Development Newsletter Summer  2016

A message from your Texas A&M Galveston Development Office

Rick Kline, Senior Director of Development

GREETINGS!!!  Summertime has arrived on the Texas A&M University at Galveston campus.  But, just because many of our students are not on campus this summer, doesn't mean that things have slowed down.  Many changes are happening here on campus.  You might have already seen our "Wave of Change" link, which highlights some of the facility changes that are enhancing our campus.  Check out the new Academic Complex and Waterfront Pavilion – both will be fantastic additions.

In addition to new buildings, TAMUG's "Wave of Change" has impacted our personnel.  Some of those changes include the following:

  • I am personally very sorry to see Rear Admiral Robert Smith III, USN (Ret.) retiring after more than five years of service as Vice President of Texas A&M University at Galveston, and Superintendent of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy.  Without Admiral Smith's vision and dedication to Texas A&M, the "Wave of Change" would not have happened.  Thank you Admiral Smith for all that you have done for TAMUG!

  • While a search is already underway for TAMUG's next Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Douglas Palmer joined us as Interim VP & COO beginning on May 23, 2016.  Dr. Palmer was most recently a professor of Educational Psychology and Educational Administration & Human Resource Development within the Higher Education Program at Texas A&M University in College Station.  Previously, he was the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, a visiting research scholar at Qatar University, and a visiting scholar at University of California, Davis' College of Education.  We are fortunate to be under Dr. Palmer's guidance and welcome him to Galveston.

  • In March of 2016, Jason Morton joined TAMUG's Development Office as our new Manager of Development Communications.  Jason received a Bachelor of Science degree in Leadership Development from Texas A&M's College of Agriculture in 2005 and a Masters of Education degree in Leadership Education and Communications/Business Administration from both the College of Agriculture and Mays Business School in 2010.  Prior to joining the Development team, Jason worked in university administration, broadcast media, and as an entrepreneur.  We are glad to have Jason on board.  

  • It is with mixed emotions that we announce that Christi Voelkel, the Development Office's previous Manager of Development Communications, resigned from her position in March.  This is sad news for us because she brought so much to this campus.  On the other hand, Christi's departure coincided with her family's move from Friendswood to College Station in order to accompany Christi's husband Tyson Voelkel as he begins his new role as President of the Texas A&M Foundation (see more on Tyson in this newsletter).

All of these changes bring new and exciting opportunities.  This newsletter continues to try to inspire by highlighting our faculty, our donors, and our students (past and present).  As a Former Student, regional business leader, Foundation representative, past or future supporter, parent, or an interested individual – you are invited to participate in these exciting times.  As mentioned in previous newsletters, Texas A&M University is in the midst of the LEAD BY EXAMPLE Campaign, and your Galveston campus is fully engaged.  Texas A&M University at Galveston is looking for ongoing support to bring the best students, faculty, programs and facilities to our campus.  The region, state, nation, and world prosper when our graduates apply their knowledge, which leads them to jobs in the areas of marine and maritime related industries.

Please visit our website to learn more about TAMUG and to explore opportunities on how you can impact our current and future students.  HAPPY SUMMER!!!


Rick Kline
Senior Director of Development at Texas A&M University at Galveston
Texas A&M Foundation – LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Jason W. Morton '04, M.Ed., '10, Manager of Development Communications
Rick Kline, Senior Director of Development
Alice Maffay, Development Business Coordinator


The George P. Mitchell Society is comprised of individuals and organizations committed to the well-being of our oceans through maritime and marine research, education and training as conducted at the only maritime university on the gulf coast’s premier ocean front, Texas A&M University, Galveston Campus. Christened in honor of George Phydias Mitchell, fighting Texas Aggie class of 1940. The Society’s function is to aid in the bolstering of the mission of Texas A&M University at Galveston. Your patronage boosts the entire University to beyond that which could be achieved with state and other traditional means alone.  For more information on membership into the George P. Mitchell Society, please visit

The George P. Mitchell Society
Texas A&M University at Galveston

is hosting a special reception for its Mitchell Society members on August 25th at Galveston’s Bryan Museum featuring:

J.P. Bryan
Founder Bryan Museum

Douglas J. Palmer, PhD
Interim COO, Texas A&M University at Galveston
Interim Vice President, Texas A&M University

Rear Admiral
Robert Smith III, USN (Ret.)

