For the first time in more than 10 years, West Texas A&M University (WT) in Canyon has a newly established school, following a $3 million gift from Amarillo National Bank. It’s the largest gift in the bank’s history. The university’s department of accounting, economics and finance in the Paul & Virginia Engler College of Business will be elevated to a school, the Amarillo National Bank School of Accounting, Economics and Finance. The news was announced by WT and Amarillo National Bank representatives at a news conference on February 14 in Amarillo.
“We’re honored to support the One West campaign because this is a turning point for the university and future generations will benefit from it,” William Ware, Amarillo National Bank president, said at the news conference. “Plus, our partnership with WT is a critical part of our recruiting strategy. In fact, the majority of our Amarillo and Canyon team has graduated from WT so we look for it on a résumé.”
The newly named Amarillo National Bank School of Accounting, Economics and Finance makes the program a larger and more distinctive unit within the Engler College of Business. A request for approval of the naming and restructuring has been submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. A director for the school will be announced soon.
Amarillo National Bank’s gift also will establish the Ware University Distinguished Professor, yet to be named. This will be the only university-level faculty endowment at WT. It may be filled by an instructor from any discipline across campus and will report directly to the university president. The professor, when selected, will research areas of free-market economies that are related to rural family businesses and rural family entrepreneurism; the role of rural families in the American economy; and/or how rural family industries support a free-market economy and society.
With the bank’s gift, WT is “tantalizingly close” to reaching its $125 million goal in its historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, said campaign co-chair David Schaeffer. To date, the five-year campaign, which launched in September 2021, has raised more than $120 million. It fuels the university’s long-range plan, “WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.”
“We thank the Ware family and Amarillo National Bank for investing in WT,” Schaeffer said. “Your investments go far beyond the university. Your gifts are truly an investment in the people of the Panhandle.” WT President Walter V. Wendler also thanked the Ware family, which founded and still runs Amarillo National Bank.
“As important as the money is, the lending of your family’s name and reputation to WT through your giving is priceless,” Wendler said. “There is no dollar figure that can be attached to that gift. We humbly accept the responsibility that goes along with attaching the Ware family and Amarillo National Bank name to the mission of WT.”
“[This] is a point of pride that we will cherish,” said Dr. Amjad Abdullat, dean of the Engler College of Business. “With this distinction comes the responsibility to exercise judicious stewardship, a responsibility that my colleagues and I take very seriously. This gift demonstrates strong confidence in our students’ excellence, the innovative spirit of our faculty and staff, and the vision and determination to make the program among our state and nation’s best.”
The Paul & Virginia Engler College of Business, which boasts the largest number of enrolled students among all six of WT’s colleges, is routinely named as one of the best business schools in the nation. Its online MBA program recently was ranked No. 20 by the prestigious Princeton Review. Several of its offerings were awarded Best Program status for an 11th consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report in its most recent rankings of online programs. WT’s master of science degree in finance and economics has been in the Top 10 for eight consecutive years for TFE Times, an online news platform. WT’s business faculty members have terminal degrees from such prestigious universities as Harvard University, the University of California–Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Minnesota, University of Iowa and University of Texas.
Amarillo National Bank’s support of WT runs deep, and this gift increases the bank’s total giving to WT to almost $5 million. The Ware family, which founded the bank in 1892, and their Ware Foundation was one of the first to support the renovation of the building that is now the home of the Amarillo Center. The family’s $1 million gift was recognized with the naming of the center’s Amarillo National Bank Grand Lobby, and the bank received the Pinnacle Award from the WTAMU Foundation in 2017.
Richard Ware, the bank’s chairman, taught finance courses at WT in the 1970s. His son, Benjamin Ware III, attended the university. William and Pat Ware took courses in accounting, finance and economics. William Ware’s wife, Shaylee, earned her degree in health science and nutrition in 2020 at WT.
Thank you to Chip Chandler for his reporting and input on this article.