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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

Trailblazers

Carrying the Torch

By Monika Blackwell

Contributor

When Amy ’84 and Tim Leach ’82 moved into their house in Midland, Texas, they tolerated the empty tract across the street—a drab patch of grass and scraggly trees—for as long as they could stand it. Then one day, Tim contacted the homeowners’ association with an offer to beautify the area—from conceptualization to execution—and volunteered to pay for the entire landscaping project.

Tim called his friend and former neighbor, architect Mark Wellen, and they batted around ideas for a pergola, an esplanade filled with knockout roses, sidewalks and new trees.

“Now we see little kids riding tricycles and bicycles and people coming and enjoying the park,” said Amy. She paused before adding matter-of-factly, “Tim’s a true visionary in every sense of the word.”

The Midas Touch

The Leaches have dozens of stories like this one. From a vacant lot that they turned into a community garden to the lodge they are restoring in Leakey, Texas, they are a pair of preservationists. But the Leaches want to do more than simply maintain areas; they strive to leave things better than they found them. Together, Amy and Tim have a Midas touch—with unwavering focus, they consistently aim to make things more permanent, more beautiful and more prosperous. And their track record is solid.

You could say Amy and Tim Leach have their hands in many pots—both figuratively and literally. Amy is a collector of mid-century Russel Wright pottery and Native American black and red clay pots from the 1800s. Built-in shelving throughout their home displays the artifacts in carefully arranged grids, and Amy swaps the Wright pitchers every few months based on a seasonal color palette.

Similarly, their involvement in myriad activities represents diverse interests and laser-sharp attention to detail. The couple and both of their children love fly fishing and Tim is an avid hunter. They also own the Frio Canyon Vineyard in Leakey, Texas, where they produce wines made from Spanish grapes.

Fellow Midland Aggies Modesta and Clayton Williams Jr. ’54 inspired the Leaches to create their own philanthropic vision for Texas A&M.

Supporting a New Era in Engineering

The Leach name is becoming synonymous with progress at Texas A&M. The couple signed on as co-chairs for the recently-announced Lead by Example comprehensive campaign, a fitting role for two people whose interests at Texas A&M are as broad as their support is big. Tim said his call to action came earlier in life.

“Clayton Williams called me up 15 or 20 years ago. Midland is a pretty tight community, and the Aggies within Midland are pretty close. His message was that the Texas A&M guard is changing. He said, ‘My generation is getting old, your generation is coming up. You need to step up and play a major role.’ I spent years thinking about exactly what that meant and what that should look like.”

A few years later, Tim figured out how to heed Williams’ advice.

Today, the Leaches are major contributors to both Aggie athletics and academics. On the athletics side, they support basketball, football and baseball, and the new R.C. Slocum Dining Hall for athletes through the 12th Man Foundation.

Their largest gift to the university came after Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Engineering, approached them with concern that the university wasn’t producing enough qualified engineers to meet national demand. The 25 by 25 Initiative is Banks’s antidote: by the year 2025, the college plans to increase enrollment to 25,000. So in 2013, the Leaches gave $10 million to help construct the Engineering Education Complex (EEC), a key component of the initiative.

“For every student who is accepted into the college, there are others equally qualified who don’t get accepted,” said Tim, who graduated with a degree in petroleum engineering. “Most of those kids end up leaving the state to get that education. There’s a huge demand for engineering education, but Texas A&M had capped enrollment and we weren’t really fulfilling our mission.”

In recognition of their gift, a learning center within the new facility will be named in the family’s honor. The college broke ground on the facility in November 2014, with plans for a fall 2017 opening.

The initiative resonates with the Leaches because they recognize it as an opportunity to transform outdated educational models at their alma mater. The project will change how Texas A&M delivers engineering curriculum, making it more accessible to a new generation of engineers. For Tim, the gift is an investment in the future of his company. Concho, one of the largest oil producers in Texas, employs a steady stream of Aggies.

The new Engineering Education Complex is a key component of Texas A&M’s 25 by 25 Initiative, which seeks to increase engineering enrollment at the university to 25,000 students by 2025.

“Kathy’s vision and challenge inspires us,” said Tim. “It serves a noble purpose, and I think it will be accomplished. We’re excited about giving to Texas A&M because we can clearly understand the vision and impact of these projects.”