Admiral Smith Retires

June 1 marked the passing of an era at Texas A&M University at Galveston, as Rear Admiral Robert Smith III, USN (Ret.) stepped down to retire as the Chief Operating Officer, Vice President Texas A&M University at Galveston and Superintendent of the Maritime Academy. Admiral Smith was a man of action, and in his tenure lead the force for change on the Galveston campus. Ushering in record setting student attendance numbers, as well as a robust and aggressive facility expansion operation, that has seen the rise and completion of the new maritime academy hall and a three phased academic complex that rivals that of any top ranking university.

Admiral Smith will best be known for his gentle demeanor and passion for the students that passed through the hallowed halls of the Galveston Campus. He is a gentle and caring individual whose door was always open to his students and staff. If it affected his students, it affected him. Admiral Smith will be greatly missed. There isn't a person Admiral Smith ever shook hands with and had even the shortest of conversations with that won't feel his absence. The Texas A&M Galveston family, as well as the community on which this campus rests, wishes the Admiral and his beloved wife Mary Sue a very blessed and well deserved happy retirement.

'May the wind be at your back, the sun on your brow, and calm seas ahead.'

Spring 2016 Graduation!

In May of 2016, Texas A&M University at Galveston graduated more students than in any other time in school history, 224. Congratulations to these young men and women. The breakdown of this amazing scholastic feat is as follows:

  • In the 224 students that graduated from A&M Galveston in the spring of 2016, seven of the students graduated with double majors and two graduated through a five year program obtaining both a bachelors and a masters degrees. Thus the total amount of degrees awarded was 233.
  • The graduating students consisted of 102 (45.5%) females and 122 (54.5%) males.
  • The ethnic makeup of the graduates is as follows: Black-2; Hispanic-30; Mixed-1; Native American-3; Native Hawaiian-1; Asian-3; International-6; Unknown-1, and White-176. Minority students constituted 21.4% of the graduating class.
  • A total of 25 maritime academy students obtained their license to serve as third officers on merchant marine ships (18 Marine Transportation; 4 Marine Engineering Technology; 1 Marine Sciences; 2 Master of Maritime Administration and Logistics)
  • There were 34 students from out-of-state, five international, and 185 from Texas.

The Tradition Of Excellence Continues

On January 20, 2016 Tyson Voelkel ('96, ‘07G) became the President of the Texas A&M Foundation.  Tyson succeeded Dr. Eddie J. Davis, after Dr. Davis' successful tenure at the helm of the Foundation.  

While studying at College Station, Tyson was actively involved in the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, in student government, and a Ross Volunteer.  He also was the Corp commander in his senior year, and was the first student regent on the Texas A&M University Board of Regents.  

"The Texas A&M Foundation is blessed to have Tyson sharing his passion for Texas A&M University in his new role.  Tyson's education, combined with his skills in managing his own business, being a U. S. Army infantry officer, a member of the Texas A&M University Board of Visitors, Texas A&M University at Galveston Board of Visitors, Bush School Advisory Board, and Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital Advisory Board are indicative of the type of leadership, vision and values he has already instilled at the Texas A&M Foundation," says Rick Kline, Senior Director of Development, Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Even more impressive than Tyson Voelkel's educational and professional accomplishments, is his genuine interest in doing the right thing.  Because of his service on TAMUG's Board of Visitors, Tyson is quite aware of the outstanding education our students on this Galveston campus receive, the high level of research we conduct, our outstanding faculty, and our intimate ties to everything maritime and marine related.

