April, 2010 | Mays Impacts

This week’s theater of the absurd features Goldman Sachs appearing before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. When it comes to watching these two groups face each other, the moral high ground is an anthill.

The reason CEO Lloyd Blankfein and other Goldman employees, including the silver-tongued vice-president Fabrice Tourre, will be at the witness table is because the SEC has filed civil fraud charges over the Abacus 2007-AC1 deal. Goldman marketed the Abacus synthetic collateralized debt obligations to a bond-insurance company and a German bank, and allegedly told the bank that the bond-insurance company had selected the bonds that would be tracked. Instead, Goldman allegedly allowed John Paulson’s hedge fund to have significant input regarding what bonds were included. And Paulson’s bonds were allegedly designed to be lemons that Paulson could strategically bet against, on the other side of the transaction from the bond-insurance company and the German bank. Paulson’s hedge fund made over a billion dollars on the deal; guess who lost the billion? Oops.

I used the word “allegedly” three times in the last paragraph. This is never a good sign. It means that people who seem to have trouble telling the truth are on the loose again. One person who apparently cannot get enough of telling the truth is the above mentioned Tourre, who made a series of unfortunate comments in girlfriend e-mails, including referring to himself as “Fabulous Fab” who was “… standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstrosities!!!” In another note he indicated that he had “…managed to sell a few Abacus bonds to widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport, apparently these Belgians love synthetic ABS CDO2!!!” He also indicated that he was “[n]ot feeling too guilty about this, the real purpose of my job is to make capital markets more efficient and ultimately provide the US consumer with more efficient ways to leverage and finance himself, so there is a humble, noble and ethical reason for my job. … amazing how good I am in convincing myself!!!” I think this is why the word “ironic” made it into the dictionary.

But Goldman has managed to hit the headlines twice, thanks to allegations that a member of their board of directors, Rajat Gupta, provided inside information about Warren Buffett’s intention to invest in Goldman in September 2008. Unfortunately, the alleged beneficiary of the information was Raj Rajaratnam, Gupta’s close friend and former business partner, and head of the very successful Galleon Group hedge fund. Or at least it was successful until Rajaratnam and others were charged in the biggest insider trading probe in decades and the fund collapsed. Mr. Gupta, the former head of consultants McKinsey & Co., has not been indicted, but he will not stand for re-election as a Goldman director. Federal prosecutors in the Galleon case apparently have phone recordings of everything but Mr. Rajaratnam brushing his teeth, including conversations with Mr. Gupta.

So CEO Blankfein gets to appear before Congress and try to explain his e-mail statement that , “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.” Uh huh. There are many internal e-mails discussing being on both sides of these deals. These cases are never as cut and dried as Congress wants to make it appear, and bankers are easy to demonize. And it will be helpful for Blankfein and Goldman to have Tourre to point to as a rogue employee, though this may work to Goldman’s disadvantage in the courtroom one day soon.

Apparently, Goldman Sachs is willing to provide full information. The question is whether they are providing it to people who are actually the ones who ought to get it.

Categories: Bottom Line Ethics

Big Event is over, but Mays students are still serving the Bryan/College Station community. On May 5th, the Business Student Council (BSC) is teaming up with local sponsors, students, faculty and staff, and members of the community to host the business school’s biggest annual service event: Project Mays.

This year the BSC will again focus on serving local schools by providing one school with new playground equipment. Milam Elementary in Bryan has equipment in its playground that hasn’t been repainted in several years. The school is located in a low-income area where the free-or-reduced lunch statistic for 2010 hovers around 93 percent.

Milam has turned into an opportunity for Mays students. The BSC through several sponsors has raised $25,000 for the rejuvenation of Milam’s playground. Appropriately, the BSC is calling their project “Extreme Makeover: Playground Edition.”

