In gratitude for the dedication and leadership of Mr. Bruce D. Upshaw, retired Sr. Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer and current member of the Merichem Board of Directors, Merichem Company endowed a scholarship in Accounting and Finance at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School. Mr. Upshaw has served Merichem since 1981 and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration – Finance.
“Leaders like Bruce are the reason why Merichem has delivered innovative solutions to customers for over three-quarters of a century. Our vision is scholarships like this one will enable more business leaders to rise up and I couldn’t think of a better place than Mays Business School for Bruce to select as the place to direct this investment,” shared Kendra Lee, Merichem Company Chairman & CEO.
Upshaw joined Merichem in 1981 after filling a variety of accounting and supervisory positions over eleven years with Shell Oil Company. He began his Merichem career as Accounting Manager, became Controller in 1985, and was elected Treasurer of Merichem Company in 1995.
In 1997 Upshaw was elected CFO of Merisol USA, the Texas Operating Company of Merisol, a Merichem-Sasol Joint Venture. In 1999 he rejoined Merichem and became CFO in 2002. Upshaw has served on Merichem’s board of directors since 2006.
“I was blessed to join an amazing organization and work with wonderful people in my career,” shared Bruce Upshaw. “I’m thrilled Merichem has this program in place and we, together, contribute to fostering the next generation of leaders.”
Bruce demonstrates his continuing passion for Texas A&M through support for The Texas A&M Foundation, The 12th Man Foundation, The Association of Former Students, the Aggie Band, Parson’s Mounted Cavalry and the Yell Leaders.
“The faculty and students at Mays Business School are grateful for the generosity of Merichem Company and Bruce Upshaw,” shared Eli Jones, Dean of Mays Business School. “Scholarships allow students an opportunity to experience all that Texas A&M has to offer and to fulfill our vision at Mays to advance the world’s prosperity. We are developing transformational leaders and support from individuals and organizations are how we raise up equipped and experienced talent.”
The Bruce D. Upshaw ’70 Endowed Scholarship in Accounting and Finance was established at Texas A&M University on August 21, 2020 for the benefit of Mays School of Business. Merichem Company of Houston, Texas provided the gift funds and the endowment honors Mr. Upshaw of Hays County, Texas.
About Merichem Company
Founded in 1945, Merichem Company serves the global oil and gas and petrochemical industries as a leader in full-service sulfur removal, caustic treating and spent caustic treatment technologies. Merichem also provides safe and reliable spent caustic handling services through beneficial reuse and recycling of spent caustics, turning would-be waste into valuable and viable commodities.
Almost six months to the date of the originally planned celebration disrupted by Coronavirus, on October 8, 2020, Mays friends and family gathered at the Texas A&M Hotel and via Zoom to celebrate and honor the 2020 Outstanding Alumni. Safety protocol was followed with 6-feet spaced tables seating six instead of their regular 12, facemasks were worn at all times unless eating, and the event was moved to a hybrid virtual/in-person structure. The in-person celebration, though smaller than past years, was a welcomed reminder of our collective humanity and love of Mays Business School.
As the highest honor a Mays Business School graduate can receive from the college, recipients of the Mays Outstanding Alumni Award are recognized for leading lives of distinction and embodying the Aggie core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service.
Coming from different backgrounds and walks of life, these recipients are chosen for their activity in their communities and continued involvement within the Mays community. Mays recognized the three 2020 Outstanding Alumni inductees at the 28th annual Outstanding Alumni Awards Dinner.
The honorees are Laura C. Fulton ’85, Randall B. Hale ’85, and Blake A. Pounds ’89.
So far, Mays has honored 91 former students who have reached outstanding achievements and have made significant contributions within their respective fields, as well as within Mays and their surrounding communities.
Laura C. Fulton ’85 is the vice-president of finance for the American Bureau of Shipping
Fulton graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Fulton, who started as an auditor at Deloitte & Touche, reached a career milestone when she assisted Hi- Crush Partners LP in becoming a publicly-traded company as the organization’s CFO. In 2019, “Oil & Gas Investor” magazine recognized Fulton as one of the “25 Most Influential Women in Energy.”
At the dinner, Fulton mentioned her multi-generational Aggie family and called out her dad, Daniel Clinton ’52, Texas A&M Distinguished Alumni Recipient, and the ways that they have supported her.
