Feature Stories

Evans Medal

Legacies of Service

The 2018 recipients of the Texas A&M Foundation’s prestigious Sterling C. Evans Medal are well known for their generosity across Texas A&M’s campus. The honorees—Patricia “Trisha” and Charles “Chaz” Neely ’62 and Rhonda and Forrest “Frosty” Gilliam Jr. ’80—have distinguished themselves through offering visionary leadership and significant financial support to the university.

“Over the years, these honorees have contributed their time and expertise to help Texas A&M remain at the forefront of higher education,” said Texas A&M Foundation President Tyson Voelkel ’96. “Their financial support has been instrumental in transforming the university’s classrooms and athletic complexes. The generosity of these recipients is emblematic of the legendary Aggie Spirit and the university’s core values.”

This esteemed honor, created in 1998, is named for Sterling C. Evans ’21, a founding trustee of the Texas A&M Foundation in 1953 and president of Texas A&M’s Board of Trustees in 1963. Evans committed almost $10 million to Texas A&M and actively encouraged others to give of their time and resources to the university.

Rhonda and Frosty Gilliam Jr. '80 have been instrumental in supporting the university's petroleum engineering and athletics programs. They received the Texas A&M Foundation's Sterling C. Evans Medal Award for 2018.

Recipients: Rhonda and Forrest “Frosty” Gilliam Jr. ’80

Professional career: Owner of Aghorn Energy Inc. and numerous other entities

Gifts through the Texas A&M Foundation: Rhonda and Frosty have provided significant financial support to the College of Engineering through the creation of a petroleum engineering professorship in memory of Frosty’s father and two petroleum engineering scholarships. The couple also made the lead gift to the Stephen A. Holditch ’69 Department Head Chair in Petroleum Engineering and funded the Brenda Bridges and Dr. Bill McCain Scholarship in Petroleum Engineering in their honor. They also made a significant contribution to the remodeling of the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center, home of The Association of Former Students.

A regular presence in Aggieland: The Gilliams frequently travel from their home in Odessa to support Texas A&M and attend numerous activities and sports functions. The couple serves on the Lead by Example campaign’s executive cabinet, and Frosty has served on the 12th Man Foundation Board as trustee, chair and now as immediate past chair. Rhonda and Frosty are both members of the Chancellor’s Century Council, while Frosty is a member of the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering Industry Board. 

A sporting attitude: To Rhonda and Frosty, being a good steward of God’s provisions is foremost in their charitable giving; to that end, their local church and other ministries receive most of their resources. After that, the Gilliams dedicated much of their giving to Texas A&M’s athletic programs. They provided the lead gifts for the Rhonda and Frosty Gilliam Jr. ’80 Indoor Track Stadium and substantial gifts for the Rhonda and Frosty Gilliam Jr. '80 Plaza in the Cox-McFerrin Center for Aggie Basketball, the Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park baseball stadium renovation and the Rhonda and Frosty Gilliam Jr. ’80 Football Student Athlete Center in the Bright Football Complex. In addition, the couple made a significant donation to the Kyle Field renovation project as Founders.

The lure of Aggieland: Frosty grew up in a family that had split loyalties to the University of Arkansas and the University of Tennessee. “I grew up a Razorback fan,” he recalled. “My best friend in high school and his older brother went to Texas A&M, and they sparked my interest in attending.”

Engineering his path: Frosty’s father started an oil field service company right as Frosty was graduating from high school, so he enrolled in a junior college to help his father’s business. “I was initially going to major in bioengineering, but after working in the oil field with my dad, I switched to petroleum engineering,” he said. “Texas A&M had then—and continues to have now—the best petroleum engineering program, and fortunately, my timing was exceptional because it was right before the next big oil boom.” In 2009, Frosty was named to the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Graduates and in 2012, he was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Engineering.

Gig ’em: Frosty started Aghorn Energy with his brother, who attended The University of Texas. “Fortunately, I was the older brother and the engineer, so ‘Ag’ got to go first in our company name,” he explained with a chuckle.

