Making a Difference

E. King Gill Award recipients Carolyn and Tommie Lohman ’59 found a rewarding joy investing in A&M students and student-athletes.

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In October 2017, Carolyn and the late Tommie Lohman ’59 were announced as recipients of the prestigious E. King Gill Award.

Carolyn, with her grandson Cason by her side, was honored at halftime of the Texas A&M-Auburn football game on Nov. 4, 2017. Tommie, class of 1959, passed away in 2012.

“To be acknowledged with such an award is humbling,” Carolyn said during the recognition. “That sounds so trite to say, but it really is humbling. I wish my husband could have been here for this. It’s great to be here with Cason, though, because he’s so much like his grandfather. I’m so proud of him.”

Fixtures at A&M sporting events and longtime supporters of Aggie Athletics, the Lohmans have been instrumental in A&M’s rise to athletic prominence. They embody every aspect of the award, which is presented annually to 12th Man Foundation donors who have generously helped the organization realize its mission of funding scholarships, programs and facilities in support of championship athletics.

Aggie Role Models

Tommie was destined to work in the oil industry. He grew up in Shreveport, La. and learned the business from his father, the late Zeke Lohman, Jr., a wildcatter. Zeke encouraged Tommie to attend A&M because he believed the university’s values and education would serve his son well.

Carolyn met Tommie the summer between his junior and senior year at A&M when he interned with Shell outside of her hometown of Quitman, Texas. She was in summer school at TCU when a friend encouraged her to come home for a visit to meet a handsome Aggie who came to the Dairy Queen every night.

The two hit if off and spent the 1958 fall semester traveling back and forth between College Station and Fort Worth. Toward the end of the semester Tommie proposed, saying they had to marry so he could stay in College Station and focus on his studies. They wed on Dec. 27, 1958.

With a degree in petroleum engineering, Tommie’s first job took the couple to Beeville and launched a successful career, most of which was spent as an executive with Texas Oil & Gas and as president of Delhi Gas Pipeline. Tommie earned a reputation as frank and ambitious with high standards. He loved the oil and gas industry and sought to mentor promising young employees.

Carolyn, with her grandson Cason, was honored at halftime of the A&M-Auburn football game on Nov. 4, 2017, after she and husband Tommie were named recipients of the E. King Gill Award. Tommie, class of 1959, passed away in 2012.

Tommie was a hard worker, but never let his career interfere with family. This excerpt from his 2012 obituary encapsulates it best:

Whether rocking the babies to sleep, decorating their birthday cakes, watching them play ball, skiing with them on the “black diamond” ski runs at “Skistone,” exploring London or golfing together in Scotland, there was nowhere Tommie would rather be than with his family.

Carolyn’s parents’ approval of their marriage included one stipulation: that Carolyn finish her education. Her father, W.C. “Carroll” Swearingen, graduated from A&M in 1940 and was the first in his family to attend college.

Wherever Tommie’s job took the family, Carolyn found a college where she could take classes. After 11 years, two children and eight colleges, she earned a degree in home economics education from the University of Houston.

Carolyn taught high school for four years and gained a reputation as someone students could count on for help. Following a move to Dallas, Carolyn returned to college, earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from SMU and started a 17-year career as a counselor.

After Tommie and Carolyn retired to Houston to be near their grandchildren, they turned their attention to volunteer opportunities at A&M. They eventually relocated to College Station in the early 2000s.

Dedicated Volunteers

The College of Engineering tapped Tommie’s experience by asking him to serve on its advisory council and later the college’s External Advisory and Development Council. He was involved in several other organizations including the A&M Legacy Society and Texas Aggie Bar Association.

Carolyn joined the Dean’s Development Council within the College of Education and Human Development. At her first meeting, she volunteered to help with a new awards ceremony and was asked to chair the event.

“That’s when I learned that there is always something you can do to help,” she said. “All you really need to do is show up!”

Carolyn’s continuous involvement led to the creation of three freshman learning groups by the mid-2000s. More than a decade later, over 1,000 freshmen have passed through a Lohman Learning Community, a first-year experience program for students pursuing education majors.

Giving back has been a hallmark of Tommie and Carolyn’s lives. Their early gifts to A&M centered on students, but they also made significant contributions to help elevate the football and basketball programs.

One of those freshmen was then-Aggie men’s basketball player Jordan Green, who met Carolyn during a Lohman Learning Community social. After the event, he gave Carolyn a ride to her car parked across campus.

“I considered Carolyn Lohman my fairy godmother at Texas A&M,” Green said. “After that event, we sat in the car and talked for half an hour. She asked about my goals, my future. When she is talking to you, she makes you feel special. That’s her gift.”

Carolyn brought leaders in education and athletics together to discuss ways to help student-athletes succeed in earning their degree.