“A lot of people think of giving back t0 A&M as a giving of money but I think of it as giving yourself– giving your time and your talents.”
Randall B. Hale ’85 is founder and managing director of Rock Hill Capital Group
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
At the Outstanding Alumni Dinner, Hale said that it was an honor to be on the stage after seeing the names and the pictures of the past recipients of the Outstanding Alumni Awards on the screen during the dinner.
“Certainly an unexpected award for me, I didn’t anticipate receiving it. Thanks to Dr. Jim Benjamin and a few other phenomenal business teachers, I am where I am today.”
Blake A. Pounds ’89 serves as Accenture’s Houston Office Managing Director where he leads more than 2,000 professionals and oversees developing local business relationships, expanding civic presence, and fostering employee engagement.
Pounds graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance.
Pounds said at the dinner that in the same way that iron sharpens iron, so had the family, friends, and colleagues in the room sharpened him to be the man he was.
“Texas A&M has given me a lot and it’s neat now, later in my career, to be able to give back and to give opportunities to current students.”
I received my undergrad in AgriBusiness from Texas A&M and then went on to work at MEI Technologies (then is was Muniz Engineering). My father founded MEIT in 1992, I began working there in 2001. Over the next ten years, I worked in various corporate departments and had taken on leadership roles within the company. We began succession planning for MEIT and I was interested in additional formal education (MBA) to help prepare me for my next roles within the company as an executive and an owner. I attended an Aggie 100 lunch with my father who was receiving an award, and Ricky Griffin happened to be a guest at our table. He was talking about the Executive MBA (EMBA) program and the new location at City Centre. I applied to the program and found it to be competitive with other programs and very convenient in terms of location and my work schedule.
After graduating in 2014, I had an opportunity to take an idea developed at MEIT and launch a new business providing testing in the harsh environment of space as a service. In 2015 I founded Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, and in 2018 we launched a testing platform that is permanently attached to the International Space Station. We privately own the facility, known as MISSE, and offer government agencies, academia, private companies, and now individuals access to the low earth orbit space environment. We are part of a small group of companies offering commercial services in space and at the forefront of developing a new space economy.
My EMBA prepared me for the launch (literally) of this new company not only through the academics, but also set a cadence of hard work and efficiency for me. I made great relationships and connections, and have gone on to participate and serve in other organizations as a direct result of the network I built during my time in the EMBA program.
Mays: How did the idea about sending the EMBA Class XX Coin come to gain traction?
SM: I was meeting with Julie [Orzabal, Director, Texas A&M Executive MBA Program] and had expressed an interest in staying engaged with the EMBA program. We were chatting about the Class XX graduating and their program coming to an end. I shared with her that I sent my husband’s Aggie ring into space, and I commented to her how cool it would be to send their class coin, which typically travels around the world with students, on the ultimate trip into space. I committed to sponsor that trip for the Class XX coin, and Julie let me announce it to the class via Zoom on their last program day.
Mays: Can you detail exactly what will happen, as planned, for the EMBA Class XX Coin?
SM: The EMBA Class XX coin was delivered to our headquarters in Houston. It will be put into our vacuum chamber and the pressure will reduced to 10-6 torr (0.000000001 atmosphere) and the temperature will be raised to 60oC (140oF). This removes contaminants and particulates from the coin and prepares it for space flight. It is then moved into our 10K clean room, where our engineers integrate the coin into a MISSE carrier along with other experiments bound for the space station. Our carrier is packed and delivered to NASA Johnson Space Center, then shipped along with all the other cargo manifested on our flight to the International Space Station. NASA will ship the cargo to the launch site, either Florida for a SpaceX launch, or Virginia for a Northrup Grumman launch, and it will be packed for launch.
It will launch in spring 2021, where the coin will experience acceleration forces of about 3X to 4X gravity. Once docked to the ISS, the astronaut crew will unpack our carrier from the cargo. An astronaut attaches our carrier, containing the Class XX coin, to the MISSE transfer tray and send them through the airlock into space attached to the ISS robotic arm. The robotic arm and other robotic tools plug our carrier into the MISSE facility, which we will then control from our operations center here in Houston. The Class XX coin will be exposed to the harsh environment of space, including extreme temperature changes that can range from -40oC to 60oC (-40oF to 140oF), while it orbits the Earth approximately 16 times per day. At this point, the coin is traveling almost 5 miles per second and is about 240 miles above the Earth. We expect it to stay for about 6 months totaling over 75,000,000 miles on its trip in space.
