Campus Life

Austin Couple Establish Major Texas A&M Scholarship

Russell White and his wife, Elyse, 1993 graduates of Texas A&M, have established a President’s Endowed Scholarship with a $100,000 gift.
By Mary Vinnedge, Texas A&M Foundation January 20, 2011

Russell White and his wife, Elyse, 1993 graduates of Texas A&M University, have established a President’s Endowed Scholarship (PES) with a $100,000 gift. Russell White was a recipient of a PES when he worked toward his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

“I’ve always tagged my PES as an unpaid debt, perhaps a debt of gratitude,” said White, an Austin resident. “It might be an upbringing thing. My parents and grandparents always taught me to say thank you for gifts, and creating this scholarship seemed to be the right way to show my gratitude.”

White said he hopes the PES, funded through the Texas A&M Foundation, will help recipients in several ways. “I hope receiving a PES bolsters self-esteem; recipient students need to know they have already done something worthy of recognition,” he says. “I hope it motivates the recipients to push through the tough times that are inevitable when pursuing a four-year degree. And I hope it fosters a sense of personal responsibility to succeed and to help others succeed.”

The PES, which will help Aggies forever because it is endowed, is awarded on the basis of academic merit and demonstrated leadership. The Whites also placed preferences on their PES that recipients lettered in a high school sport and will major in engineering or science.

“I’m impressed by the student who performs academically while committing the time and effort necessary to be an athlete,” Russell White explained. “For most people, lettering in a sport requires a long-term commitment and a willingness to put in several years of sacrifice for a future reward. Hopefully, student athletes understand time management, maintain a balanced lifestyle and know how to finish even when they have nothing left in the tank.”

He said he considers engineering and science education crucial to innovation, which he called “the key to job creation and to our success in the global economy. My dad told me I could be anything I wanted as long as I earned my engineering degree first. He believed that the study of engineering trained people to think analytically and to solve problems. I think he was right,” he adds.

While employed as an engineer, White completed an evening program to earn his law degree from Philadelphia-based Temple University. Though he worked for several years as a lawyer, he said he was always a “garage inventor” and holds 18 patents.

He left the 20-person law firm he co-founded to start the innovation company Affinity Labs of Texas, which generates product and business ideas that can be marketed and manufactured by others. Reflecting the personality of its founder, the company teaches and fosters innovation in an effort to create opportunities — much as the Whites are trying to do with their newly funded PES.

In addition, the Whites want their scholarship recipients to share the joy of attending Texas A&M. “We believe it to be a fantastic school and fantastic environment for college students of all ages,” the couple confirms.

The Whites made their gift during the Texas A&M Foundation’s Operation Spirit and Mind, an initiative raising $300 million for Aggie scholarships and graduate fellowships.

For details about Operation Spirit and Mind, contact Jody Ford at (800) 392-3310 or fund-a-scholarship@tamu.edu. The Foundation is a private nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in Texas A&M academics and student leadership programs; find out more online at giving.tamu.edu.

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