The idea for this year’s Project Mays came in response to student feedback. “Students have said “We don’t really see the BSC much, and we’d like to see them out more.’ This year’s Project Mays is allowing us to do that, and it’s been awesome,” says Kelli Downing ’11, BSC vice president of events. Not only has the BSC chosen a project that will bring the students and community together, but they’ve also made an effort to include all Mays students during the fundraising process. “Domino’s sold us large pizzas for $5 each, and when we sold $1 a piece at Mays, the yield was $3 a pizza,” Downing says, emphasizing the importance of student body support throughout the fundraising process. In fact, when the BSC sold pizza, the halls and lobby of Wehner were packed with happily munching students. When Spoons Frozen Yogurt came on behalf of Project Mays, the response was equally enthusiastic.

With all this generosity, the BSC purchased $20,000 of new equipment for Milam’s playground, chosen specifically with energetic elementary students in mind. “It’s all really interactive; we didn’t want to pick something they’d just sit on, but chose the equipment knowing that we wanted the kids to be active and moving while using it,” says Downing. With these in mind, a brightly colored set with plenty of places to crawl and climb was chosen.

The BSC’s remaining funds will be used to serve ice cream to the Milam students (approximately 705 children) during the playground’s dedication ceremony later that afternoon.

Downing mentioned that this playground has a special significance, as it not only serves the school but also the community around it. “Since Milam is located across the street from a local park, this equipment gets used quite a bit by the community,” says Downing.

The BSC will also sand and paint the older playground equipment. The BSC will pre-treat the old equipment a week before they paint it, and they are asking for volunteers. Those interested in helping out with Project Mays 2010 can sign up by sending an email to projectmays2010@gmail.com with “Project Mays” in the subject line. Volunteers will be required to fill out a background check a week prior to the event.

Categories: Students

On April 1, close to 700 people in electric blue tee shirts enjoyed a concert from country crooner Granger Smith ’02 at the Wolf Pen Creek amphitheater in College Station. But neither the tee shirts nor the concert were about Smith—the crowd gathered to celebrate one of Mays’ most beloved figures, Jeff Conant, professor of marketing, who was lost to illness in June 2009. The “Project Conant” tee shirts were part of a fund raising effort that netted approximately $10,000 to be added to a scholarship fund set up in Conant’s name.

Students and friends listen to country singer Granger Smith '02 at a concert benefiting the Project Conant scholarship fund.
Students and friends listen to country singer Granger Smith ’02 at a concert benefiting the Project Conant scholarship fund. (view more concert photos)

Janet Parish, clinical associate professor and assistant marketing department head, was one of the key organizers of the concert, which was hosted by Team Conant (a group of his family, former students, and close colleagues). She estimates that 1,000 shirts were sold. While the total donation amount is not fully tallied, expectations are that the fund will reach its $30,000 mark, creating the largest endowed scholarship in the Department of Marketing. There was more than $12,000 already in the fund when Team Conant began their effort. Donations are still being accepted.

Parish imagines that Conant would be very pleased by the scholarship, as he was an enthusiastic educator with a passion for his students. When he took the StrengthsFinders assessment, one of his high scoring areas was “developing others.” She says, “He always liked looking for the best in others and encouraging others.”

The concert was the culmination of events honoring the late professor. Earlier in the day, a ceremony and reception were held as the Dr. Jeffrey S. Conant Behavioral Research Lab was dedicated in the Wehner Building. The lab is a fitting tribute to Conant, said Bala Shetty, executive associate dean and Letbetter Chair in Business, as its creation was Conant’s brainchild. It has been in use since August 2007. “Jeff vigorously advocated for a behavioral lab,” he said, noting that while space in the building was at a premium, Conant successfully argued for the college-wide benefits of the research facility, which he loved to tell people was “one of the best, probably the best behavioral research lab in the country.”

Assistant Professors Kelly Haws and Karen Winterich have been the faculty members most heavily involved in research in the lab. They relayed Conant’s attention to detail in its creation, and his enthusiasm for all that went on there. “He took it upon himself to personally ensure that everything needed for state-of-the-art research was firmly in place,” said Winterich. “He cared about making this a great resource.”

Carol Conant, wife of the late Dr. Jeff Conant, and Mays Dean Jerry Strawser '83 formally dedicate the Jeffrey S. Conant Behavioral Research Lab at Mays Business School.
Carol Conant, wife of the late Dr. Jeff Conant, and Mays Dean Jerry Strawser ’83 formally dedicate the Jeffrey S. Conant Behavioral Research Lab at Mays Business School. (view more dedication photos)

Haws says the lab is significant: “We think it’s destined to play a major role in enhancing the reputation of the marketing department at Mays and the university as a whole for scholarly research.”

