“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
When Kelly Boatright, Texas A&M Class of 1992, first discovered these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson, they struck a chord, and she says they have guided her ever since. His powerful sentiment combined with the transformative leadership and service opportunities she experienced as part of The Big Event at Texas A&M University inspired Boatright to create a $25,000 endowment for the student organization that changed her life.
Her gift, managed by the Texas A&M Foundation, will allow more students who are financially strapped to be part of The Big Event. “Any Aggie who wants to participate in The Big Event should not be deterred due to an inability to pay the required $50 membership dues,” she said, “and since I’m paying for this gift over five years and using matching funds from The Coca-Cola Company, it’s a relatively painless process and a big win for all of us.”
Shortly after graduating with a degree in journalism and a focus on marketing and advertising, Boatright landed a job as a graphic designer for Daisytek International. In 1998, after five years and two promotions, her experience and Aggie connections helped her get a job at Coca-Cola in Atlanta. As director of shopper marketing, she is responsible for strategic marketing integration across top customers and channels of trade.
Big Leadership and Service Lessons
Since 1982, thousands of students come together to thank residents of Bryan and College Station, the sister communities that are nearly synonymous with Texas A&M. Students show their appreciation by completing service projects such as yard work, window washing, gardening, and painting for community residents. This year, more than 20,000 student volunteers met on campus to hear motivational speeches from Texas A&M leaders before they collected shovels, paint brushes, rags, rakes and other supplies, and blanketed the Bryan-College Station area to assist any resident that filled out an online application for assistance.
At times the sheer scale of The Big Event and the good karma it creates around Aggieland overshadows the leadership and service opportunities it provides students behind the scenes. Each and every aspect of this massive operation, from tool management to sponsorship, is planned, directed, and carried out by students. While a professional adviser with the Division of Student Affairs provides some assistance and continuity from year to year, students drive progress and can take credit for making it the largest, one-day, student-run service project in the nation.
During her four years at Texas A&M, Boatright served on The Big Event leadership team, culminating as its director during her junior and senior year. While her hands-on experiences helping people in the community changed her attitude and outlook on service, it was the leadership experience that ultimately inspired her donation to The Big Event.
“It may sound cliché, but The Big Event changed my life,” Boatright said. “It provided me with a real-world leadership experience that prepared me for life after college. I had the opportunity to present to city councils, participate in TV and radio interviews, develop expansion plans, organize tens of thousands of students and projects, inspire a committee to get to the finish line, and most important, to provide a positive impact on the local community. You can’t duplicate an experience like this in a classroom. It only happens when you allow students to stretch and give them the chance to lead. Given the amazing history and success of The Big Event, most students step up and meet the challenge. When we graduate, we take what we learn in the classrooms and labs, and combine it with these incredible student experiences like The Big Event that instill leadership, service, and other Aggie core values.”
Once she became financially stable at Coca-Cola, Boatright did not hesitate to give back to the organization that greatly influenced her time at Texas A&M. Coca-Cola matched her donation 2:1, tripling its value. The $25,000 principal, invested by the Texas A&M Foundation, will yield annual payouts to support students.
Continue reading on the Division of Student Affairs site.
Media contact: Sondra White’87, Division of Student Affairs, 979-458-3296; firstname.lastname@example.org