I would not be the father, husband, brother, son, paratrooper, follower, servant or friend I am today without my faith and my ever-evolving relationship with Texas A&M University. So, when asked to write about the most important lesson I learned in Aggieland, I paused. How might I capture even a fraction of what I learned as a student?
In a word, I learned love: love of country, of freedom, and of faith in God, family and friends.
I love America. I love Texas A&M. All of it: the good, the bad and the ugly. I could have detailed how the Corps of Cadets changed my life trajectory, but this letter instead boils down leadership to the one thing that has guided me in each chapter of my life as I work to be my best for others.
On and off campus, I spend time with some of the brightest faculty and staff in higher education, immersed in a world where intellectual freedom and academic rigor thrive. Why bother engaging with faculty from all walks of life and interests? Love of the future of mankind. The faculty give me confidence that there is not a problem we cannot solve with the right application of Aggie values, intellectual prowess and hard work.
I also spend considerable time with students, our future leaders and problem solvers. Seeing their optimism and the Aggie values alive and well in our student body gives me hope and brings so much joy to me and my wife, Christi, and our family. Our boundless love for Aggie students fuels our desire to work hard every day to help influence and support the future.
Lastly, I am blessed to enjoy the company of inspiring donors, many of whom I view as mentors, friends and family. I love the time spent with them and working on their behalf to connect their passions with Texas A&M’s purpose. Our team at the Foundation loves what we do and why we do it, but mostly we love who we serve. Truly, the work we do matters because donors help shape the future through their philanthropic investments.
In each chapter of my life—in combat, as a business leader and now as CEO of the Foundation—I have been blessed with failure and success. The years have passed in the blink of an eye. So many memories and lessons have prepared me for today; Lord knows I have more to learn and do, but love is what ultimately fuels me and our team at the Foundation.
The world is increasingly more complex and requires leaders of character who thrive on overcoming challenges. Our Aggie values should drive us toward positively impacting the world. Although not listed as an Aggie value, love is the core ingredient in any leader’s ability to garner trust, inspire action, enable accountability, set a compelling vision and empower others. Without that one ingredient, there can be no passion, no meaningful purpose and no higher calling.
As you thumb these pages, I hope our team engages your senses, informs your worldview and inspires you to action for our cause. The future depends on it. And when you reach our cover feature in which eight exceptional former students share their most valued lessons learned in Aggieland, I hope you take a moment to consider what takeaway you still carry today from this special place. I bet it won't be too hard to find.
Thanks for all you do.
Tyson Voelkel ’96
President & CEO
Texas A&M Foundation