Please view this short video to learn more about Tyson:

Dr. Samuel Brody & the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores

On April 6, 2016 Dr. Sam Brody, Director of the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores (CTBS) and Professor of Marine Sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston – along with Colonel Len Waterworth, also of Texas A&M University at Galveston, Professor of Maritime Administration – gave a presentation for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership at the Lakewood Yacht Club to educators, business representatives and elected officials on the importance a coastal storm surge protection barrier or Ike Dike for the protection of the Houston and Galveston regions from hurricane destruction. We were able to sit down and chat with Dr. Brody on a range of issues from his involvement with the CTBS, the Ike Dike and his passion for the success of his students at Texas A&M University at Galveston.

Dr. Brody joined Texas A&M University, College Station in 2002 after he completed his Ph.D. work in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. While in College Station, Dr. Brody was a professor in the Sustainable Coastal Margins Program in the department of Urban Planning. He still holds a 25% faculty appointment at Texas A&M University College Station where the focus of his course work is in Coastal and Environmental Planning. In 2009, Dr. Brody shifted his research to the Galveston campus under the recruitment of then Vice President and CEO Dr. R. Bowen Loftin to head up the now abundant and thriving Center for Texas Beaches and Shores, which upon Dr. Brody's arrival was "an empty shell" in need of immediate guidance, direction and leadership.

In 2007, the CTBS was set up by the Texas State Legislature as an "unfunded mandate" and the center sat idle until the arrival of Dr. Brody where he has rapidly grown the center and its awareness by hiring top tier faculty and staff, as well as recruiting students who possess this generation's top quality minds in the study of coastal sustainability and resiliency.

The focus of this presentation was to gain support and awareness for the Coastal Spine or Ike Dike, which is a coastal barrier that when completed will protect the Galveston Bay from the disastrous effects of hurricane destruction. The project would be a dramatic enhancement of the existing Galveston seawall, complete with floodgates at the mouth of the bay which feeds into the Houston Ship Channel, that can close during times of coastal flooding. It would protect the island of Galveston, the Bolivar Peninsula, and the greater Houston area from storm surge flooding. The Ike Dike once completed, would be able to withstand a 10,000 year storm. As awareness grows, so does Dr. Brody's confidence that the proposed project will become a reality. He believes that; "we will see the first shovel hit the ground within three to five years." The project, Dr. Brody believes, would take about five years to complete and cost around $6-8 billion dollars. This is one third the cost of the thirty-five foot wall that was built in New Orleans, LA after the effects felt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Ike Dike is more than a wall, it is a functioning barrier/dune that will be both restorative and protective. Connecting people, places and the environment for the next 150 years. Dr. Brody went on to say; "It's a no brainer. With the Dike, the gulf coast is looking at an 80% reduction in damage no matter what the category of storm we're faced with." Currently, Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, has made funding the Ike Dike one of his top legislative priorities, introducing an appropriations bill to the floor of the U.S. Senate to approve federal funding that would speed up the construction of the project. Please follow the link below for more information and  to watch the impactful video on the Ike Dike.

Lastly, I asked Dr. Brody how he feels about working with Texas A&M University at Galveston. His eyes lit up and he went on to talk about how special he feels the student body is on this campus. He loves the fact that the students "get their hands wet… They are solving real world problems, with real world research." Texas A&M Galveston students are versatile and cross trained. Dr. Brody's students that work with the CTBS center, also receive exposure to political and industry leaders in their field. "Every one of my students has received a job upon graduation… I haven't failed yet!" Dr. Brody is famous for his open door policy and approachable demeanor on campus. For more information on Dr. Brody and the Center for Beaches and Shores (CTBS), go to:

Stolt-Nielsen Sea Ship Model Dedication

Left to Right: Norman O'Shaughnessy '87, Rear Admiral Robert Smith III, USN (Ret.), Clint Knight and Captain Richard Bertrand.

