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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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Campaign Update

It's Their Texas A&M

Among the thousands of faculty and staff employed by Texas A&M University, there is no shortage of fearless leaders, bright minds and inspiring mentors. These members of the Aggie community invest their time and talent in Aggie students every day. They are the university’s greatest advocates, actively promoting its values and culture, supporting its mission and making Texas A&M a force for good in the world.

It’s no surprise that many of these individuals are invested personally and financially in the university’s future. In fact, more than 8,000 current, former and retired Texas A&M faculty and staff have given more than $62.5 million to the Lead by Example campaign, a $4 billion fundraising effort for the university that stands at $3.57 billion raised as of June 30, 2019While their gifts support many individualized passions, they all share a common purpose in shaping the course of Texas A&M.

In this special campaign update, meet six outstanding faculty and staff members who are giving back to Aggieland.

The Colonel

Col. Glenn Starnes '81 has created current and planned gifts to fund scholarships for members of the Corps of Cadets.
Col. Glenn Starnes ’81, USMC (Ret.)
Assistant Commandant, Operations & Training
 

Like many who enter the armed forces, retired Marine Col. Glenn Starnes ’81 had no intention of staying in the military long after he was commissioned in 1981. He had just graduated from Texas A&M and planned to spend four or five years in the Marine Corps before returning to civilian life to pursue a career in law enforcement. “Once I got in, though, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll stay until I’m not having fun, or until they kick me out!’” he said.

In his 30 years of service, Starnes served two tours of duty in Iraq, commanding the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Artillery Regiment at the Battle of Nasiriyah in 2003 and deploying again to Fallujah in 2005. His more than one dozen awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Officer of the Order of the British Empire, conferred upon him by the Queen of England. When he retired in August 2011, he returned to College Station and took his current job a year later as assistant commandant for operations and training in the Corps of Cadets.

Before his first deployment, Starnes created a planned gift in his will to establish an endowed Corps scholarship. After he assumed his current position, he was inspired to establish another scholarship in honor of his late parents for cadets studying history or political science. “I named it after my parents because they supported me,” Starnes said. “They put me through school, so why shouldn’t I help another student in return?”

William "Bill" Peel Jr. '74 looks to continue the generosity of the Aggie family through contributions to the College of Architecture.

The Innovator

William “Bill” Peel Jr. ’74
Executive Director of Innovation & Strategic Planning at Mays Business School
 
For William “Bill” Peel Jr. ’74, visiting Aggieland was love at first sight. Peel grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and had only traveled west of the Mississippi River once before coming to campus. “When we drove down the main drive leading up to the Jack K. Williams building, I told my mom I loved it,” he said.
 

He enrolled in the College of Architecture, joined the Corps of Cadets and became engrossed in Texas A&M traditions. During his sophomore year, however, Peel’s studies were tragically interrupted when he received a call informing him that his father had died in a military plane crash. Reeling from the news, Peel’s professors advised him to return to Memphis instead of taking his finals. “Go home and take care of your family,” they told him. “Texas A&M will be here when you get back.” Peel did return to Texas A&M, where he was allowed to make up his exams and graduate on schedule in 1974.

Peel enjoyed a successful career in architecture and is now the executive director of innovation and strategic planning at Mays Business School. He never forgot the generosity of the Aggie family during his time of need and has given to the College of Architecture in return. His contributions include a college excellence fund in his will and support for the Rodney Hill Professorship in Creativity and Design. “I could never completely repay my Aggie family for what they’ve given me,” he said. “I’ve made up my mind to reinvest whatever I can into Texas A&M.”

The Engineer

Dr. Robert Skelton hopes to promote engineering research by establishing an excellence endowment for the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study.
Dr. Robert Skelton

Joint Professor in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering

For more than half a century, Dr. Robert Skelton has devoted himself to the engineering field and pushed the boundaries of how engineering disciplines are taught and implemented. His career has taken him around the world and landed him at institutions including Purdue University, the University of California San Diego and now Texas A&M.

At each school, Skelton’s dedication as a researcher and professor pushed him into positions of leadership and earned him various awards and honors, including membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 2012.

In 2014, Skelton became a fellow of the Texas A&M Hagler Institute for Advanced Study, which annually invites a small class of nationally and internationally prominent fellows to campus to pursue cutting-edge research in collaboration with Texas A&M faculty and students. After six months with the institute, Skelton was so impressed that he accepted a full-time professorship position at Texas A&M.

His association with the Hagler Institute drove him to create an excellence endowment to support its engineering initiatives in 2018. “The universities that lead the way in engineering are those that integrate various disciplines to provide students a multidisciplinary education,” he said. “The Hagler Institute does just that by addressing multidisciplinary problems through research in interdisciplinary theories.

