Gifts from Susanne and Melbern Glassock ’59 promote the humanities at Texas A&M.
The Opportunity Award scholarship Mel Glasscock ’59 received in the spring of 1956 was small in today’s dollars—only $250 a year—but it changed his life in two important ways. First, the amount constituted half of Texas A&M University’s annual costs in the 1950s, and that plus earnings from summer jobs, meant Mel could focus on his academic work without worrying about finances. It also started him on a philanthropic path for Texas A&M. Every year he received the scholarship, Mel wrote a thank you note to his benefactor and once received a response. “He encouraged me to help someone in the future,” recalled Mel. “I’ve always taken that to heart.”
Decades later, Mel and his wife Susie have been so generous with their time and resources that they were named recipients of the Texas A&M Foundation’s 2017 Sterling C. Evans Medal, the highest recognition given by the Foundation. “Our lives have shown how education can set someone on a journey of friendship and achievement,” said Mel, who after serving in the Air Force, went on to a career in the petrochemical industry and eventually founded Texas Aromatics LP, a petrochemical service firm. He has also served on the One Spirit One Vision campaign executive committee, currently serves on the 2020 Leadership Team and was a trustee of the Texas A&M Foundation from 2004 to 2011.
The Glasscocks have focused on funding scholarships for students who are the first in their families to attend college, as Mel was. His father had wanted to attend Texas A&M, but never had the chance. Nevertheless, he instilled in Mel a passion for the Aggies from an early age.
As a product of their passions, Susie and Mel Glasscock '59 established the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research.
Though Mel’s educational and professional background is in technology and science, the Glasscocks’ contributions to Texas A&M have mostly focused on the humanities. Mel first became aware of his love for literature during English classes at Texas A&M. “I took an English Literature class and a Shakespeare class because I wanted to learn something different,” he said. While earning his master’s in mechanical engineering at Rice University, he met Susie and they found a common interest in history.
As a natural outgrowth of their interests, the Houston couple established the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M, which awards grants and fellowships in the humanities and sponsors lecture series and other events. The Glasscocks believe the humanities are particularly important for engineering and science majors. “The humanities lead us to think about why, not just the how,” said Susie. “Humanities make us human.” Recent programs sponsored by the center include a colloquium on Machiavelli, a guest lecture on Camus and a conference on World War I.
The Glasscocks have not stopped there. They also created the Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship, awarded annually to a U.S. faculty member who publishes a scholarly work in the humanities. “It’s a small endowment to honor Susie because she’s such an enthusiastic reader,” said Mel.
Recent recipients of the book prize are professors from the New School in New York and the University of California, San Diego. “The award allows the center to bring academics from other schools to see Texas A&M,” Mel said. “And they take the message back that A&M is doing amazing things.”
Texas A&M also gets national attention when it has nationally recognized professors, and to that end the couple chose to endow a faculty chair in American History. The current holder of that chair is Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs, author of American Umpire and screenwriter for the PBS documentary “Adaptation.” “We want people who members of the media can call when they need a comment—someone to reflect on current events in light of American history,” said Mel. “Whenever they give an answer on NBC Nightly News or NPR, people will think, ‘I didn’t know Texas A&M specialized in that.’”
Mel thinks on a grand scale in other ways too. He feels strongly that Texas A&M should play a larger role in current affairs. “As far as decisions being made in government and politics, Texas A&M needs a seat at the table,” said Mel. “We could add tremendous value to the discussion.” This is because Mel believes that Texas A&M graduates are ideally suited to take on today’s challenges.
The Glasscock’s most recent gift to the university is the Texas A&M Foundation Trustees’ Award. As he was finishing his term as a trustee for the foundation, Mel created a fund that allows the trustees to annually award a graduating senior $2,500 as a boost for the next phase of life. “This is an award for a job well-done, not a scholarship,” Mel emphasized. Recipients are primarily judged on their achievements, but must have overcome personal or family financial challenges. Free to use their award money as they wish, Susie recalled that one winner financed his parents’ flight from Asia to see Texas A&M. “We just love meeting students like that,” she said. “You just can’t help but be inspired by them.”
It’s only a matter of time, Mel believes, before a Texas A&M graduate rises to the very top. “One of these days, we’ll have an Aggie president,” he said. “That’s something I hope to live to see.”
Support the College of Liberal Arts through a scholarship to support students; a chair, fellowship or professorship for faculty; or through operational funds to support initiatives and programs in the college.