Getting re-engaged with Texas A&M: “I’m the classic case of the 20-year disconnected Aggie,” Frosty said. “After graduation, I worked on my career. We didn’t go back to Texas A&M until my son was exploring colleges.” When Forrest “Matt” Gilliam III '09 enrolled in 2005, the Gilliams renewed their involvement with Texas A&M. Frosty reconnected with the petroleum engineering department, and the couple bought their first season football tickets. Rhonda, a graduate of Sam Houston State, fully immersed herself in Aggie life and became active in the Sandstorm Aggie Mom’s Club in Odessa. Their daughter, Laura—a graduate of Oregon State University—is also 100 percent Aggie when it comes to yelling for the Aggies at all Texas A&M sporting events. Rhonda and Frosty have two granddaughters, 10-year-old Jaden (Class of 2029), who loves her “Gig ’em, Aggies,” and five-month-old Faylynn (Class of 2039).

A family affair: Rhonda and Frosty both expressed the same sentiment: “To us, Texas A&M is about family. Most of the events we attend are with our family and our extended family—our Aggie friends. When we give back to Texas A&M, it’s like helping our family. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Patricia "Trisha" and Charles "Chaz" Neely '62 were honored as recipients of the 2018 Sterling C. Evans Medal Award from the Texas A&M Foundation.

Recipients: Patricia “Trisha” and Charles “Chaz” Neely ’62

Professional career: Founder and retired chief executive officer of San Antonio Steel Company

Gifts through the Texas A&M Foundation: The Neelys’ philanthropy spans Texas A&M’s campus. They have strong ties to Mays Business School, including the commitment of the Trisha and L.C. “Chaz” Neely ’62 Chair in Marketing and the creation of the Trisha and L.C. “Chaz” Neely ’62 – Hagler Institute for Advanced Study Chair, a graduate fellowship and endowed business honors scholarships that can support up to 12 students. Chaz’s dedication to the Corps of Cadets is highlighted through the creation of numerous Corps 21, General Rudder and Sul Ross scholarships. The Neelys were also major donors to the Memorial Student Center renovation and contributed a substantial gift to the new John D. White ’70 – Robert L. Walker ’58 Music Activities Center. They were also major contributors to the Slocum Nutrition Center as well as to the Kyle Field and Blue Bell Park renovations.

Time well spent: The Neelys have devoted significant time to Texas A&M, having served on several Texas A&M Foundation capital campaign committees, including the current Lead by Example executive cabinet. Chaz also held leadership roles with Mays Business School, The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation and the President’s Board of Visitors for the Corps of Cadets. “I want to leave things better than I found them,” he said. “I believe so much in Texas A&M. It’s an outstanding institution and maintaining that is important to me.” In recognition of his professional and personal achievements and his service to Texas A&M, Chaz was inducted into the Corps Hall of Honor and received The Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Alumnus Award and Mays Business School’s Outstanding Alumnus Award.

A family first: Chaz was the first in his family to attend college. He realized that earning a college degree would significantly increase his options personally and professionally.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again: As a young man, Chaz spent his free time working at his father’s gas station and courting Trisha. However, his underdeveloped study skills became a problem in college, and he had to leave Texas A&M twice due to a shortage of money and grade points. Chaz re-enrolled after each absence, determined to earn his degree and return to his Corps unit. “If I had gone to another school, I wouldn’t have finished,” the San Antonio native said. “I missed my cadet family, and I credit them with me returning to graduate.” His resolve was unwavering by his third trip back to Aggieland. Chaz was married to Trisha at that point and with her help, finished his remaining three semesters. These challenges helped him develop persistence, an important trait that allowed the businessman to weather life’s storms. “Your plan doesn’t always work out,” he said. “You think, ‘What do I need to change to make this work?’ I just continued to figure out how to make things work for me.”

Bleeding maroon: Many other family members have followed Chaz, including his three children—Alison Neely Stone ’90, Leonard C. “Trey” Neely III ’97 and Bradford K. Neely ’94. Their granddaughter, Neely Stone ’21, is currently a freshman. “We hope the same values will be taught to my granddaughter as were taught to my husband,” Trisha said. In addition, Chaz’s brother, John ’73, and many nieces and nephews attended Texas A&M.