value that your combined generosity created, and I still stand by that. But at the same time, that dollar amount reflects an awe-inspiring buy-in from donors from all walks of life that should not be ignored or taken for granted.

After all, the number itself defies comprehension. Four billion seconds is nearly 127 years. Four billion people would equate to more than 12 times the U.S. population and could pack Kyle Field more than 36,000 times over. If you could walk four billion steps in a straight line down the equator, you would travel around the world just over 61 times. No matter how you view it, the figure is mind-boggling.

On our end, that dollar amount was bolstered by a series of other, less visible figures. Our hard-working Foundation team members processed more than 300,000 gifts, authored and presented more than 10,000 proposals, and collectively drove 5.4 million miles on more than 80,000 donor visits to ensure the campaign’s success. Ultimately, that success came down to people—people who gave generously when called upon, and people on our team who built real relationships for the betterment of this university and every life it touches.

Our team members were not just determined; they were astonishingly efficient. Throughout the campaign, the Foundation spent an average of 13 cents for every dollar raised—seven cents fewer than the national average for nonprofits and best in class among fundraising institutions for major universities. That drive translated to our university’s endowment growing from $1 billion at the campaign’s start to a market value of more than $2.2 billion today. Most importantly, the return on our investments was realized. Through donor contributions, we now annually provide more than $120 million to Texas A&M. That translates to scholarships for more than 9,000 students, support for more than 500 faculty and funds for hundreds of other programs.

I do not mention these statistics simply to highlight my team’s efforts; I mention them because they are the metrics by which we measure our success in meeting our responsibility to Texas A&M and our donors, upon which we will strive to improve. The work we do here really matters.

This campaign’s success could not have been achieved, either, without the help of our affiliates and academic partners. Our academic partners are incredible leaders in research, teaching and academic administration and should be thanked for their bold ideas that push higher education to new levels.

Between the Texas A&M Foundation, The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation, the George & Barbara Bush Foundation, and the Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Association, this university has brought together a team of teams unlike any other. The leaders and team members of these affiliates deserve special credit from all Aggies, and I thank each of them for their impact and the unique value their organization adds to Texas A&M.

If I have learned anything from my role and the Lead by Example campaign, it is the true power of a community ignited by a shared passion. The Latin root word for “university,” universitas, literally means “a whole.” Texas A&M is more than a big school with a rich history—it is a tremendous collective endeavor toward a better life for all. Our land-grant mission coupled with the humble backgrounds of many of our donors is a testament to the American dream and the power of higher education. This campaign was not made possible by any single donor, university administrator, student, professor or staff member, but by all working in concert to sustain and improve this place we call Aggieland.

People believe in Texas A&M enough to give all they can toward its future, and for good reason. We serve a university that means so much because it stands for so much; one that is built on the same values that built our great nation. In my first letter to Spirit readers, I wrote that I joined the Foundation because I believed that America was worth fighting for and that education was the only societal lever we had that could meaningfully transform our economy, security and prosperity. The intervening years have only solidified these convictions.

The next generations of Americans deserve—no, need—institutions that treat values like respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service not as aspirations but as expectations. They will need institutions that not only strengthen minds but also soften hearts. They will need institutions like Texas A&M. It is through your philanthropic investments that we help bend the arch of progress and inspire innovation across campus, all while embracing and learning from our unique culture, traditions and incredible values.

For everyone who gave to Texas A&M during Lead by Example: Thank you. Your contribution helped achieve the largest philanthropic campaign for a university in Texas history and set a standard of selflessness for future generations to follow. As those generations reap the rewards of your generosity, they will look back on this moment and strive to live by your leading example.

With that, one question remains for the Foundation: What do we do now that Lead by Example is over? For the most part, we return to our singular mission of building a brighter future for Texas A&M, one relationship at a time. That said, exciting developments are never far off on the horizon, and there is no limit to what this community can accomplish. So, stay tuned; I’m confident the future will give us even more reasons to say, “Wow, how about them Aggies!”

Thanks for all you do.

Tyson Voelkel ’96
President & CEO
Texas A&M Foundation