Houston Business Journal: Houston businessman, EY make lead gifts to Texas A&M campaign

By Olivia Pulsinelli, reporter for Houston Business Journal

A Houston businessman gave one of two lead gifts to a campaign aiming to rename the accounting department at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.

David Baggett, founder of Houston-based Opportune LLP, and his wife, Denise, gave $2 million to Texas A&M Foundation for the $10 million fundraising campaign. Ernst & Young also committed a lead gift of the same amount.

In August, the university system’s board of regents approved renaming the department the James J. Benjamin Department of Accounting. Both David Baggett and T. Randall “Randy” Cain, EY’s vice chair and regional managing partner for the Southwest U.S., were involved in discussions that led to the renaming decision.

James Benjamin is Texas A&M’s Deloitte Foundation Leadership Professor and has been head of the accounting department since 1982. He joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1974 and previously has served as the Ph.D. coordinator for Mays Business School and director of the school’s honors program.

“Over the past almost four decades, Jim Benjamin has been a driving force in the transformation of our business school,” Baggett said in a press release.

“With Jim’s personality, business savvy and leadership skills, he would have been very successful in the corporate world,” Baggett added. “Fortunately for me and thousands of other accounting and business graduates, Jim dedicated himself to our success.”

As of Sept. 7, the campaign had raised $7.5 million. Other contributions have come from KPMG LLP, Deloitte and individual donors. The campaign aims to elevate the department’s visibility, research capabilities, faculty and opportunities for students, per the release.

Half of the Baggetts’ contribution will create a matching gift fund to further boost donations. All gifts toward the naming campaign also count toward the Texas A&M “Lead by Example” campaign, which aims to raise $4 billion by 2020.

“I was humbled and honored when I learned of the initiative to name the Department of Accounting,” Benjamin said in the press release. “While I have been gratified to be a part of the growth and success of the accounting program, I have always recognized that our growing reputation was a product of exceptional students and talented and dedicated faculty. I have been truly blessed to be surrounded by such great students, faculty and former students throughout my career.”