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Enduring Investment: Texas A&M Raises $4.25 Billion In Lead By Example Campaign

The accomplishment is the most ambitious higher education fundraising effort in Texas history.
By Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications February 24, 2021

Texas A&M’s Lead By Example campaign raised a record $4.25 billion to fund substantial initiatives benefitting students, faculty and staff — an effort that made history by exceeding its fundraising goal and becoming the first university in the state to reach that milestone.

The official announcement came Wednesday morning with leaders across Texas A&M praising the comprehensive effort, which began its quiet phase in 2012 before ramping up to the public launch four years later and drawing unprecedented participation as donors gave more than 903,600 gifts to the university.

Among the investments:

  • 4,500 new student scholarships
  • 500 or so new faculty chairs and professorships impacting and influencing future generations of Aggies
  • 3,364 new endowments supporting scholarships, fellowships, student programs and more
  • Construction of notable buildings on campus including the Kyle Field redevelopment, Music Activity Center, Zachry Engineering Education Complex, The Gardens on west campus, and comprehensive redevelopment of the Corps of Cadets Quad living-learning environment
  • Scores of programs, including the Veterans Resource and Support Center
  • Solidified and ensured many long-lasting traditions within the Memorial Student Center.

The Lead By Example campaign — whose mission is to transform A&M into being able to solve global issues on a significant scale — is a joint effort between Texas A&M and its affiliate organizations: Texas A&M Foundation, The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation, the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and the Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Association.

These organizations long ago established a culture of philanthropy across the Texas A&M community, so while the feat didn’t surprise many, it still thrilled administrators and leaders.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said the fundraising process allowed many to grow closer to Texas A&M.

“Aggies love and support their university, so there was no doubt they would give back generously to keep Texas A&M at the forefront of great universities,” Sharp said. “My congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to achieve the incredible goal of raising more than $4.25 billion.”

The effort already has had far-reaching impact, according to Texas A&M Interim President John Junkins, who sent a note out to campus early Wednesday thanking all those involved.

“There’s a reason our fundraising campaign was named Lead by Example — because that’s exactly what you did,” Junkins said. “I’ve never seen a better example of Aggies of every stripe coming together to support such worthy causes.

“Thanks to the generosity of the entire Aggie network, we will be able to retain and recruit more of the very best faculty, to provide more scholarships to talented students and continue to advance and enhance our vital mission of education and research,” Junkins said.

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“Aggies love and support their university, so there was no doubt they would give back generously to keep Texas A&M at the forefront of great universities.”

It’s the largest campaign benefiting higher education in the state’s history with gifts and contributions ranging from several dollars to multi-millions.

The Texas A&M Foundation detailed how some of the funds have been spent so far in an online appreciation wall in which recipients are pictured along with how the campaign benefited each.

Tyson Voelkel, president of the Texas A&M Foundation, said A&M’s best days are in front of it.

“The Lead by Example campaign may have been centered on $4 billion goal, but truth be told it was a way to capture the imaginations of our faculty, staff, students and donors around the idea that our futures are brightest when working together,” the 1996 Aggie graduate said. “This shows that our lives and our work have meaning at Texas A&M and that believing in something bigger than yourself has the power to achieve the impossible.”

Most donors designate how their gifts will be used; many contributions support scholarships while others fund faculty, student activities and college programs. The Foundation, for example, focuses on endowment gifts in particular and aims to maximize growth of its endowment value through asset allocation of the gift principal.

The breakdown of the allocation was as follows: 30 percent of the donations carved out for colleges; 20 percent to faculty and research; 19 percent to students; 13 percent to campus construction; 10 percent toward unrestricted funds and 8 percent to athletics.

Officials said former students went above and beyond in supporting their alma mater donating 64 percent of the gifts, while nearly 40 percent came from non-alumni and other public and private foundations.

“The Lead by Example campaign has engaged more Aggies in support of Texas A&M than ever before in history,” said Porter Garner III ’79, president of The Association of Former Students. “The loyal generosity of the Aggie Network throughout the campaign continues to make a difference for Texas A&M and for so many things we hold dear as Aggies.”

When the campaign was launched publicly in 2015, A&M asked Aggies and friends of the university to imagine a grand vision for the school, one in which its trajectory would continue as a premier institution guided by its core values.

Among those who recall that request include Eddie Joe Davis, who served as president of the Texas A&M Foundation for 23 years through 2016, and led three major fundraising campaigns that brought more than $2 billion in support to A&M.

He said a successful campaign takes not only big gifts, but also big ideas, which defined Lead by Example.

“Among the reasons it was successful was our maturation as a university as well as our fundraising organizations and the conviction of our friends and former students that A&M is going places and well worth an investment,” Davis said.

Just over 91 percent — 825,759 — of the donations were in amounts of $1,000 or less; more than 465 of the contributions were more than $1 million.

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