On Thursday March 31st Texas A&M University at Galveston welcomed representatives from Stolt-Nielsen, to unveil a model ship tanker to the Jack K. Williams library. Stolt-Nielsen is a world-wide shipping company of excellence that specializes in chemical tankers, tank containers, terminals and LPG ships. While here the delegation met with COO and Superintendent Rear Admiral Robert Smith III and other members of the TAMUG executive leadership team to discuss forming a lasting relationship between Stolt and the Texas A&M Galveston campus. The wonderful ambassadors from Stolt-Nielsen graciously donated the Stolt Sea (1999) 22.460 DWT Oil Products/Chemical Tanker model for the Texas A&M Galveston's Jack K. Williams Library; prominently displayed in the commons area where students can view the gift as they meet with their peers, study and prepare themselves for the future. The model was designed by Jorge Mario Pezzuto and built by Astilleros Espanoles. On behalf of faculty, staff and the student body that reside on this campus, we would like to thank the following ambassadors from Stolt-Nielsen: Captain Richard Bertrand (Business Director, Stolt Tankers), Norman O'Shaughnessy '87, (Group Operations & Regional Manager, Stolt Tankers) and Clint Knight (Regional HR Director)

Naming Opportunities: The Texas A&M Maritime Academy Hall

Texas A&M University at Galveston and the Texas A&M Foundation invite you to partner with us to support the 612-bed Maritime Academy Residence Hall. The new hall includes two residential wings that connect to a central commons area. The commons area is comprised of a mix of classrooms, study lounges, flexible social spaces, staff and midshipmen offices, a reception area, common laundry area, a convenience store and storage spaces. The new midshipmen residence hall is part of the university's efforts to provide a positive living-learning opportunity for students.

For more information, please click here to Learn more about Naming Opportunities: The Texas A&M Maritime Academy Hall or contact:
Rick Kline, Senior Director of Development
Phone: (409) 741-4030

Naming Opportunities: Academic Complex

Texas A&M University at Galveston and the Texas A&M Foundation invite you to partner with us to support the development of our new three phased Academic Complex. Through your support, this Complex will equip our students and faculty with the best technology, laboratories and classroom space-all required to learn and conduct leading edge research in this vibrant maritime and marine environment. Your gift will have a lasting impact as our future graduates go on to support the ever evolving needs of our region, our state, our nation and the world.

Through various naming opportunities identified below, former students, corporations, families, classes and friends can include their names or memorialize a loved one as a permanent part of the Academic Complex by funding a lobby, laboratory, classroom space, student gathering area, office suite or rooftop terrace.

For more information, please click here to Learn more about Naming Opportunities: Academic Complex or contact:
Rick Kline, Senior Director of Development
Phone: (409) 741-4030

Finland-Based Company Donates Massive $500,000 Engine to Texas A&M University at Galveston Marine Engineering Technology Department

Trying to fix some loose bearings on an engine that's the size of a school bus is a daunting task, but some Texas A&M University at Galveston students are learning engine repair that may come in handy one day when they are engineers aboard a ship on the high seas, thanks to a generous donation from Wärtsilä. The Finland-based company that makes engines for customers throughout the world, donated the massive 8-cylinder 27-ton Wärtsilä 20 engine to the Galveston campus recently, and the $500,000 gift will give midshipmen some valuable practical experience as they seek their maritime licenses.  The 20-foot-long engine serves as a learning lab as students improve their knowledge of engine repair, emissions and fuel economy for future use when they are sailing ships through oceans and ports around the world.

"This is a valuable learning and research tool for our students in several ways," says Dr. Ed Clancy, professor of marine engineering and head of the Marine Engineering Technology Department at Texas A&M-Galveston.

"They learn the basics of the engine and how to do various repairs that they might need one day at sea. It's not a mock-up – it's a real 1.6 megawatt engine as can be found in tugs and ferry boats. It's just the kind of equipment our students will be working on once they graduate. It is an ideal tool for student education and for ongoing university research on marine power systems," says Clancy.

Wärtsilä is a global leader in complete lifecycle power solutions for the marine and energy markets. Wärtsilä is a $5.3 billion company that employs 18,000 workers in over 70 countries.  It specializes in building engines and generators for marine use and power plants and its headquarters are in Helsinki.

The diesel engine is currently housed in the Powell Marine Engineering Laboratory.  When powered, students can learn how it operates and instructors can teach them the details of the various moving parts.

