Texas A&M University
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Texas A&M Profs Continuing Tradition Of Giving Back To Their University
COLLEGE STATION — When an endowed scholarship program for undergraduate women in physics was established at Texas A&M University to honor the memory of Cynthia Woods Mitchell, 11 physics and astronomy professors elected to contribute to honor a generous donor to their department — in the process perpetuating the tradition of Aggie faculty giving back to their institution.
More than 1,500 Texas A&M faculty members have made financial gifts to the university through the Texas A&M Foundation, the non-profit organization that solicits gifts benefiting the university and manages the endowment that allows gifts to support Texas A&M forever.
Faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy alone have pledged more than $800,000 during the past decade to benefit a variety of student, academic and research causes. Other Texas A&M faculty have created planned gifts worth $1 million to benefit both the College of Geosciences and the Department of Political Science. Faculty have also gifted at least $100,000 to benefit 12 other departments.
“We obviously have a distinguished faculty that is recognized nationally and abroad for their teaching and research accomplishments, but what is less well know about them is that they are exceptionally caring and generous — with their time and energy as well with their financial support for Texas A&M,” Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin noted.
Texas A&M Foundation President Ed Davis agreed.
“Texas A&M faculty and staff have a long history of supporting the university financially,” Davis said. “While some university employees have chosen to fund academic endeavors on an individual basis, others have joined in department and college-based gifts.”
The 11 faculty members in physics and astronomy contributed matching funds for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Undergraduate Scholarship for Women in Physics at Texas A&M University, which was established by Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell’s daughter, Sheridan Mitchell Lorenz. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation will also match Lorenz’s gift.
George Mitchell, a 1940 distinguished graduate of Texas A&M and former chairman and chief executive officer of Mitchell Energy & Development Corp., is a longtime benefactor of Texas A&M and its programs in fundamental physics and astronomy, as well as in numerous other endeavors benefitting the university. He was joined by his wife Cynthia in a variety of philanthropic endeavors prior to her death in December 2009.
“I am proud to sponsor a scholarship in memory of my mother, who believed that all people deserve the opportunities made possible by a good education,” Lorenz said. “Because this scholarship combines her love of astronomy and support for women in science, I think it would be deeply pleasing to her.
“I look forward to meeting the young women who will have the benefit of this scholarship in the future, and I am both grateful and touched by the generosity of the faculty members who have offered matching funding.”
Texas A&M’s dean of science, Joseph Newton, joined in praising the contributing faculty.
“The fact that 11 physics and astronomy faculty members accepted the department’s matching challenge to this scholarship is great testimony to the commitment our faculty has to undergraduate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education,” Newton said.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy is home to 12 academic chairs and professorships, 10 of which were established during the past decade. Several involve sizable contributions from individual faculty, resulting in permanent endowments and legacies that will remain at and benefit Texas A&M long after the professors who now hold these appointments are gone.
“I am truly proud of the physics and astronomy faculty at Texas A&M,” said Dr. Edward S. Fry, professor and head of the department and holder of the George P. Mitchell ’40 Chair in Experimental Physics. “As is generally true of faculty across the various disciplines at Texas A&M, they are deeply committed to research, teaching and mentoring of our outstanding Aggie students. In addition, an extraordinarily large percentage of them go the extra mile, devoting considerable time and effort to public outreach and financially supporting a wide range of causes, from chairs and professorships to graduate and undergraduate scholarships, that provide invaluable benefits to people and programs within the university and across the state.”
Overall faculty giving at Texas A&M has supported a variety of endeavors over the years in addition to undergraduate scholarships and faculty chairs. For example, J.N. Reddy, who holds the Wyatt Chair in Mechanical Engineering, and his wife established a fellowship for full-time Ph.D. students studying computational mechanics. Carl M. Pearcy’s similar effort for graduate students in mathematics was doubled by a matching gift from by the Herman F. and Minnie Belle Heep Texas A&M University Foundation. Groups have also supported efforts to honor the best and brightest within their own ranks, such as the eight faculty who contributed to the Robert R. Berg Professorship in Geology. Several others have opted to pay tribute to loved ones, including Newton, a former head of the Department of Statistics (1990-98), and Simon J. Sheather, head of the department since 2005, who each established endowments in memory of their parents to benefit graduate students in statistics.
For more information on available giving methods and current priorities, visit http://giving.tamu.edu.