At the end of this mission, the carrier is returned into the habitable portion of the space station by the robotic arm and the transfer tray. The astronauts load it, along with other cargo, for a ride back to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon capsule. Once retrieved by NASA, the carrier is returned to our office in Houston, where our engineers de-integrate and unpack the carriers. At that time, the coin will be returned to Class XX and happy hour to follow!
Mays: What’s next after the EMBA Class XX Coin?
SM: In 2019, we were the first company to sign a reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA to allow us to purchase resources from NASA (launch, astronaut time, etc) to send commercial items to the International Space Station. This allows us to open space access to private individuals, not just researchers, for personal use. In 2021, we will be selling space for Aggie Rings and other personal mementos to fly in one of our carriers just like the Class XX coin. For about the price of an airline ticket for international travel, an Aggie ring can complete a mission to the space station and return to its owner.
Mays: Why is this special and important to you – and why you think it’ll be special for others?
SM: Sending an item into the space environment and having it returned is such a unique experience that has been limited to very select scientists. We have the opportunity to enable that experience for private companies, organizations, and individuals on a limited basis for the first time in the history of space exploration. I think it’s amazing that one could send their Aggie Ring, which connects Aggies instantly and represents Aggie values, on a unique mission into space. The eagle on the ring symbolizes agility, power, and the ability to reach great heights, and what better way to celebrate that than by sending it beyond the sky?
Explore Stephanie Murphy and Texas A&M’s MBA Programs
COLLEGE STATION, TX, June 29, 2020 – Texas A&M’s Executive MBA program has been named a top ten public program by The Economist, the international publication headquartered in London. The program, delivered at CityCentre Houston, is ranked the #1 public program in Texas, the #9 public program in the U.S., the #21 overall program in the U.S., and #37 overall globally.
TheEconomist survey was based on feedback from current students (classes of 2020 and 2021) and Former Students (alumni) from the classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Texas A&M’s Executive MBA program received the top mark in both “Quality of Faculty” and “Student Rating of Teaching Quality” categories above the rest of the 70 international programs ranked this year. The program ranked #2 in the “Student Rating of Faculty” and “Student Rating of Content” categories, a testament to the sentiment current and former students have for the value of the program.
“I am savoring this moment knowing we have been judged by The Economist as the #9 U.S. Public Program,” said Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Arvind Mahajan. “This ranking is a major recognition of the incredible students we have matriculate through our program. The expertise and dedication of our faculty and the hard work and perseverance of these students results in an incredible experience and transformation for each cohort. That vast change is the true output; these rankings are an outcome that measures how our students’ entire lives are improved.”
“It’s wonderful to have The Economist recognize the hard work and dedication that the Executive MBA program faculty and staff put in every semester,” said Eli Jones, Dean of Mays Business School. “Congratulations to the faculty, staff, and students that comprise this Executive MBA program and the impact each of them makes to advance the world’s prosperity. I want to specifically thank Julie Orzabal, the director of the program, who since its inception 20 years ago, has led executive leaders and gained results like these.”
Applications for the Texas A&M Executive MBA program are being accepted now for the class of 2022. For more information, visit mba.tamu.edu.
Analytics gurus and industry leaders highlighted real-world uses of analytics to strengthen cybersecurity operations and counter threats during the Texas A&M Analytics Forum hosted by Mays Business School at the CityCentre Houston campus. Attendees represented a wide cast of industries including non-profits; oil, gas, and energy; telecommunications; and retail to name a few.
“Organizations that have accumulated valuable data have fallen victims of cyberattacks that have caused millions of dollars in damages. Analytics can help predict these vulnerabilities and protect companies from these threats.” said Myra Gonzalez, director of the Texas A&M Master of Science in Analytics program (MS Analytics). “The purpose of this event was to provide a venue for people in the Houston business community as well as faculty, staff, and students to get together, discuss analytics, and share best practices.”
John Stultz, Principal Solutions Architect in Fraud and Security Intelligence at SAS Institute was the first keynote speaker. He shared that data preparation is 80% of the effort in fraud detection, much like in other types of analytics work. He also shared how organizations can consider derived measures for cyber risk, as well as use cases in which machine learning can assist to fight vendor, supplier, and procurement fraud.