"It's the first time we've had an engine like this in a lab setting, where students can work on it indoors," adds Clancy. "So what the students learn is very realistic and practical." Though similar, the engines are not quite as large as those used on the General Rudder, the school's training ship where midshipmen learn to pilot during lengthy summer cruises they must take to earn their maritime licenses.
As students learn about the 2,000-horsepower engine, Clancy says that some cadets go to a different level: some of them have worked on 100,000-horsepower engines that are among the largest in the world.

The Texas A&M Maritime Academy is one of six state maritime academies in the United States and provides an opportunity for midshipmen to operate and maintain an ocean-going vessel and gain practical experience in seamanship, navigation and engineering operations. At the conclusion of their training program, cadets are examined to become licensed in the Merchant Marine as a deck or engineering officer and may seek employment in various fields of marine transportation.

Donor Spotlight: The O'Donel Family

In 2015 Theresa K. '90 and Robert M. O'Donel '90 established an endowed scholarship in memory of Theresa's late father Joseph B. Morreale, for Texas residents ranked in the second quartile of their graduating high school class. In 2016 Rob and Theresa have added to that memorial scholarship in addition to creating a second gift to the Galveston campus named the Suntrac Services, Inc. Radiation Equipment Fund for the company Rob and Theresa purchased in 1998, to support the Marine Sciences department at Texas A&M University Galveston campus. We had an opportunity to talk with Rob and Theresa about their ties to Texas A&M Galveston, their philanthropy, their family and company.

What is your family's connection to Texas A&M Galveston?

"Back in the Spring of 1991 Rob was the undergraduate representative for the College of Geosciences committee that oversaw the Galveston campus merging with the College of Geosciences.  We took a tour of the Galveston campus when Katelyn was a senior in high school and were impressed by the Galveston staff and facilities. Katelyn stayed a year in Galveston before moving up to College Station.  We loved the start she had at a major university but in a smaller setting.  We loved the smallness of the campus but at the same time how she was still able to participate in going up for the football games on the weekends.

She was, and is an Aggie whether she was at Galveston or College Station.  She was able to live in a dorm, be close to home, enjoy the Galveston yell practices, meet people quite easily, and visit with Reveille when she came to campus. So now our youngest daughter, Lauren will start in Galveston and will need to decide whether or not she will stay or move up to College Station."

Talk a little about your family and your family business.

"We both grew up in the Houston (Clear Lake) area graduating from Clear Lake in 1986. We dated in college and married in 1992. We have two daughters: Katelyn '17 a Horticulture major in College Station and Lauren '20 a possible Maritime Business major starting in Galveston this summer. We bought Suntrac Services, Inc. in February 1998. Rob had worked there for about six years before the original owner was ready to retire. We approached the owner about us purchasing the company and things fell into place. Rob had the knowledge about what the business did and Theresa had the programming knowledge where she could build the databases needed for the company to be more efficient in order to grow the business. Suntrac is a League City, TX based radiation safety consulting company which provides radiation safety training, consulting, survey meter calibration and sealed source leak testing to various industries throughout the United States." For more information about Suntrac Sercices, Inc. please visit

What inspired you to give to Texas A&M University at Galveston, specifically your latest edition to the Morreale scholarship and the newly established Suntrac Services fund?

"We initially set up the scholarship because we wanted to donate money to something in honor of Theresa's dad who worked hard all of his life and at the end shared the success of his hard work with his family. So, we looked into a scholarship at the Galveston campus, since we were so impressed with the campus. We wanted to give more than the endowed scholarship, so we added more to the scholarship and with Rick Kline's (Senior Director for Development) help came up with the co-donation with Suntrac Services, Inc."

Finally, you spoke earlier about your daughter Lauren deciding to attend Texas A&M University at Galveston. She will be starting soon. What led to that decision and how does this make your family feel?

