Stewardship and Donor Relations
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A Legacy You Can Touch: The Bates Family Giving Story
It all started with a little wooden box. Janet (BS Education ’71) and Garth Bates (BBA ’71) fell in love with The University of Texas at Austin, and each other, as students from 1967-71 during the height of the Vietnam War. Despite on-campus protests and political division, the high school sweethearts excelled in their studies, she as an elementary education major and he as a business major at the McCombs School of Business. Years later, as they raised their young family, the couple made their first contribution of $250 and became among the first members of the Chancellor’s Council.
“As a thank you for our contributions, McCombs sent a little wooden box with numbers for each year of giving,” Janet said. “[Garth] just loved that thing. It was something he could touch.”
That was the beginning of the couple’s philanthropic efforts to support McCombs Business School and the University. So, when the family lost Garth suddenly in a plane crash, one of Janet’s first decisions was to honor his memory with a scholarship to Texas McCombs.
“It was shortly after we lost Garth when the idea of making a gift to McCombs was suggested to me,” she said. “That’s how the scholarship began.”
The Garth C. Bates Memorial Presidential Scholarship in Business was born. Its ongoing legacy has provided a pathway for McCombs students to pursue their degree. For the Bates’ children, Ross, Trip and Elisabeth, it is the most fitting way to remember their father, someone they describe as always giving to others.
“The scholarship is very important to us as a family,” said Ross Bates, youngest son of Janet and Garth. “I’m so glad my mom is doing it. She makes sure we are included in all of these decisions, so she makes sure we remember why it is so important.”
Eldest son, Trip, agrees, noting how touching it is to read letters from scholarship recipients.
“Mom will forward them to us to read,” he said. “It’s great to know it’s doing something special in people’s lives.”
Another significant contribution to campus has been the Bates Memorial Fountain in the courtyard at the AT&T Center next to Rowling Hall. Before breaking ground on the facility, the University invited groups on hardhat tours, pointing out planned facility highlights. On the hunt for a way to contribute, Janet proposed a fountain for the center of the outdoor space to serve as a memorial to her late husband.
“I was looking for a place that every time the family came to Austin we had a place to meet,” she said. “I wanted something I could touch.”
Today, the fountain is the site of photo shoots, the centerpiece for outdoor events, and, yes, a gathering place for families, including the Bateses.
“Yes, it’s in memory of Dad, but it isn’t sad. It’s peaceful,” Ross said. “The fountain can cause people to pause and reflect. That’s the great thing about it. It’s not ours. It’s everyone’s. That’s the whole point.”
Trip’s daughter, Kaitlyn, now a University of Texas student studying at McCombs, has even brought friends by to see the fountain erected in her grandfather’s memory.
“She was about 5 years old when the fountain was built, so it’s great to see her now able to share it with people,” Trip said.
As multiple generations now enjoy a University of Texas legacy, philanthropy has never been more important to the Bates family. Whether supporting scholarships, contributing to new building efforts, or providing other funding investments, all agree there’s never been a more important time to give in any way possible.
“We have always been a philanthropic family,” said Trip. “And we will continue to give to places that were special to Dad. UT has always been near and dear to our hearts, even more so now that we have new generations enjoying all it has to give.”
Ross, who volunteers to speak to university student groups, agreed with that sentiment, adding that the gift of time is also important to McCombs and the University.
“One of the things I did, and want to continue to do, is give time,” he said. “I’ve been able to talk to these student groups, and it reminds you of what it was like to be back there. It’s mutually beneficial and rewarding.”
For Janet, seeing her family become more involved in giving efforts to McCombs and the University, stokes her desire to continue doing more for the place that inspired her love of teaching, travel, and history. Of her many memories on campus – accompanying Garth to the mainframe in the basement of the Business Economics Building, cooking for friends in her on-campus apartment, discovering a love of travel through her geography class, the Daryl K. Royal winning streak years – what she cherishes most is the place itself.
“This university has given me way more than I have given it,” she said.
When given the chance, Janet encourages others to think of how they can honor their loved ones with memorial donations, scholarships, or other meaningful contributions.
“I tell people who are thinking of making a donation to McCombs or the University, see if there is something they have a passion about,” she said. “I encourage them to talk with the development team, and I’ll bet they can find something that will be meaningful. You just have to ask.”
Janet still has the wooden box that meant so much to Garth. It stands as a testament to what a simple gesture of thanks can inspire – generational giving that touches many lives.
“We have never stopped giving to the Chancellor’s Council,” Janet, who now serves on the Council, said. “The number one reason we are continuing to give is [Garth] had something he could touch. All of our giving started with that little box.”
“I got an education (at the University of Texas),” he says. “But more importantly, I got stimulated. I got curious and that has paid off in my business life.”
Landing on the University of Texas campus, McClean admits to being unprepared for college culture.
“I would say that UT and the United States Air Force were a tremendous growth time for me,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for (UT) at age 18, but it gave me a lot and helped me mature.”
McClean pursued and eventually completed a Bachelors of Business Administration degree at Texas McCombs, but it wasn’t the accounting or data entry courses that captured his interest. He was drawn, instead, to history.
“My favorite class was England Under the Tudors,” he remembers. “I was fascinated by that.”
His interest piqued, McClean began exploring new interests, such as reading. Thanks to the James Bond film “Dr. No”, he was suddenly very interested in the books. Pretty soon, he had read the entire James Bond series by writer Ian Fleming, and, he says, he hasn’t stopped reading since.
That love of reading followed him after graduation from Texas McCombs as he started his career in digital technology sales. From Chicago to Kansas City to Florida and finally to Colorado, where he finally settled with his wife, Susan, that passion stayed with him.
“It’s the funniest thing, to think back on my time at UT,” he said. “Little things will happen. I’ll read or hear a word that is unique and I’ll flash back to when I heard it at UT. Stuff like that happens a lot.”
As his career continued to gain steam, McClean began thinking about what to do with the extra income he was bringing in. It was time, McClean said, to give back. That was in 1981.
“All of a sudden, you look back and it’s been 20, 30, 40 years of giving,” he said. “And as the years go on, you give a little more and a little more until it turns into something significant.”
McClean has given a yearly donation to Texas McCombs for 41 years, a gift which has grown over time.
For McClean, however, it’s just what you do.
“I was the first McClean to graduate from college,” he says. “McCombs opened up the door to my career and I’m just very appreciative of it.”
To future McCombs alumni, eager to begin their lives, McClean has just one bit of advice as they embark on new careers.
“Somewhere in the next 15 years, you are going to reach a point where your income exceeds your needs,” he says. “That’s when it’s time to give back to society. One way to do that is to give back to your alma mater that has given you a chance at a future. One day, you’ll be very glad you did.”
Sara Mitchell Jebaily