Stephen McGee ’07, a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, was one of Conant’s MS in Marketing students last year. Speaking at the dedication, he remembered the faculty member fondly, saying that he was one of the best men and best teachers he’s ever known. “Dr. Conant had a passion to make students better. He wanted to, as he put it, take them out of their comfort zone.”

Brandon Coleman, Jr. ’78, a graduate and a supporter of the marketing department, echoed McGee, recalling what an upstanding man Conant was in life. To honor his friend, Coleman will provide the funding for the first student to receive the Conant memorial scholarship this fall.

Mays Dean Jerry Strawser remembered that Conant was very involved in the A&M Center for Teaching Excellence, frequently participating in their Faculty Teaching Academy program where faculty shared ideas with each other with the goal of improving their teaching. This group has chosen to honor Conant in that they have announced that the 2010-2011 Faculty Teaching Academy will be presented in his honor.

To donate

To give to the scholarship that has been started in Conant’s name, go to givenow.tamu.edu. Choose “Mays Business School” from the first pull-down menu; then “College of Business Administration General Scholarships” in the second pull-down menu. In the “Special Instructions and Comments” box, type in “Jeffrey S. Conant Memorial Scholarship.”

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Students

A team of Mays MBA students recently placed 4th in the national Operations Simulation Competition hosted by the MIT Sloan Operations Management Club. The teams were tested on their ability to process information quickly and to make accurate predictions about demand on the fly. For three days, teams monitored the production of a simulated factory 24 hours a day, trying to earn the most money through efficient production.

Each team managed a simulated factory. According to Telyn Joseph ’11, students controlled some factors regarding the factory’s production including lot size, inventory reorder point, the number of machines working at each station, and work in process. Due to demand data being so limited, teams had to forecast what the demand would be each time production began. The more accurately they forecast, the closer they got to victory.

“The biggest challenge was that demand was not known and sufficient capital was also not provided in order to acquire inventory and capacity,” said Joseph, who explained that the team used modeling methods in order to forecast what demand might be. Decisions were based on projected numbers, so that the better they forecasted demand, the more money they would make.

The exercise was designed to teach basic concepts of operations, such as capacity planning, scheduling, and inventory management.

There were 75 teams competing, representing 300 MBA students from around the globe. The Mays team finished just behind teams from the University of California-San Diego (teams placed 1st and 3rd), New York University (2nd). Team members included: Andrew Folkert ’11, Ryan Goodnight ’11, Praveen Jain ’11, and Telyn Joseph ’11.

Categories: Students

My fifteen-year-old son, Nathan, has taken up golf recently. This seems like a relatively healthy balance as a spring sport to complement basketball, which is his primary sport. I also know that it is a great skill to have in the business world, as most rounds of golf involve four or five hours of talking, and 20 minutes of actually hitting the ball. Many deals have been done and relationships forged on the golf course. Unfortunately, every sports headline since he took up golf has been about Tiger Woods. And then, last Sunday, things changed.

Brian Davis is not a household name. He is an outstanding golfer, which is why he plays on the PGA tour. But it would be hard to say that he has been burning it up this year out on the links. Until last week, Davis had played in nine tournaments and finished in the top 40 only once, missing four cuts. The Englishman has never won a PGA event.

On Sunday he made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the Verizon Heritage Classic to force a playoff with Jim Furyk, a veteran with 14 tour victories. On the first playoff hole, Davis’s approach shot hit the green and then caromed into a hazard. In hitting out of the hazard, he thought he saw a reed move in his backswing, a violation of the “loose impediment” rule that results in a two-stroke penalty. He was not certain, however, and called an official over to review the situation. Slow motion replays indicated movement, and the tournament was over.

