Island University Honors Top Donors During 2019 President’s Mardi Gras Ball

By Luisa Buttler, Published: March 07, 2019

Island University Honors Top Donors During 2019 President’s Mardi Gras Ball

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Although there has been a university on Ward Island since 1947, this year, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi turns 25 years old. In those 25 years, the Island University has grown to offer 88 degrees, including 9 doctoral degrees, and the institution has nearly tripled in size with current enrollment of approximately 12,000 students. None of this growth would be possible without support from loyal donors, accomplished alumni, and dedicated faculty and staff.

On Feb. 23, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi held its annual President’s Mardi Gras Ball, a festive occasion honoring the cumulative giving of the individuals, organizations, and corporations that have made a significant impact on the Island University. Those honored at the President’s Ball had their names and images added to the Wall of Recognition located in the University Center, Legacy Hall.

Cassandra Pena, a senior business major and Jessie Frances Neal scholarship recipient, along with Tyren Duncan, a junior theatre major, were tapped as this year’s student emcees for the event. The duo welcomed guests and shared the ways in which scholarships impacted their lives. Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla, University President, thanked the donors in her remarks.

“Ty, Cassandra and I, have three important things in common,” said Quintanilla. “First, daily, we experience all the wonderful things A&M-Corpus Christi has to offer. Second, we are all first-generation college students, so we understand first-hand the value of donor support. And finally, we are all overwhelmed by the generosity of donors like you, people who understand and strengthen the value of education.”

This year’s honorees have long-supported the Island University by donating resources for student scholarships, academic programming, Islanders Athletics, and funding for the Island University’s research centers and labs.

The 2019 Honorees include:

The Platinum Inner Circle of Excellence Society

Jessie Frances Neal Foundation

The Bronze Inner Circle of Excellence Society

Mr. John Roger Bateman

Charles and Suzanne Ferguson

Dorothy B. Goodman

April and Jay Graham

Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Foundation

The Heritage Society

Mr. David H. Miller

The evening’s Platinum Honoree was The Jessie France Neal Foundation. Mrs. Jessie Frances Neal was on hand to accept the award on the foundation’s behalf. Mrs. Neal’s relationship with the Island University began in 2013 with the creation of the Jessie Frances Neal Foundation Annual Scholarships. The scholarship generously supports College of Business students from their freshman through senior years. To date, her scholarships have helped more than two dozen undergraduate students through to graduation and is supporting another 30 BBA students this academic year. In 2017-2108, Mrs. Neal also gifted 40 scholarships for graduate MBA students. Additionally, in 2017, Mrs. Neal created the Jessie Frances Neal Foundation and Clifton W. Coonrod Endowed Chair in Accounting and Business with a $1 million-dollar investment. The College of Business looks forward to naming the endowed chair later this year.

“Thanks to Mrs. Neal’s generous support of the College of Business, I’ll be able to graduate from A&M-Corpus Christi and start medical school free of debt,” said Pena. “I’m proud to represent my student body up here on stage tonight. Ty and I are here to say thank you to the donors and to let them know we appreciate the impact they are making in our lives.”

Once the awards ceremony was complete, guests were treated to a variety of entertainment including a jazz band, fortune tellers, a lip reader, a caricature artist, t-shirt printers, a cigar lounge, and desserts aplenty. Also, one lucky guest won a four pack of tickets to the spring performance of “Mamma Mia!”, co-produced by the A&M-Corpus Christi Theatre Department and the Harbor Playhouse.