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 Smithâ€”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. (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. (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 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.”