I have already seen cynical blog posts saying that he had to call it on himself because there were cameras all around. I have also seen comments that the rule is stupid, and they got the rule wrong, and he won $615,000 anyway. But a golfer who respects the game makes that decision to self-report in the moment, without consulting with anybody else, and with almost no time to calculate the consequences. Unfortunately, hindsight provides steroid-level growth for cynicism.

What the world observed on Sunday was the beauty of self-regulation, something largely forgotten in business today. The accounting profession was “self-regulated” for most of my career. The SEC was there to punish egregious behavior, but for the most part CPAs punished each other and tried to root out those who were involved in unethical behavior. There were periodic scandals that led to calls for reform. But CPAs generally were seen as a restraining force reining in the worst impulses of the marketplace.

This is no longer the case. Too often, CPAs have colluded with clients or at least been fraud enablers. At the center of almost every financial scandal is the CFO, almost always a CPA—Andy Fastow of Enron, Mark Swartz of Tyco International, and Scott Sullivan of WorldCom, to name a few. They were the best and the brightest, and they did their very best to bring the profession crashing down.

But they were not real CPAs. They could not have cared less about the public interest, or people’s pension plans, or the hopes and dreams that parents had for their children. They only cared about themselves. And, as I have written elsewhere, we would have been better off without them. Because they could not control themselves, because they were not self-regulated, Congress gave the accounting profession the gift of full outside regulation in the form of Sarbanes-Oxley and the PCAOB.

What we saw in Brian Davis Sunday were the habits and the conscience of a self-regulated man. It was not an accident that he did what he did, and I am confident it was not the first time he had ever told the truth when it was difficult, and expensive, to do so. Brian Davis is a real golfer.

Not everyone is a real golfer, as my son has discovered in his first year playing tournaments. He has been a witness to rampant cheating, tournament after tournament. We are raising up new Andy Fastows on today’s high school golf courses. Kill the conscience, and you kill the habits that go with it.

And not everyone is a real CPA. Some people would rather get rich than tell the truth. There is evidence that this is true on the PGA tour, and I know that it is true in my profession. We used to be a self-regulated profession. But, then, we used to deserve it.

Categories: Bottom Line Ethics

The Texas A&M Full-Time MBA program at Mays Business School is on the rise in the annual rankings by U.S. News and World Report. This year the program is ranked 13th among U.S. public programs—up one place from last year. Among all programs in the nation, public and private, the Mays Full-Time MBA program is tied for 33rd.

Also of note, the program is ranked 2nd in the nation for employment at three months after graduation among public universities, and 5th among all public and private programs. The rankings data also show that the program is among the most selective public programs, with a 22.7 percent acceptance rate, which is the lowest acceptance rate among ranked programs in Texas.

The strategic vision for the Full-Time MBA program, and all programs within Mays Business School, is to be listed in the top ten among public universities in all major rankings. In the latest rankings from Financial Times the Full-Time MBA program placed 9th among public schools.

The U.S. News rankings were based on two types of data: expert opinions about program quality and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research, and students. U.S. News surveyed thousands of academics and professionals to arrive at these rankings.

For further information, please visit the U.S. News website at www.usnews.com.

Categories: Programs

Personal attention to each student, a willingness to tailor lessons to all learning styles, and a dedication to self-improvement in the classroom are traits that earned Associate Professor of Finance Paige Fields recent recognition as the recipient of the Academy of Finance 2010 Teaching Excellence Award. This is the only international teaching award available in the discipline of finance.

Paige Fields
Fields

Fields has also been nominated for a 2010 Texas A&M Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award (the highest teaching honor at the university), as well as the John Robert Gregg Award in Business Education from the National Business Education Association.

Another testament to her classroom success, she has received the Texas A&M University’s Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award at the university level (2000) and at the college level (1998), and a Mays Teaching Innovation Fellowship (2004-2006); received a teaching innovation grant from Mays in 2009; received the 1996 Distinguished MBA Faculty Award; and was a Center for Teaching Excellence Montague scholar in 1997.

After 20 years in the classroom, Fields is confident in her skills, but not satisfied with the status quo. “You really don’t achieve teaching excellence. You’re always striving for teaching excellence,” she says, noting that she participates in a Faculty Learning Community on Universal Design (classroom theory that incorporates teaching to all types of learners); she takes seriously comments from her students on teacher evaluation forms; and she is constantly trying to improve her curriculum and her style of teaching by attending and presenting at workshops dedicated to the craft.

