In honor of its 20th anniversary, the Becky Gates Children’s Center at Texas A&M University will host a celebration at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 with performances by children who attend the center, fall-themed activities, guest speakers, a book fair and refreshments.
Becky Gates, the center’s namesake, and Dorothy McFerrin, who funded the gift in honor of Gates, are special guest presenters at the event.
Friendship between Dorothy McFerrin and Becky Gates blossomed in the early 2000s after the pair discovered a shared interest in improving education and childcare. In 2006, Dorothy McFerrin and her husband Arthur McFerrin Jr. a 1965 graduate of Texas A&M, created a $1 million endowment for the center, which was named in honor of Becky Gates, wife of former U.S. Defense Secretary and Texas A&M University President Dr. Robert Gates. (Arthur McFerrin passed away on Aug. 8, 2017, after a long battle with cancer.)
“Artie and I told Becky Gates we would like to donate to one of her main interests on campus to make sure it succeeded,” McFerrin said. “Right off the bat, Becky said we have to take care of our ‘youngest Aggies.’ ”
In 2013, the Gates joined in when they committed a generous estate gift to support the center.
“I continued to work full-time after I had my kids,” said Becky Gates, “so I was lucky to have a reliable babysitter and a good child care center when they turned 3. If you are a working mom, knowing that your child is healthy and has reliable, competent daycare and schools is so important.”
While the center serves 165 students, about 200 children are on a waitlist of more than a year. About 40 percent of the center’s clients are the children of faculty, while 28 percent are the children of graduate students, and 24 percent are the children of Texas A&M staff. Seven percent are the children of undergraduate students at Texas A&M.
The Texas Rising Stars Program awarded the center its highest certification―four stars―and all of its teachers have completed training in research-based, emergent HighScope Curriculum and the Project Approach, a project-based learning style that brings a number of advantages to the classroom and represents best practices in education. The Becky Gates Children’s Center also is accredited through AdvancED.
Erica Ritter, who assumed direction of the center in June 2017, hopes to create additional space for the children of students, faculty, and staff, and she is planning to renovate the playground.
“We’re working with Texas A&M landscape design students on creating an outdoor natural learning environment that will include special areas for art and music activities,” she said. “This renovation will help us attain one of our long-term goals to create a certified natural playscape for children.”
Ritter would also like to identify additional private funds to increase capacity and to create a leadership model for Texas A&M student workers to assist with classroom quality control. “We’re also looking for creative ways to retain our most qualified teachers and to give our best teachers the opportunity to enhance their professional development through the latest research in early childhood education.”
All current and former children and parents who are affiliated with the center, as well as interested Texas A&M faculty, staff, students, and former students, are welcome to attend the event at the center, which is located at 1125 Hensel Dr. in College Station.
- Erica Ritter, director, Becky Gates Children’s Center, (979) 458-5437, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sondra White, director of marketing and communication, Division of Student Affairs, (979) 458-3296, email@example.com.