The amount of content to share was so vast that Mays had a second keynote from Paul Brager, Author, Speaker, and Researcher in Cyber. He explained how organizations can leverage cyber analytics to protect critical infrastructures. Brager’s talk also highlighted that cyber analytics is not new, adversaries have become increasingly more dangerous, and the need for analytics is essential to fight cyber terrorism, cyber espionage, and cyber sabotage.
Several presentations were conducted by MS Analytics former students. Pablo Ormachea ’16 currently serves as VP of Data Science for a lending company in the D.C. area, and urged data scientists to “refit” and constantly re-deploy models to stay ahead of the game.
Yoel Kluk ’16 hosted a presentation that gave valuable insights from data on types of behaviors that drive criminal activities, and the challenges that organizations face in the quality of the data, and how to measure it.
Tom Broussard ‘17 and Jeff Westenhaver ’17 presented on best practices to mine data for quality and anomalies.
Participants also gained insight into how businesses can benefit from training in statistical methods used in analytical decision-making, common obstacles to big data and analytics, and how companies might build an analytics culture. Participants were able to see a demonstration of how open source programs can be incorporated with SAS tools.
“We’re happy to foster discussion about the challenges that companies face and share ideas to stay ahead of the game,” said Gonzalez. “We can’t wait for next year’s event!”
The free event was hosted by Texas A&M University’s MS Analytics Program, which offers an analytics master’s degree available in Houston and across North America via live video stream to teach working professionals the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly data-driven world. The event was hosted in partnership with SAS®.
On April 24, hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and former students packed Wehner lobby for James Benjamin Day. Energy and excitement pulsed through the room, as attendees wearing t-shirts and stickers that showed “I heart James Benjamin” filed into the lobby.
The event was standing room only as participants waited eagerly from the balcony, lined the stairs, and filled the elevator banks for the celebration to begin.
Dean Jones began the celebration by welcoming students, faculty and staff, and the accounting advisory board to the special event. Among his numerous high praises for Benjamin, Dean Jones declared that Benjamin epitomized the Aggie core values of excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service. Dean Jones also shared that at the beginning of the naming campaign, naysayers told them, “Crowdsourcing won’t work.” However, the campaign ultimately proved otherwise and raised over $10 million for the department. Dean Jones added that Benjamin has served Texas A&M and Mays Business School for 45 years as faculty, and 37 years as the accounting department head. Benjamin positively impacted countless students’ lives and set an example of excellence during his time at the university.
Brian Bishop, the Assistant Vice President of Development at Mays Business School, delivered some words of affirmation and praise for Benjamin. Bishop stated that to have a department named after an individual, “40 years of service and $10 million raised” would be a fantastic place to start. Bishop continued in his praise for Benjamin, describing him as an “excellent human being and an educator.” Bishop encouraged the current students attending the celebration to look around the room and appreciate the accomplishments of those before them. He then instructed each student to ask themselves, “How can I give back, and how can I make my degree more valuable?”
Christy Bauman ’95 took the stage to share her thoughts, insights, and appreciation for Benjamin. Bauman was a member of the third group of PPA students and explained that raising money for the department was, “One of the easiest things to ask for because of Jim and who he is as an individual.”
Professor Mary Lea McAnally then joined the excitement by kicking off a round-robin share out about the magnitude during Benjamin’s tenure in a segment titled, “James Benjamin by the Numbers.”
4,617,600 minutes worked, $8 per minute of funds raised
17,102 students graduated
5,008 PPA graduates
15 former students now serving as professors at Mays
2,113 Business Honors graduates during his tenure
1998 – Outstanding Professor of the Year from Texas A&M
1992 – Benjamin began the PPA program
1968 – Benjamin earned his CPA, in Maryland, with the second highest score in the state
1600 companies employ his graduates
960 business honors students in his Accounting 229 course
314 publications by Ph.D. graduates
258 graduates who are partners at CPA firms
Accounting 229 – countless students have taken Benjamin’s course
199 – the average number of words in a paragraph in an email from Benjamin
158 Ph.D. graduates since Benjamin
61 computers in KPMG lab on cutting edge of technology
42 years in the Department of Accounting
37 years as department head
8 accounting faculty have become administrators at Mays
5 deans Benjamin has served under
40 years ago – James Benjamin was Strawser’s professor
3 PPA Directors reported to Benjamin during his tenure
Finally, Benjamin took the opportunity to share his thoughts and appreciation for the celebration. He said that one of the most rewarding aspects of his career has been watching students he once taught reach retirement. In humility, he added that though he may be the face of the accounting department, there are four necessary ingredients to his success:
Deeply caring faculty built to mirror students
Leaders – he has been at the business school under five deans, and never had a bad boss in his life
Incredibly supportive former students
In a nod to his engaging demeanor, Benjamin expressed that he thinks it is fitting that the accounting department will now share the nickname for 100 dollar bills.