“I believe that as faculty members, we should care deeply about each student and his or her learning experiences. The faculty/student relationship should be a mentoring relationship that is based on mutual respect. We should invest sufficient time in our students so that they know that we are going the extra mile to provide them with a top-notch learning experience.”
—Excerpt from Fields’ teaching philosophy statement

After teaching the “Honors Corporate Finance I” course for 14 years, Fields recently began teaching “Corporate Finance II” for Mays undergraduates. She has completely overhauled the course to improve content, ensuring students are better prepared for the workplace. She is also the curriculum coordinator for the course, so she works with other faculty members who teach the material to maintain consistent quality across multiple sections. The course is a requirement for all finance majors, and contains information vital to their success in the program and in the professional world.

RESEARCH NOTES

Fields and colleagues (including Mays Professor of Finance and Hugh Roy Cullen Chair in Business Don Fraser) are currently examining borrowing firms’ boards of directors and board members’ individual traits, including: gender, length of service on the board, number of outside boards on which they serve, whether they are independent, whether they serve an advisory role, and whether or not they are paid for their service to the board and how much. They also examine other important governance characteristics such as ownership structure, CEO compensation, shareholder protection mechanisms, and the firm/borrower relationship. One paper on this topic, “Corporate Governance and the Perceived Value of Bank Loans,” was published in September 2008 in the Journal of Corporate Finance.

Her current work examines how the quality of a company’s board of directors influences the cost of bank loans. If a firm has board members with many years of experience or one that is employed in the same industry as the borrowing company, then they are able to borrow at a significantly lower interest rate. The same is true if the board of directors is large and is dominated by independent directors.

It’s her personal touch that makes Fields stand out as a teacher at a large institution: she makes a point of supporting her students outside of the classroom by attending their special events including athletic games or other performances.

As if that wasn’t enough, Fields is involved in research in the areas of corporate governance, banking, insurance, and capital structure. Her current work examines how the quality of a company’s board of directors influences the cost of bank loans. If a firm has board members with many years of experience or one that is employed in the same industry as the borrowing company, then they are able to borrow at a significantly lower interest rate. The same is true if the board of directors is large and is dominated by independent directors.

Her research has appeared in the Journal of Corporate Finance, Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, and the Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking.

She assumes one thing that impressed the Academy of Finance award selection committee was that she has an active research agenda and still maintains a high level of teaching quality, as the other four finalists for the award came from schools where teaching was the primary requirement.

Categories: Faculty

Texas A&M University’s Association of Former Students has released the names of seven Aggies selected as 2010 Distinguished Alumni. Two are Mays graduates: William H. “Bill” Flores ’76 and Don H. Davis, Jr. ’61 (view the complete list of honorees).

Established in 1962, the Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University. Since its inception, 197 individuals have been recognized for their significant contributions to their professions, Texas A&M University, and their local communities.

“This tremendous class of distinguished alumni exemplifies what is possible with a degree from Texas A&M,” said A&M President Dr. R. Bowen Loftin ’71. “Even more impressive than their individual accomplishments, however, is that they have based their lives on the core values that are interwoven into each and every Aggie. These former students are true exemplars of the Aggie Spirit across our state and country, as well as around the world.”

The Association of Former Students will honor the 2010 Distinguished Alumni in formal events and ceremonies throughout the year. The association will honor all recipients of this award during its annual Distinguished Alumni Gala on October 15, 2010. In addition, the 2010 recipients will be hosted for dinner by Loftin and recognized during the Texas A&M football game against Missouri on October 16.

About the Mays honorees

Don H. Davis, Jr. ’61, graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a master of science in business administration from the school in 1963. During his time at A&M, he was a member of the Corps of Cadets, the varsity baseball team and the Shreveport Hometown Club.

After graduation, Davis worked as an engineering sales trainee with Allen-Bradley and moved up through the sales and marketing ranks to become president of Allen-Bradley in 1989, four years after its acquisition by Rockwell. Davis was named president of Rockwell International in 1996, CEO in 1997 and chairman in 1998. He retired in 2005 after a distinguished 42-year career with the company.

