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True prosperity is built on a foundation of solid relationships. Leading a top Texas real estate development company, Fred Caldwell ’82 credits his firm’s success to the ability to forge and nurture a diverse network of connections. For Caldwell, some of those prized relationships stretch back to his early years living on the Texas-Mexico border while others surfaced during classes at Mays.
Service, Diversity and Hard Work
Caldwell learned to honor and value relationships early in life. “Both of my parents were very focused on serving others,” he said of his father, a pastor of a small church, and mother, a nurse. “That sense of selfless service was a foundation for our family.”
His experience growing up on the Texas-Mexico border in the late 1960s and 1970s influenced Caldwell’s inclusive approach to relationships. At the time, Del Rio, his hometown, was a microcosm of the United States’ growing diversity and cultural richness. “My school classmates were for the most part Hispanic, and classes were often taught in English and Spanish,” he said. “Because of that environment, I have a tremendous love for the Hispanic community.”
Those early years also instilled the value of hard work and appreciation for those from different economic and cultural situations. Starting at the age of 12, Caldwell worked at the Val Verde Winery where he interacted with migrant laborers. “That experience gave me such an appreciation for those that lived along the border. I learned early how many good people come from differing and challenging situations.”
Participating in organized athletics during his formative years also proved influential in helping Caldwell understand the power of fostering relationships. “I had a great time as a kid playing many sports in a small border town,” he said. “It was a Friday Night Lights kind of environment since games became an event for the entire town.”
Based on his experiences, the former Texas A&M football player believes competitive sports offer meaningful lessons about the importance of building a strong and diverse team. “A large part of participating in sports is learning to appreciate the differences in people and recognizing that everyone is important to the team and the shared goals,” he said. “You have some people who are highly skilled athletically while others may not be as gifted but play important roles on the team. You also see a very diverse group with differing backgrounds come together around a common goal with individuals sacrificing to achieve a united goal. Coaches were the foremost factor in helping us unite in working toward a common goal instead of focusing on external or cultural differences. Coaches like RC Slocum, Paul Register, Tom Wilson, Jackie Sherrill and others played a very important role in my life.”
Becoming an Aggie
Unlike many of his classmates, Caldwell didn’t grow up in a family of Aggies who helped him understand the school’s traditions. In fact, he knew few Aggies but a key Aggie was the father of his then-girlfriend now wife, Susan—but that connection (as well as an introduction to Texas A&M Football Coach Emory Ballard) swayed his decision.
Caldwell pursued an accounting degree initially but quickly realized that being an accountant would not be his career path. Despite the mismatch, he completed his bachelor’s degree in four years while playing football and decided to complete a fifth year of football eligibility while earning a master’s degree in finance. During this time, Caldwell worked for two finance professors who focused on real estate, Wayne Etter and Dick Haney. Soon, his professional future became clear. “The undergraduate degree in accounting was helpful in understanding basic business principles,” he said. “But my graduate degree was highly valuable to what we do as a business.”
As is the case for its founder, Caldwell’s namesake company is committed to fostering relationships in the communities it develops. One example is Mission Ranch in College Station, a master planned community that includes a full range of amenities designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle and a sense of connection. “We want, in every community, to create an extraordinary place for people to live, work, play, and raise families that makes their life better,” Caldwell said.
Former Students and partners of Mays advance the world’s prosperity through their generosity, including these contributors donating more than $5,000 in 2020.
See the 2020 Individual Contributors
Recommitting to Relationships
In 2019, Caldwell underwent knee surgery in Chicago to repair an old football injury; on the flight home, his lungs filled with blood clots, which came close to taking his life. This near-death experience caused the Houston resident to seek additional clarity about his life’s purpose.
One thing that became clear was the value of relationships versus things. “At the end of the day, if I get enough boxes on my front doorstep, am I going to feel good? The answer is no; we just end up wanting another box,” he said. “Ultimately, our greater purpose has everything to do with our relationship with God and with each other.”
At the top of that list is his relationship with Susan ’82, the former girlfriend who has been his wife for the past 38 years. “Susan has been so influential in my life,” he said. “She’s wired very differently from me. My experience suggests that many strong marriages are ones in which the spouses are not wired alike but aligned with common purpose. Susan and I are not the same, but we find unity centered on faith, purpose, and calling.”
A proud father, Caldwell is heartened by the commitment of his daughters and son-in-law to a productive life. “Amanda Grace is a 2011 Mays marketing graduate who went on to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Denver Seminary while Lindsey attended the University of Southern California, graduating in 2013 with a major in theater and a minor in business,” he said. “Our son-in-law, Michael, graduated from Northwestern State University and was recently accepted into the Mays Executive MBA program.” Lindsey and Michael work for Caldwell Companies while Amanda Grace is the relationship director and counselor at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.
The Caldwells continue to be involved with JH Outback and JH Ranch, weekend and week-long adventures focused on improving parent-teen and husband-wife relationships. “We believe that to have quality relationships on earth, we need a relationship with God. Outback Weekend Adventures help couples and families understand that healthy relationships in life start with a vertical relationship with God,” he said. “That’s had a huge impact on our family and thousands of families around the globe. To us, that type of investment results in amazing returns.”
Caldwell also is using his new chapter to invite others to consider their greater purpose. To that end, he created “Truth Talks,” an on-line live podcast, that engages different experts on social issues. “I feel our society is in a significant search for identity and meaning,” he said. “We live in an existential and consumer-driven society. Ultimately though, what people are seeking is truth.”
Developing Transformational Leaders
Caldwell appreciates his alma mater’s role in encouraging and developing the next generation of transformational leaders who are committed to advancing the world’s prosperity. “Mays has done an outstanding job in raising up students that are trained in business but are more importantly trained in becoming transformational leaders who can make a difference in global prosperity,” he said. Caldwell Companies regularly hires Mays graduates. “Mays taught me to have a great appreciation for relationships and things way beyond business. In my opinion, Mays does that better than any business school in the country.” Creating that moment of transformation inspires Caldwell’s approach to life – and guides his commitment to relationships, “Relationships are the absolute top of the mountain of why we exist. Through relationships, we can help others find greater purpose in life.”
Watch Caldwell’s 2018 Outstanding Alumni video on Inside Mays.