Former U.S. Defense Secretary and previous Texas A&M University President Robert Gates and his wife Becky have committed a $1.5 million estate gift to the Texas A&M Foundation to support the early childhood center on campus named in her honor.
The Becky Gates Children’s Center was established in 1998 to provide care for the children of Texas A&M students and employees and serves 150 students between the ages of 12 months to 5 years. The center was named in honor of Becky Gates in 2006 when Arthur McFerrin Jr., a 1965 Texas A&M graduate, and his wife Dorothy donated $1 million to the cause. Dorothy McFerrin developed a strong friendship with Becky Gates and the pair bonded over their shared interests in education and child care.
“I continued to work fulltime after I had my kids, so I was lucky to have a reliable babysitter and a good child care center when they turned 3,” Becky Gates said. “If you are a working mom, knowing that your child is healthy and has reliable, competent daycare and schools is so important.”
A portion of the gift will go toward professional development for center employees, such as conferences and workshops that would provide teachers with networking and mentoring opportunities. The funds will also be used to purchase teaching materials, especially in the areas of math and science.
“This gift will allow the legacy of Mrs. Gates to continue,” said Kisha Lee, center director. “Her dedication and commitment to education is admirable and inspires us to provide the best care and education. We thank the Gateses for their selfless gift and will work to continue to make them proud of the early childhood center at Texas A&M.”
Robert Gates is the only career officer in the history of the CIA to rise from entry-level employee to director. During his 26-year CIA career, he served six presidents from both political parties.
“When, thanks to a very generous gift from Artie and Dorothy McFerrin, the Children’s Center was named for Becky, we saw an opportunity to make a lasting and meaningful contribution of our own to the university and its faculty, students and staff,” Robert Gates said. “Our gift is also a manifestation of Becky’s continuing connection to the Center and the joy that brings her.”
Robert Gates came to Texas A&M in 1999 as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. In 2002, he became the 22nd president of Texas A&M, a position he held until 2006 when he returned to Washington, D.C., as the nation’s secretary of defense.
He was regarded as an “agent of change” at Texas A&M for his investments in minority admissions, faculty recruitment and construction programs. During his tenure, Robert Gates implemented plans to hire almost 450 new faculty members and launched a $500 million construction campaign. As first lady, Becky Gates was active in numerous campus organizations, including the Texas A&M Women’s Club, the Horticulture Gardens and MSC OPAS. She was also an avid supporter of women’s athletics.
Both Robert and Becky Gates hold honorary doctoral degrees from Texas A&M.
“Bob and Becky have supported Texas A&M in a monumental way over the past 15 years,” said Ed Davis, president of the Texas A&M Foundation and a 1967 graduate from the university. “We are extremely privileged to be the recipient of their generosity, and the Becky Gates Children’s Center is just one piece of the broad legacy they have left on this campus.”
Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a private nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M’s capability to be among the best universities. For more information on the Texas A&M Foundation and related giving opportunities, visit giving.tamu.edu.
Media contact: Monika Blackwell, Texas A&M Foundation, at (979) 845-8161