Former director of The Big Event at Texas A&M University creates endowment to reduce student membership fees.
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
When Kelly Boatright ’92 first discovered these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson, they struck a chord, and they have guided her ever since. His powerful sentiment combined with the transformative leadership and service opportunities she experienced as part of The Big Event at Texas A&M University inspired Boatright to create a $25,000 endowment for the student organization that changed her life.
Her gift, managed by the Texas A&M Foundation, will allow more students who are financially strapped to be part of The Big Event. “Any Aggie who wants to participate in The Big Event should not be deterred due to an inability to pay the required $50 membership dues,” she said, “and since I’m paying for this gift over five years and using matching funds from The Coca-Cola Company, it’s a relatively painless process and a big win for all of us.”
Shortly after graduating in 1992 with a degree in journalism and a focus on marketing and advertising, Boatright landed a job as a graphic designer for Daisytek International. In 1998, after five years and two promotions, her experience and Aggie connections helped her get a job at Coca-Cola in Atlanta. As director of shopper marketing, she is responsible for strategic marketing integration across top customers and channels of trade.
Big Leadership and Service Lessons
Since 1982, thousands of students come together to thank residents of Bryan and College Station, the sister communities that are nearly synonymous with Texas A&M University.
Students show their appreciation by completing service projects such as yard work, window washing, gardening, and painting for community residents. This year, more than 20,000 student volunteers met on campus to hear motivational speeches from Texas A&M leaders before they collected shovels, paint brushes, rags, rakes and other supplies, and blanketed the Bryan-College Station area to assist any resident that filled out an online application for assistance.
At times the sheer scale of The Big Event and the good karma it creates around Aggieland overshadows the leadership and service opportunities it provides students behind the scenes. Like many other Texas A&M organizations, each and every aspect of this massive operation, from tool management to sponsorship, is planned, directed, and carried out by students. While a professional adviser with the Division of Student Affairs provides some assistance and continuity from year to year, students drive progress and can take credit for making it the largest, one-day, student-run service project in the nation.
During her four years at Texas A&M, Boatright served on The Big Event leadership team, culminating as its director during her junior and senior year. While her hands-on experiences helping people in the community changed her attitude and outlook on service, it was the leadership experience that ultimately inspired her donation to The Big Event.
“It may sound cliché, but The Big Event changed my life,” Boatright said. “It provided me with a real-world leadership experience that prepared me for life after college. I had the opportunity to present to city councils, participate in TV and radio interviews, develop expansion plans, organize tens of thousands of students and projects, inspire a committee to get to the finish line, and most important, to provide a positive impact on the local community.
“You can’t duplicate an experience like this in a classroom. It only happens when you allow students to stretch and give them the chance to lead. Given the amazing history and success of The Big Event, most students step up and meet the challenge. When we graduate, we take what we learn in the classrooms and labs, and combine it with these incredible student experiences like The Big Event that instill leadership, service, and other Aggie core values.”
Once she became financially stable at Coca-Cola, Boatright did not hesitate to give back to the organization that greatly influenced her time at Texas A&M. Coca-Cola matched her donation 2:1, tripling its value. The $25,000 principal, invested by the Texas A&M Foundation, will yield annual payouts to support students. She wants to ensure that more Aggies have the opportunity to participate, regardless of their financial means. When her endowment begins to generate income, it will cover the cost of membership dues for students who fill out an application and meet certain selection criteria.
Guided by Student Input
On a trip to College Station, Boatright met with The Big Event leadership team, Dalton Harris ’17, Stephanie Bilka ’18 and Rachel Welch ’17, to discuss the endowment proposals they had developed. She was able to ask questions and provide input that ultimately led to the formation of a membership endowment.
Welch, assistant director of The Big Event, is motivated by Boatright’s generosity, which she believes is a testament to the impact that The Big Event has beyond a student’s four years at Texas
A&M. “Kelly Boatright personifies the values that The Big Event represents,” Welch said. “She emphasizes the importance of giving not just occasionally, but each and every day of her life. I’m incredibly touched and humbled by her gift, but above all, I am inspired. It’s gratifying to know that she was once in my shoes, and spent her time giving to this organization in ways that we continue to witness today. When it’s my turn, I hope to follow this great Aggie legacy of giving.”
In addition to her gift to The Big Event, Boatright has donated to The Association of Former Students for several years, and values maintaining strong relationships with the Aggie network.
“Texas A&M is extremely important to me,” Boatright said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the foundation and network that this university provided me. Aggies take care of each other, and I believe you should give back when and where you can. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount or a big effort, but I believe we are better when we are kind to each other. Now that I have the financial means to provide assistance to The Big Event, I felt it was something I absolutely should do. It will allow my love of the organization to live on long past my lifetime.”
By Maggie Rians ’18
To learn more about how you can support The Big Event and other student organizations within the Division of Student Affairs, contact:
Torii Kapavik ’11
Director of Development
Division of Student Affairs
Make a gift online at give.am/SupportBigEvent