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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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On Campus: News From Across Texas A&M

The Gardens Break Ground

In June, the university broke ground on its first large-scale public teaching garden, The Gardens at Texas A&M University.

The 40-acre master plan will revitalize West Campus. Phase I, named the Leach Teaching Gardens after lead donors Amy ’84 and Tim Leach ’82, includes construction of a 7-acre outdoor classroom, a farmers’ market, vegetable beds and thematic gardens.

Dedicated to teaching, research and community enjoyment, The Gardens will give students and visitors the chance to buy fresh produce, dig into hands-on gardening and learning activities, and attend events at outdoor venues.

Future phases of the project will include an amphitheater, a rose garden, a children’s garden and a learning center, with construction wrapping up in 2018. Numerous donors to the Texas A&M Foundation helped fund the first phase of The Gardens, but additional private funding is needed to bring the project to fruition.

Visit give.am/TAMUGardens to give online or contact Mark Klemm ’81, assistant vice president for development, at mklemm@txamfoundation.com or (979) 845-9582.

New Life for Riverside Campus

A new $250 million research and development campus located at Riverside Campus (the former Bryan Air Base, or Annex) will help companies move ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace and offer new paths for students toward a college degree.

Plans for the campus, to be renamed RELLIS (an acronym formed from Texas A&M University’s core values) were unveiled by Chancellor John Sharp ’72 in May. The campus will initially include eight new buildings and test beds to encourage the private sector to establish research facilities adjacent to the site.

Research focuses at RELLIS will include robotics, driverless and connected vehicles, advanced manufacturing, large-scale chemical operations safety testing, smart power grids and water systems, with the hope of attracting private companies in these and other fields.

The new campus will also include the RELLIS Gateway Center, which will offer 4-year degrees to students not admitted to Texas A&M through affiliations with other universities in the Texas A&M University System. Chancellor Sharp estimates that as many as 10,000 students could eventually study at the center.

Funds for the campus were committed via state appropriations, other university system funding and gifts from donors. Construction began in September, with initial improvements to be completed by the end of 2017.

Philanthropy Prep

Undergraduate students at Mays Business School can gain a first-hand look into the world of nonprofit work, thanks to a new course called Strategic Philanthropy.

As the first of its kind to be offered at an SEC school, the course enables students to experience the grant-making process from a foundation’s perspective.

“No matter what role you have in a company, you will encounter nonprofits,” said course instructor Kyle Gammenthaler ’11. “But without understanding how they work, you’re just a neutral third-party observer. It’s important that students learn the unique rules of the nonprofit world.”

During the first course last spring, students allocated $50,000 in grant money donated by The Philanthropy Lab to five Brazos Valley nonprofit organizations after spending weeks learning about the organizations vying for funds and conducting site visits. Funds were ultimately awarded to BCS Marathon, Boys and Girls Club of Brazos Valley, Elder Aid, Health For All and Voices for Children.

A $140,000 gift to the Texas A&M Foundation from Jennifer and Wil VanLoh will cover grant money and operating expenses for the next two courses.

“As our daughter shared what she learned in the course, my wife and I saw so many of the giving principals we’ve tried to impart to our children being reinforced,” Wil said. “This class teaches students to be good stewards of the financial resources they are entrusted with, and it benefits nonprofits and charities by helping them better serve their constituents.”

Calling the Shots

In a unique opportunity to work with a high-profile client, graduate architecture students designed mockups of a new multipurpose, mixed-use practice facility for the Dallas Mavericks last spring.

Students received input from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and guidance from Bryan Trubey ’83, executive vice president at Dallas-based HKS Inc., the firm that will design the facility. Trubey is best known as the lead architect for AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, but also serves as the Thomas A. Bullock Endowed Chair in Leadership and Innovation in the College of Architecture.

Students in four studios created designs, each approaching the challenge from different potential sites for the facility. While their designs will not actually be implemented, the assignment was an exercise in designing an iconic structure for a large-scale project.

Cuban reviewed the four best designs in May, which incorporated amenities such as a team store, public cafe, museum, garden and outdoor water feature. Other elements included office and convention spaces, conference rooms for startup technology companies, an outdoor performance stage and exterior basketball courts shaded by solar cells.

Cuban hopes to build the facility within the next two years.

Class Notes

  • Leading License Plates

    Aggies are literally driving their loyalty home: Texas A&M leads all other Texas collegiate and professional organizations in sales of specialized license plates.
  • Law Program Launches

    A new apprenticeship program launched by the School of Law will match recent graduates with solo and small firm law practitioners. Along with offering graduates unique mentorship and networking opportunities, the program—the first of its kind in Texas—also seeks to bridge the state’s justice gap by addressing the growing need for attorneys who serve clients of modest means.
  • Maritime Education

    Texas A&M University at Galveston received a gift in-kind from Wärtsilä, a global leader in complete lifecycle power solutions from the marine and energy markets. The Finnish company donated a 27-ton ship engine worth $500,000 that will help maritime academy students improve their knowledge of engine repair, emissions and fuel economy.
  • Creating "Physicianeers"

    Pending approvals, Texas A&M will create an engineering medical school at Houston Methodist Hospital to educate a new kind of doctor: “physicianeers.” Crossing the medical and engineering disciplines, this new educational approach will outfit professionals with the clinical skills to diagnose symptoms and treat patients, along with the engineering mindset to solve problems, invent new technologies and move innovative ideas to practice in patient care.