Their philanthropy is also a nod to their sons’ educations: both of them received engineering degrees from Texas A&M—William ’12 in petroleum engineering and Patrick ’14 in industrial distribution.

In addition to supporting the EEC, the couple has endowed a professorship, a faculty chair and a scholarship within the college. They also support engineering through their time and expertise—Tim has served on the college’s advisory council for more than a decade.

Opportunity Knocks

Tim and Amy met in high school in Houston before pursuing degrees at Texas A&M. In 1982, Tim landed a job as an energy lender for Midland National Bank. Shortly after graduating, the couple married and moved to West Texas, where Tim began working while earning a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. In 1989, Tim left the bank to work at a startup oil and gas company, Parker & Parsley. Following its merger with Mesa Inc., his fate changed.

Concho Resources was founded in 1997 by Tim and other Parker & Parsley management and has grown to be one of the largest oil producers in Texas and New Mexico.

While Tim developed Concho, Amy managed a travel agency for seven years until William was born. Her current job title, according to Tim, is “master of the universe.” 
For about a decade, Concho evolved but remained a private company; in 2007, Tim and his partners took it public. Still headquartered in Midland, the company now employs 1,100 and is the largest publicly traded company in town. There have been some blips on the radar—this year is not the first time Tim has experienced dramatic dips in the price per barrel—but he doesn’t scare easily.

“When you build your company, you expect challenges and understand that it’s going to be a wild ride,” he said. “Some of the best opportunities and most important things we accomplished came during hard times, but we’re energized by the experience.”

Without missing a beat, Amy added, “He’s a wildcatter.”

Improving the Land

The Leaches are lovers of the land. “Tim should have been a farmer,” quipped Amy.

When they discovered Texas A&M’s plans to build teaching gardens on campus and to restore The Grove, they jumped at the chance to get involved. Located on West Campus, The Gardens at Texas A&M University will revitalize 45 acres to include vegetable and flower gardens, educational crop gardens, an arboretum, outdoor classrooms, trails, bird blinds and foot bridges.

Components of the $60 million project—the brainchild of Mark Hussey, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Doug Welsh, a retired professor and extension horticulturist— will open to the public in 2017.

The Leaches committed $3 million toward a series of educational gardens within the space that include an octagonal-shaped pavilion for classes. They also enlisted the help of Mark Wellen, the same architect who revamped their neighborhood eyesore, to create a master plan and design for the entire area. The design fees will be another part of the Leaches’ contribution to the project.

“Tim and Amy are my close friends, and Tim and I have a great working relationship,” said Wellen. “He’s kind of my Medici, my patron client. When Tim and Amy get behind a project, they want it to be exceptional.”

The Gardens at Texas A&M University is a planned transformation of a 46-acre area of West Campus that will include an outdoor classroom, open-air pavilion, barn, grove amphitheater, demonstration gardens, rose gardens and tree-lined nature trails.

The Leaches see the gardens as another way to benefit the university for generations to come.

“If we do it right, this garden will exist at Texas A&M 100 years from now and make an impact on generations of students who pass through here,” Tim explained. “It says something about the importance of the agriculture school and the many ways agriculture touches our lives.”

For the Leaches, there is also the hope that the gardens will enhance community. They’re inspired by close-to-home experiences—like the neighborhood garden they started—that offer a glimpse into the power of the land.

Tim, who originally hails from Arkansas, met a distant cousin one day during a walk through the flower plots. And for Amy, sharing the miracle of fresh fruits and vegetables is priceless.

“One morning I went over to the garden and there was a grocery sack with some vegetables in it and a note from a woman saying, ‘From my garden to yours,’ ” Amy explained. “She had brought her children over and said they enjoyed seeing things grow. They thought fruits and veggies came from the grocery store. They didn’t know they came out of the ground.”

That same sense of community is what keeps them giving back to Texas A&M so generously.

“It’s not a devotion to an institution. It’s a devotion to a group of people and a devotion to a history of a group of people,” said Tim. “Texas A&M has its problems just like any other institution. But it’s got some of the greatest people in the world, and 55,000 of some of the greatest kids with the most potential and the greatest ability to affect the future.”

To support the 25 by 25 Initiative and the Engineering Education Complex, visit give.am/TAMU25by25. To support The Gardens at Texas A&M University, visit give.am/TAMUGardens.

Contact:

Mark Klemm '81

Assistant Vice President for Development
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences