A $20 million gift from Jon Hagler ’58 names the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study and fuels Texas A&M’s best and brightest thinkers.
We all remember our favorite mentors over the years—that science teacher, music instructor, soccer coach or college professor whose encouragement motivated us to push farther, work harder and become better. In Jon Hagler’s life, mentorship has played a crucial role.
“When I was a graduate student at Harvard, there was a chap named Larry Fouraker,” said Hagler, a 1958 graduate of Texas A&M University. “He was a young professor when I was there, but he later became dean of Harvard Business School. And partly because he was a Texas A&M graduate, we became close in my first year of study. His mentorship stayed with me through the years.”
If education is the gateway to success, brilliant mentors and scholars serve as gatekeepers. One program at Texas A&M exemplifies this process: the Institute for Advanced Study.
Through collaboration with other universities, the institute brings a small group of internationally-renowned faculty from across the globe to conduct research at the College Station campus for up to one year. Hailing from universities such as Duke, Harvard, Brown, Cambridge and Purdue, these faculty fellows are scholars of the highest degree.
Since 2010, Texas A&M has welcomed two Nobel Prize winners and recipients of the Wolf Prize and National Medal of Science among the ranks of the institute’s 45 fellows. Others are members of national and international academies credited with outstanding contributions to their fields. During their tenure on campus, these scholars pursue advanced studies, host lectures open to the community and collaborate on research with Texas A&M faculty and students.
Established by The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents to further elevate the university’s academic prestige, the institute investigates a variety of disciplines through its fellows, including agriculture, architecture, the arts and humanities, business, economics, law, education, engineering, science, public and foreign policy, and more.
Hagler, a member of the institute’s external advisory board, believes in the program’s mission and future potential so much that he recently committed $20 million to support its ongoing operations.
His legacy gift will ensure that the institute remains the cornerstone upon which great minds at Texas A&M can flourish, and it will name the program the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study at Texas A&M University.
A longtime philanthropist to Texas A&M, Hagler’s past gifts include support for the Corps of Cadets; the Memorial Student Center and its programs; The Association of Former Students; the Foundation Excellence Awards program, which provides scholarships for historically underrepresented students; and a lead gift to build and name the Jon L. Hagler Center, headquarters of the Texas A&M Foundation.
His gift to name the institute was announced during a day-long celebration on Feb. 24, which included the induction of the 2016-2017 class of fellows at a black-tie gala.
“Jon Hagler has always been an investor, both professionally and personally,” said Dr. Ed Davis ’67, former Texas A&M Foundation president. “His investment in the Hagler Center helped elevate the Texas A&M Foundation’s brand, which advanced the development of private resources for Texas A&M. His naming gift for the institute will similarly elevate the university’s academic brand nationally.”
Hagler has already funded a sizeable portion of his gift; the rest will be distributed through his estate after his lifetime. His gift provides a permanent endowment for the institute, and income from the endowment will be used to fund program operations, groundbreaking research by fellows, and graduate fellowships for students to conduct research alongside them. The long-term impact is even more significant: As fellows return to their original educational institutions, bringing with them their newly-gained knowledge about research conducted at Texas A&M, the university’s reputation will continue to rise.
”Jon Hagler’s remarkable gift toward the Institute for Advanced Study ensures that our students and faculty will forever collaborate with the finest minds in the world,” said Texas A&M President Michael K. Young. “Texas A&M is one of the finest universities in the world because of this dedication to collaboration and excellence.”
Born in Harlingen, Texas, and now a resident of Dover, Massachusetts, Hagler graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics before earning an MBA from Harvard University in 1963. His extensive background in economics and business led to success in his professional career, as he founded not one, but two investment firms: Jennison Associates LLC and Hagler, Mastrovita & Hewitt. He also served as treasurer and chief investment officer for the Ford Foundation before capping off his career as a partner at Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. LLC.
In recognition of his stellar business career, civic leadership and support of his alma mater, Hagler received an honorary doctorate from Texas A&M in 2015.He credits several factors with motivating him to create his monumental gift—first and foremost, his firm belief in education. “I have a profound and longstanding belief in the power of education and the institutions that generate knowledge,” he said. “There is nothing more important to successful democracy or to advancing civilization than institutions of education.”
Second, he credits his involvement in Vision 2020. This strategic plan, commissioned by former Texas A&M President Ray Bowen ’58, outlined 12 areas of focus the university should target to improve national stature and gain recognition as a top 10 public university by the year 2020. Hagler served as co-chair of the 18-member council, which determined that one of the university’s major goals should be elevating its faculty and their teaching, research and scholarship.
The institute is one way to accomplish that imperative. Hagler sees in it an extraordinary degree of leadership and confidence provided by its founding director, Dr. John Junkins, a distinguished professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M. Junkins wasn’t part of the initial Vision 2020 task force, but he understood exactly what needed to be accomplished. “Through years of hard work, leadership, personal initiative and involvement, he and others brought this institute to where it is now,” said Hagler. “It’s already making such a large contribution to the university.”
The final inspiration behind Hagler’s gift is symbolic: He views his gift as a way to repay the university for his own education and to thank key players who helped develop the institute in its early years. In particular, he expressed appreciation for four individuals: Dr. John Junkins, whose steadfast vision brought the institute to fruition; Chancellor John Sharp ’79, who found initial funding for the institute and gave it his blessing; Ray Bowen, for his visionary presidential leadership; and President Michael Young for committing recurring resources to help sustain the institute’s momentum.
To be selected as one of the institute’s faculty fellows, scholars must have achieved first-rate accomplishments that fit with the university’s strategic academic plans and have exceptional records of mentoring young colleagues. “The goal is to provide a stellar environment for research and scholarship where fellows have the freedom to pursue their own research interests and collaborate in multidisciplinary efforts,” Junkins said.
Selected fellows partner with one or more of the doctoral degree-granting academic departments housed within Texas A&M’s 16 colleges and schools, so that they can work hand-in-hand with Texas A&M faculty and graduate students. Six fellows have enjoyed their time on campus so much that they’ve signed on as permanent faculty.
“The accomplishments of our fellows are outstanding,” Junkins said. “For example, every time you use your cell phone or search the Internet, you can thank Dr. Robert Calderbank in our fourth class of fellows for his breakthroughs in digital wireless transmission of voice and data. Dr. David Arnett, also in our fourth class, developed the mathematical basis that is the foundation for understanding how the universe expands.”
Other fellows have made breakthroughs in engineering, genomics, cancer, aerospace technology, economics, kidney disease, food safety and history.
Junkins notes that this diversity of faculty is one of the benefits of the program—and of a good educational environment.
“The whole idea behind trying to advance Texas A&M’s academic stature is to make sure we’re capable of finding people who cannot only convey knowledge, but also inspire, motivate and teach citizenship,” Junkins said. “That will deepen the intellectual climate throughout Texas and beyond and keep our democracy alive.”
Hagler’s gift coincided with the university’s 140th anniversary in 2016, a perfect birthday present for an institution that has enjoyed tremendous progress even while retaining one constant: Students and faculty who have a hunger for knowledge and a desire to change the world.
“Texas A&M’s roots continue to influence and shape the place it is,” said Hagler. “Those roots come from a tradition of service to the community, and when you drive down to the core of the institute, its mission is in alignment with our university’s roots. The institute creates an environment whereby faculty and students can learn from each other and be servant leaders in our world through their research, skills and ideas.”
While Hagler’s gift establishes a permanent source of funding for the institute, there are other opportunities to create a director’s chair, institute chairs in each college and graduate fellowships for Texas A&M students studying under institute fellows.
To support the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study and learn about endowment opportunities, contact John L. Junkins.