"Our daughters have had their eye on Texas A&M since birth. We did tell both of our daughters they could attend any college they wanted to and we even visited another campus or two with Lauren. After college visits she couldn't pass up Texas A&M even if it meant starting at the Galveston campus. We will be happy if she decides to stay and happy if she decides to move. Both of our girls did well in high school but were not in the top 10% of their class. The College Station campus is very hard to get into if you are not in the top 10%; so in order for them to be Aggies they chose to get to the main campus through Galveston. We have encouraged them both to stay in Galveston. Katelyn wanted to pursue a Horticulture degree so that was not an option for her. But Lauren is undecided so she will test the waters in Galveston with the MARA (Marine Administration) degree and see how it goes. Every chance we get we are promoting the campus at Galveston. It's such a great opportunity there. We have several Aggies in the family so it helped make their decision easier. Some of us have season tickets to the football games and are up for almost every game tailgating. Our family is extremely proud of both Katelyn and Lauren and their decision to pursue an education at Texas A&M University at Galveston."

"Where are they Now" Former Student Highlight: Dominique Cowart '05

Dr. Dominique Cowart, '05 is a former Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) Marine Science graduate. She currently lives in Urbana, IL where she works under renowned professor Dr. Chris Cheng, as a postdoctoral research associate. Dr. Cowart is a Marine Molecular Ecologist with a background in Population Genetics and Environmental Metagenomics where she specializes on the assessments of marine animal biodiversity through the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) obtained from sediments and seawater. We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Cowart while she was here on the Galveston campus to give a talk to her peers on her research. The much anticipated talk was co-hosted by the Maritime Studies program and the Department of Marine Biology on April 25th. While here Dr. Cowart sat down with us to go down memory lane and discuss her time and experiences at Texas A&M Galveston.

We asked Dr. Cowart what brought her here for study to Texas A&M University at Galveston, about the time she spent here and to expound on her fondest memories. As well as what were some of the off campus activities she took part in. What attracted Dr. Cowart to this campus the most was the hands on research she was able to do. "Getting my hands dirty and working on the boats," says Dr. Cowart. "This is what makes TAMUG unique." She felt that the work she did while here and the freedom the faculty gave students in learning from their mistakes helped to prepare her and her classmates for the research she's doing now. Dr. Cowart spoke highly of how TAMUG is not a "classroom only" university. She went on to say that this university prepares its young students for the roles and responsibilities they will face on day one of their first job after graduation.

Among her fondest memories was her philanthropic involvement in "Big Event." As a student Dr. Cowart was very involved in this project. All four years she attended and participated in ‘Big Event', she worked with the the Salvation Army in its yearly clothing drive for the less fortunate. Another yearly tradition she looked forward to was "Midnight Breakfast," a TAMUG tradition that takes place every year in May the night before finals. The faculty serve their students breakfast as a thank you for their hard work and studying. Dr. Cowart's favorite were the omelets and croissants.

Dr. Cowart worked part time at a kite store all four years she was here, assembling and flying the kites in demonstration to the customers. She laughingly reflected on this as learning a skill that she still holds today and would not have otherwise learned. During what little time she had between her studies, part time job and philanthropy, Dr. Cowart enjoyed spending her leisure time on the west end of Galveston's Jamaica beach with her friends.

We also wanted to know just what were her favorite classes while attending and who her favorite professors were. She found great encouragement and mentorship from Dr. Glenn Jones who teaches Geological Oceanography. During a tumultuous freshman year, Dr. Cowart was struggling in her studies and trying to find her way academically. Dr. Jones took her under his wing, and provided guidance and clarity which put Dr. Cowart on the path she is on today. While she spoke highly of all the faculty, Dr. Jones holds a special place in her heart.

Finally in closing, we asked Dr. Cowart to share a bit of advice on what she would say to a prospective student who might be on the fence on whether or not to attend Texas A&M University at Galveston. She would champion the small campus community, the student to faculty connectivity, the intimacy of the small town feel, the beautiful weather and the laid back island lifestyle. Dr. Cowart said that she would "emphasize the importance of the Aggie network" and how the former student network can really cultivate and shape not just your professional life after college, but formulate lasting bonds with the entire Aggie family that stretches beyond this wonderful campus. Lastly she would simply state, "it's all about the Aggie ring."

For Newsletter inquiries, please contact Jason Morton,
Manager of Development Communications at