Davis was honored with the Dwight Look College of Engineering Outstanding Alumni Award in 1990, and he was elected to the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Graduates in 1992.

Davis and his wife, Sallie, have supported Texas A&M with endowments, including the Sallie and Don Davis ’61 Professorship in Engineering, two graduate fellowships in mechanical engineering, and a major gift supporting the renovation of Olsen baseball field. Davis has served on the College of Engineering external advisory committee and he continues to serve on many boards. He is an Endowed Century Club member of The Association of Former Students and he volunteers and contributes to many educational and cultural organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

• • • • •

William H. “Bill” Flores ’76 earned a BBA in accounting from A&M and earned an MBA from Houston Baptist University in 1985. As a student at Texas A&M, Flores was a member of the Corps of Cadets and the Ross Volunteers. He was vice president of the Memorial Student Center and the student body’s vice president of finance.

Flores pursued a career managing the finances of several businesses and was chosen as CFO for a string of successful energy companies, ultimately becoming CEO and president of Phoenix Exploration Co., from which he recently retired to pursue public service.

Flores was named an Outstanding Alumnus of Mays in 2003, and he and his wife, Gina, were honored as Fish Camp namesakes in 2008. They are among Texas A&M’s most generous benefactors, having funded many scholarships programs and endowments to Mays, the College of Education, and the Corps of Cadets. Due to Flores’ generous support of the project to enhance the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Center, the Great Hall was renamed Flores Hall in their honor.

Flores served as chair of The Association of Former Students in 2007 and is a member of the 12th Man Foundation Athletic Ambassadors Council, the Mays Business School Development Council, and the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Development Council. He is an Endowed Century Club member and an active participant in the Brazos County A&M Club.

Categories: Former Students, Texas A&M

Note: I actually wrote this several years ago, but the interactions on the blog, some comments in class, and a personal encounter prompted me to share it here.

I strained to hear his voice over the din of traffic a few feet behind him. But, in reality, I already knew what he was saying, because I have heard ministers of various denominations say it before. We were down to the things that have to be said when there is nothing else left to be said. While a small group looked on, we buried Michael Saturday in the last row of the cemetery.

In a high school class that included an Olympic gold medallist and number one NBA draft choice, a Miss USA, and two long-time NFL players, Michael was the only “sure thing” I knew. Admired by every girl under five-foot-five, a polished communicator at seventeen, a scholar-athlete with a ready laugh, the world unfolded before him thirty years ago. He was headed to Notre Dame to make his mark and to follow his destiny. All of us who knew him were aware that great success was inevitable.

Because this was so clear to us, we spent that last year of high school consumed with jealousy. My buddy and I made it our mission to make sure that Michael remained humble, so we began referring to him as “Marvelous Mike,” a moniker that remained in people’s memories even as we said goodbye this weekend. We devised a series of glamorous dates that could be had with Michael and advertised ourselves as “Marvelous Mike’s Dating Service.” We set as our goal to embarrass Michael in ways that would keep him within reach of our mortality.

I moved on with my life, but my buddy turned out to be Michael’s most trusted friend through the years. Each was best man in the other’s wedding, and Ed made sure to keep close ties with Michael wherever he went.

Michael had many successes and some failures as well. The scorebook is perhaps not all that important to the story. He was about to start a great opportunity when they found him in his L. A. apartment, the victim of a heart attack. I do not know the whole story of his life, and I have no need to. I sensed a trace of sadness about it that pervaded the conversations of those more intimately acquainted with the details.

In fact, I felt welcome in the conversations because the days we spent together were actually days in his life pervaded with laughter. I could remember triple dating with Michael and his twin brother in a Volkswagen beetle (what were we thinking?). I recall flying across the grounds of an elementary school in that same Bug, and winning the city soccer championship. I was a co-conspirator in a boondoggle that allowed him to go on a French club trip, even though the required “two years of French” he had taken were in first and second grade. The hardest I ever saw Michael laugh was when I accidentally won a competition on that trip, despite the fact that I had answered the multiple choice test randomly before I ever heard the questions.