She is especially proud to have helped establish the Texas A&M Coaching Academy in 2013. Directed by former Aggie basketball player and coach Dr. John Thornton, the Academy mentors students interested in becoming coaches.

For several years, Carolyn also helped lead a dining tutorial that guided student-athletes through a formal dinner at a formally set table.

Casting a New Vision for Fundraising

In 1999, Tommie was appointed to the 12th Man Foundation’s Board of Trustees, serving as chair in 2003 and immediate past-chair in 2004.

Aging stadiums and a need to build facilities for several women’s sports at A&M spurred the 12th Man Foundation to launch its first capital campaign in 2000. The Championship Vision, chaired by Carolyn and Jack Little ’60, raised $52 million for a south end zone complex at Kyle Field along with new softball and soccer facilities.

The successful campaign proved that Aggies were willing to support athletics, and the 12th Man Foundation leadership recognized a need to meet this new reality.

Weldon Jaynes ’54, who followed Lohman as board chair in 2004, said Tommie strongly supported building a professional major gifts staff.

“Tommie was respected among the board members as a leader and problem solver,” Jaynes said. “There were real concerns, though, about the cost of creating such a staff. What happens if it doesn’t work?”

In a close vote at the 2004 summer meeting, the board approved creating a major gifts office.

Fortunately for the Foundation and Aggie Athletics, the major gifts office has proven to be a risk worth taking. After 13 years and several successful capital campaigns thanks to many dedicated donors, A&M is among the national leaders in funding athletic scholarships, programs and facilities.

“Without Tommie, there might not be a professional major gifts staff,” Jaynes said, “and the 12th Man Foundation would not be where it is today.”

Leaving a Legacy

When the Lohmans began to consider donating to A&M, they looked first at students.

“We realized we could keep putting money in the bank,” Carolyn recalled, “or we could do something to make a difference.”

They made gifts to the College of Engineering and the College of Education and Human Development that supported student learning and teaching faculty.

Their first gift to support athletics endowed a student-athlete scholarship. Later, they sponsored a banquet honoring student-athletes’ academic success. Carolyn believes that student-athletes have two jobs in college, and it is important to celebrate their academic achievements.

The Lohmans have also made significant contributions to help elevate the football and basketball programs.

When A&M hired a new women’s basketball coach in 2003, Tommie and Carolyn were among the first to meet the charismatic Gary Blair. As Blair and then-men’s basketball coach Billy Gillispie began taking their respective teams to the NCAA Tournament, the Lohmans stepped up to support both programs with a $1.5 million lead gift for new facilities at Reed Arena. The 3,595-square-foot Carolyn and Tommie E. Lohman ’59 Grand Lobby at the Cox-McFerrin Center for Aggie Basketball opened in 2006 and serves as an integral space for hosting recruits and events.

Before Tommie passed away, the Lohmans also discussed a gift to the 12th Man Foundation for the $25 million Campaign for Aggie Football to upgrade football facilities. In 2012, Carolyn honored his memory with a $1 million lead gift for the magnificent entrance to the Bright Football Complex. The 4,000-square-foot Tommie E. Lohman ’59 Center opened in 2013, and is a welcoming gathering space for coaches, student-athletes, recruits and their families.

On Oct. 6, 2017, friends and family joined staff members from the 12th Man Foundation in surprising Carolyn on Kyle Field with the announcement that she and Tommie were the 2017 recipients of the E. King Gill Award.

Today, Carolyn carries on the passion she and Tommie shared for athletics and academics.

“Tommie was full of energy who played as hard as he worked,” Carolyn said. “And that was a good challenge for me.”

Still involved with the College of Education and A&M Athletics, Carolyn is a regular at Aggie football as well as men’s and women’s basketball games and enjoys traveling to postseason tournaments. Above all, she wants to see every student-athlete earn their degree as well as shine in their sport.

Indeed, the Lohmans have left a legacy that will benefit students and student-athletes for years to come.

“Tommie and Carolyn have been extraordinary donors, but more than anything, I’m glad to have called Tommie my friend and to still call Carolyn my friend,” said Travis Dabney, 12th Man Foundation President and CEO. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for everything they have done in their professional lives and their philanthropic lives. Texas A&M is lucky to have them.”

Giving Opportunities

An investment in the 1922 Fund is a direct investment in the long-term viability and success of Texas A&M Athletics. This important initiative allows donors to direct gifts to a particular sport or academic service provided by Texas A&M athletics. Named endowments begin at $25,000 and are payable over five years.

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To support the 12th Man Foundation and learn about endowment opportunities, contact Brady Bullard.

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Brady Bullard

Senior Vice President of Major Gifts
12th Man Foundation
(979) 260-7585
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