Reynolds and Reynolds’ commitment to developing meaningful relationships with Mays Business School students and faculty and its significant philanthropic support resulted in the corporation’s selection as Mays Business School’s 2019 Partner of the Year. This dynamic partnership was highlighted during Reynolds and Reynolds Day at Mays Business School on April 5.
The day’s events included a Top-to-Top meeting between Reynolds and Reynolds executives and Mays’ leaders to discuss industry trends and Mays’ current and future initiatives. Following a recognition ceremony, company executives participated in a meeting with students and faculty from the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute.
Investing significant time, funds in Mays
The company’s relationship with Mays began with Reynolds and Reynolds employees’ increasing involvement with Mays students and faculty. During the ensuing years, Reynolds and Reynolds financial support for Mays programs has grown. “They’ve made a big impact in a short period of time,” said Mays Dean Eli Jones. “The investments that Reynolds and Reynolds have made have been significant. But it’s more than the money. We have great relationships with these folks. They are partners and have given generously of their time, talent, and treasure.”
The company established a $2 million endowment to support Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans and committed $1 million to create the ReyRey Café in the planned new Business Education Complex. More recently, the company dedicated a $4 million endowment for the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute, an interdisciplinary program that will teach Texas A&M students university-wide about the importance of sales and leading edge sales strategies and technology.
Reynolds and Reynolds is a software and technology company serving automotive dealerships and car manufacturers. While the company might not be a well-recognized name in most U.S. households, consumers are impacted by the company’s products and services every time they visit a car dealership. Reynolds is a leader in helping dealerships streamline operations and improve customer satisfaction through its products and services. In business, the community, and in their own company, Reynolds and Reynolds is well known for their strong commitment to building relationships and supporting their employees through innovative professional development programs.
That commitment makes Reynolds and Reynolds’ partnership with Mays Business School a natural fit. “We talk about networking a lot. It’s a fine word but it can be superficial,” said Senior Vice President for Corporate Development Robert Burnett ’87. “What’s real is relationships. I believe that we’re here today as Partner of the Year because of the relationships we’ve built with Mays.”
A commitment to military veterans
One of the deepest relationships is with the Reynolds and Reynolds Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans. “We love the military. We’re led by ex-military and that’s our company culture,” Burnett said. “Dean Jones brought this program to our attention and it was a no-brainer for us to become a partner. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
This unique bootcamp, which is part of Mays’ McFerrin Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, offers cutting-edge experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans who have service-connected disabilities and a passion for entrepreneurship. Veterans are able to take part in the program at no charge.
Reynolds and Reynolds employees regularly volunteer as speakers, panel participants and mentors at the summer bootcamp. Additionally, the company’s philanthropic contributions are funding the program’s growth. “Reynolds and Reynolds’ support is allowing us to expand the number of veterans that we are able to work with in this program,” said LauraLee Hughes, the McFerrin Center’s assistant director of new ventures. “The other big constraint we’ve had is space. Thanks to this funding, we’re able to expand to other facilities and increase the types of activities that we’re able to do with veterans while they are on campus.”
Enhancing knowledge of sales
Reynolds and Reynolds, endowed the recently announced Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute. “One of the things students need to know is sales. You’re always going to be selling something,” said Senior Vice President for Hardware Operations David Shimek ’86. “That’s one of the things that the institute will be teaching – how to present yourself and how to sell yourself, whether you’re selling a product or yourself. That’s going to be important as students go forward.”
Ultimately, Reynolds and Reynolds’ partnership with Mays is devoted to building relationships that will help students succeed both in college and after they graduate. “Reynolds and Reynolds employees from College Station, Houston, and Dayton are on our campus every semester conducting more than 300 individual role plays with students,” said Janet Parish, the director of the Reynolds and Reynolds Sales Leadership Institute. “The time invested by the recruiting team and the sales force who really help to train our students by is a huge benefit that Reynolds and Reynolds brings.”