The past, present, and future of Mays Business School were embodied in the three guests of honor as the Benton Cocanougher Chair in Business was dedicated at a luncheon on October 23. Special guests by invitation of Dean Jerry Strawser were in attendance, as well as the men of the hour: Lowry Mays ’57, founder of Clear Channel Communications and benefactor of Mays Business School; Benton Cocanougher, dean of Mays Business School from 1987 to 2001 and current dean emeritus and professor emeritus at Texas A&M; and Luis Gomez-Mejia, professor of management and inaugural holder of the Cocanougher Chair.
Mays, who funded the chair with his wife, Peggy, spoke warmly of Cocanougher at the event, saying that “Benton has been a very close friend of our family for a long time.” Cocanougher was dean of the business school when Mays endowed it with a gift of $15M in 1997. Mays said he was impressed with the leadership Cocanougher provided to the business school, and continues to provide to A&M. “He’s a great teacher and an incredible leader on this campus,” said Mays, who compared Cocanougher to the 12th Man for his willingness to serve A&M wherever there is a need. Presently, he is interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service and prior to that position, he was interim chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.
Cocanougher thanked Mays for the honor of the gift naming and for his continued involvement with the school. Cocanougher commented that as important as Mays’ original gift to the school was, branding the school with his name was even more impactful. “Lowry built a great corporation, but he was also instrumental in changing the very nature of the communications industry and he did it all with an unblemished record and a commitment to public service,” he said. “And that’s a very special asset for any academic program.”
“Through their generosity, Peggy and Lowry Mays are improving the lives of tens of thousands of people,” said Cocanougher, mentioning the Mays’ many other charitable endeavors. Their recent activity at Mays Business School was in the amount of $7.5 million with matching funds to create a $12 million gift; this gift is dedicated to faculty support and will provide six faculty chairs and three eminent scholar chairs, including the Cocanougher Chair.
Gomez-Mejia joined A&M in fall 2009 from Arizona State University. He is highly regarded globally as an expert in his field. “A&M for me was always the pinnacle, so it still seems sort of unreal that I’m here,” he said. He acknowledged that the honor of being the first to hold the prestigious chair, named for and created by two such important men, came with a certain amount of pressure for his performance. “I will try to keep your good name up,” he promised.