“This type of institute doesn’t exist at other universities, and that’s why I decided to donate—to promote and expand the work being done here.”

Passionate about rewarding faculty excellence, Dr. Carol Fierke created the Texas A&M University Honorific Fund. 

The Chemist

Dr. Carol Fierke
Provost & Executive Vice President
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
 

In 2017, Dr. Carol Fierke was named provost and executive vice president of Texas A&M. In her role, she oversees 16 colleges and schools, two special purpose campuses, the university libraries and academic affairs. Some of her goals include enhancing the student undergraduate experience and the upward trajectory in research excellence by supporting and diversifying faculty.

In addition to her position as provost, Fierke continues her own research as a professor of chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics. Her integrated position as both an administrative leader and faculty member gives her a better understanding of unmet needs across campus.

To help reward faculty excellence, Fierke created the Texas A&M University Honorific Fund, which is currently used to partially fund university professorships. “I believe faculty are the backbone of the university,” she said. “I wanted to set up a fund that would reward faculty who are exceptional at research, teaching and service.”

The fund supports faculty across all disciplines. The ideal candidate has achieved international and national recognition and made a profound impact through their innovative scholarship and teaching. The award also highlights recipients’ commitment to inclusivity and service. Fierke hopes that her gift will serve as a guiding light for all faculty and encourage others to strive for their full potential.

“Growing up, my family believed in philanthropy, and I’ve tried to adhere to that,” she said. “I’ve had so many opportunities in life, and I’ve been very lucky to receive the education that I did. It’s incumbent on me to give back.”

The Educator

Tracy Glass '14 directs the PATHS program in the College of Education and Human Development. She was inspired to created a scholarship in her estate for the program.
Tracy Glass ’14

PATHS Program Director, College of Education and Human Development

When Tracy Glass ’14 first expressed interest in teaching as a teenager, her high school counselor discouraged her from pursuing it as a profession. She went on to work in the field of drafting for 18 years. Despite her success, she always knew that something was missing, and at the age of 40, she decided to return to school.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in special education, Glass became involved with the Postsecondary Access and Training in Human Services (PATHS) certificate program in the College of Education and Human Development, where she now serves as its program director. PATHS prepares students with disabilities for jobs in education, child care or elder care fields.

PATHS students work toward a certificate, which prepares them to assist others with disabilities. “When I look at our students, I don’t see a disability,” explained Glass. “A disability is only a part of who they are. Our students learn a little differently, but don’t we all?”

Glass has watched the program transform lives: Students with disabilities complete the PATHS program as entirely different individuals with a newfound sense of independence and confidence. Inspired to give back, she created a scholarship in her estate for students in PATHS.

“When I was a student, I received financial assistance,” she said. “It helped me tremendously and prevented me from racking up tons of debt—being an older student was hard enough as it was without the financial burden. I know firsthand how gifts like this can make a difference to one person, and I really hope my gift will allow our program to grow.”

Dr. Reddy created a graduate fellowship and an endowed chair in applied mechanics at Texas A&M in hopes of continuing his legacy and love for the field.

The Author

Dr. Junuthula N. Reddy

Holder of the Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. Endowed Chair in Mechanical Engineering

Lining the walls of Dr. J.N. Reddy’s office are books, awards and mementos from his home in India that tell the story of all he has accomplished since earning his master’s degree from Oklahoma State University (OSU). It was there that he began writing computer programs to complete his coursework in addition to doing assignments by hand, impressing his professors and eventually leading him to his area of expertise, computational engineering science.

“My future was a bit uncertain as I made the move from India to the U.S., but I was very excited to find computers at OSU,” Reddy said. “Since then, my research has focused on developing theories and computational models that others can use to extend and advance their own research.” Known as the Reddy layerwise theory and the Reddy third-order plate theory, the models he developed have been included in Abaqus, a software that is used in the creation of virtually every structure, including automobiles, aircrafts and even medical prosthetics. 

In 1992, Reddy accepted the Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. Endowed Chair in Mechanical Engineering to join the Texas A&M faculty. “I’m very grateful to have utilized funds from this chair to support many educational, research and professional service activities for myself and my students,” he said. “Texas A&M has allowed me to fulfill my two passions: teaching and research, both of which involve students, who are the most precious thing we have at this university.”

During the last 45 years, he has authored more than 700 papers and published 21 books, which are renowned for their clear language and figures, drawn by Reddy himself. He has also won the highest awards from professional organizations across his field. In hopes of continuing his legacy of research and serving students, he established a graduate fellowship and an endowed chair in applied mechanics at Texas A&M.

“Any meaningful measure of accomplishment must include giving back to the community,” he said. “Just like the chair I hold has contributed to my accomplishments, I hope that the chair I funded will also help faculty members do great things at Texas A&M.”

Contact:

Dunae Reader '15

Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications/Spirit Editor