In some sense that accidental success characterizes my life. Who knew that I would find Christ and my wife within a year of each other, and that both would shape the track of my entire life? I have had heartache, but the blessings I have experienced have been so overwhelming as to defy logic.

As I listened this weekend, I sensed that the same could not be said about Michael. He had surely had blessings, but his search for peace was ongoing. It turned out that success and happiness in this life are never guaranteed.

Before I left the cemetery, I made sure that I had said “I love you” to two people who should have heard it long ago. And I said an “I’m sorry” that was almost thirty years overdue.

But there was nothing left to say to Michael. I could not tell him that the only “sure things” are on the other side of death, of a hope both sure and secure. I could not tell him that trials come with a purpose, to draw us toward the only One who guarantees real success. I could not even tell him that I loved him.

As I walked away into a gray November afternoon, the only thing I could say was goodbye to a sure thing.

Categories: Bottom Line Ethics

The Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees on April 9 honored San Antonio businessman Lowry Mays ’57, famous for reshaping the cultural and economic impact of radio. In addition to his corporate work, Mays is well-known for his generosity to Mays Business School and the George Bush Presidential Library. For his philanthropy to A&M, the Foundation trustees selected Mays to receive its Sterling C. Evans Medal.

Lowry Mays '57 was recently honored by the Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees with the Sterling C. Evans Medal.
Lowry Mays ’57 was recently honored by the Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees with the Sterling C. Evans Medal.

The Evans Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Texas A&M philanthropic efforts. Evans Medal recipients exhibit a distinguished record of philanthropy benefiting Texas A&M, through giving and volunteer leadership. Other qualifications include a willingness and ability to motivate others to support Texas A&M, a lifelong devotion to Texas A&M and higher education, and a personal history of integrity and excellence in all aspects of life. Previous recipients include George Mitchell, H.R. “Bum” Bright, Jon Hagler and Sterling C. Evans himself.

During the mid-1990s, Mays made a huge splash with his first major gift to Texas A&M: $15 million for the College of Business, later renamed to Mays Business School. In 2009, Mays, founder of Clear Channel Communications, and his wife, Peggy, gave an additional $7.5 million for nine endowed faculty chairs at Mays. Part of that gift will be matched with contributions from other donors, bringing its total impact to $12 million.

“We are fortunate to have generous benefactors in the Mays family,” Jerry Strawser, dean of Mays Business School, said in response to the faculty gift. “Their past support has enabled our school to achieve status as one of the top public business schools in the world.” Mays graduates are heavily recruited, with many ending up in leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies.

Mays, former chairman of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, has contributed nearly $2 million to the Bush Presidential Library on the A&M campus. His additional gifts helped to purchase a bronze statue of Earl Rudder ’32, former president of Texas A&M; assisted Corps of Cadets programs; and supported other student activities.

After receiving his petroleum engineering degree from Texas A&M in 1957, Mays served his three-year Air Force commitment, during which he met and married Peggy. He then earned a master’s degree from Harvard Business School.

Lowry and Peggy Mays settled in San Antonio to raise their four children. Working there as an investment banker, he became owner of an FM radio station in 1972 when a borrower defaulted on a loan that Mays had co-signed.

Mays saw an opportunity in FM radio, partnered with Red McCombs to purchase more stations and soon left banking to focus on the business that would become Clear Channel Communications. The company quickly increased its radio station ownership to more than 1,200 stations. Clear Channel also added television stations, outdoor advertising and live entertainment to its portfolio, which included properties in Europe, Australia and Mexico.

The Texas A&M Foundation’s Evans Medal – presented on campus to the A&M Legacy Society gala crowd of 450 donors, students, faculty and staff – is one of many honors Mays has accrued through the years. Mays was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2004. He was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997.

The Texas A&M Foundation is a private nonprofit corporation established in 1953 to encourage, receive and manage gifts in support of educational excellence at Texas A&M University. The Foundation currently leads Operation Spirit and Mind, a $300 million initiative raising funds for Aggie scholarships fellowships.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students, Texas A&M