Cantrell Family Creates Endowment To Support Aggie Graduate Students
The family of the late Carol J. Cantrell, longtime senior associate vice president in the Office of the Vice President for Research, has pledged an endowment to the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS) to support graduate students at Texas A&M University.
Created to honor Cantrell’s exceptional commitment to individual and university-wide research, the Carol J. Cantrell Memorial Scholarship for Graduate Students will fund one or more $1000 scholarships for Texas A&M graduate or professional students in perpetuity. Additionally, the Cantrell family has generously committed to funding one $1000 scholarship per academic year until the endowment matures in 2024.
Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Studies Karen Butler-Purry has directed numerous fellowship projects for graduate students and said she understands the difficulty of supporting graduate student research.
“Funding is a significant barrier for many graduate students as they pursue their research objectives,” Butler-Purry said. “The Texas A&M graduate and professional community is grateful to the Cantrell family for supporting graduate students at our institution.”
After graduating from West Texas A&M University in 1973, Cantrell began her university service in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where she was the assistant to the department head. This experience imparted an ardent appreciation for faculty and graduate student research, one which motivated her throughout her 46-year career at Texas A&M and The Texas A&M University System.
“Carol will be remembered as a strong advocate for research excellence who advanced Texas A&M’s engineering program and made long-lasting contributions to the system’s research enterprise,” Butler-Purry said.
University faculty members valued Cantrell’s contribution to their research, OGAPS officials said, adding that her knack for administration and financial management, combined with a dedication to advancing research, helped faculty members and graduate assistants navigate application and approval processes to secure funding. They said improvements Cantrell rendered in university research infrastructure will not only benefit all university faculty and graduate students to come, but also reinforce Texas A&M’s stellar reputation as a top research institution.
“She was always looking for the right solution to help principal investigators move their research forward,” said Cantrell’s daughter Holly Richards.
Cantrell filled a litany of roles at Texas A&M, including director of budgets and administrative services for the engineering program, associate director of Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, assistant vice chancellor of engineering, and assistant dean of the College of Engineering. She was active among professional organizations as well, serving as a board member on both the American Society of Engineering Education and its corollary, the Engineering Research Council.
In 1990, Cantrell graduated from Leadership Texas and, in 1998, she was named a Regents Fellow. As a Regents Fellow, Cantrell represented Texas A&M’s core values of leadership, excellence, and selfless service by participating in the USIA Delegation to China on Intellectual Property Management.
Students and faculty alike esteemed Cantrell as a model of successful leadership, OGAPS officials said. Reflecting on her service as a 2018 Fish Camp namesake, co-chair of Camp Cantrell Olivia Brainis said, “Carol was everything Fish Camp could ask for. Her compassionate personality drove others to want to be around her and learn from her.”
Cantrell was featured on the Who’s Who in Higher Education and Who’s Who of American Women lists, earned the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Performance Award and the Sigma Xi Presidential Research Administrator Award, and was a member of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
Before passing in 2019, Cantrell served as senior associate vice president in the Division of Research. She oversaw administrative functions in sponsored research administration, administrative policy and compliance, research reporting and sponsored research finance. Cantrell performed liaison duties with the Office of Sponsored Research Services, Texas A&M’s grant management division supporting the University’s $922-million research program.
Cantrell “was a rare person,” said Vice President for Research Mark A. Barteau. “We were all fortunate to have known her, to have worked with her, and to have called her our friend and colleague.”
Cantrell is remembered by her husband, Pierce Cantrell, for her quick wit and dedication to women’s advancement. “Carol brought energy, intellect, and passion to her work. And she was respected for her commitment to integrity and excellence in all she did,” he said.
Richards explained the inspiration for the endowed scholarship arose from Cantrell’s tireless service. “Our family is grateful to be able to give back to Aggie graduate students in her name,” she said. “Our hope is that this award will help a graduate student further their research career and their academic pursuits.”