Angela and I are from farm families who place a high value on education. Our parents helped us in our undergraduate programs, and we received some financial support for our graduate degrees. We always wanted to return that favor by supporting Texas A&M students who were not academic superstars but were hardworking and from middle-income families.
Although we were financially secure for our retirement years, we did not have this kind of wealth but wanted to find a way to help Texas A&M students and Texas AgriLife Research programs. We weren’t sure how to do this with our level of resources. But we learned the Foundation has plans and programs that enable nearly anyone to enrich institutional programs. Here’s how our experience unfolded.
I frequently drove by a John Deere dealership on my way to my farm in rural Brazos County and one day noticed an almost-new tractor on their lot. I stopped to check the price. The tractor cost several thousand dollars, but we could afford it and it would look nice in our shed at Smith Farm.
The shiny new-looking tractor was a pleasant sight on the dealer’s lot but from a practical view, the tractor we already had would move hay bales, shred pastures, drill post holes and perform other ranch chores.
We started thinking about what would have a more lasting effect: a nicely painted depreciating asset or an endowment that would impact the lives of students. So instead of buying a newer tractor, we decided to spruce up the old one.
I called our Ag development office at Texas A&M for help planning endowments that would have a longer-lasting impact than a tractor. Without any pressure, they helped us set up two endowments.
We funded an Endowed Opportunity Award (EOA) with $25,000. This program helps an undergraduate from a rural area who may not have super academic records but has a strong work ethic and wants a degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.