Texas A&M University often shapes the interests and passions of not just the individual, but entire families. In the case of the Ray Frisbie family, with the university’s help, they are creating a legacy as diverse as the passions they share.  

Part of Renee and Ray Frisbie's legacy will aid this garden.
Renée and Ray Frisbie are creating a family legacy by setting up a testamentary charitable remainder unitrust to benefit loved ones and support their Aggieland passions after their lives. (Texas A&M Foundation photo.)

Each in their own way, Frisbie, his wife, Renée, and their daughter, Katelan ’09, grew to love the university. In appreciation, the Frisbies have committed a legacy gift through their estate utilizing a testamentary charitable remainder unitrust that will support generations of students after their lifetimes.

Ray Frisbie, Ph.D., emeritus professor, began his career as an entomologist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He spent his entire career at Texas A&M and became an internationally recognized expert in integrated pest management. He also served as a professor and head of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Entomology for the last nine years of his tenure. He retired in 2003.

“I love Texas A&M. I’m an Aggie by choice, I guess, having worked here for 31 years,” Ray Frisbie said. “The price of education has risen so sharply that it’s difficult for the average person to go to college. So, the theme of our gift is investing in education, and it is primarily directed toward scholarships or graduate assistantships.”

The Frisbies’ estate gift will support scholarships and program funding in four distinct areas: marine and coastal conservation, special education, integrated pest management and gardening.

Impacting conservation for generations

The major portion of the legacy gift will establish the Dr. Raymond E. and Renée Barsalou Frisbie Endowed Graduate Student Fellowship in Marine and Coastal Conservation.

Why is an entomologist interested in creating a fellowship in marine and coastal conservation?

Frisbie’s leadership in developing integrated science approaches for entomology gave him insight into the need for far-reaching applications in other areas of agriculture and life sciences.

“I’ve been a saltwater fisherman for 40 years,” he said. “I’ve seen the disappearance of habitat, freshwater inflows from rivers that go into the bays and estuaries that have been reduced by development, and pollution issues that affect the Gulf Coast and fisheries. I decided a graduate assistantship is the best way I can help address these issues.”

Frisbie proposed an innovative partnership between the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology in College Station and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“This is the first donation I’m aware of where the donor specified that students and faculty at two campuses work together and benefit from the gift,” said Jaime Barrera, vice president of institutional advancement for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

In this joint fellowship, doctoral students in marine and coastal conservation will collaborate with fisheries and coastal marine scientists at both campuses. The faculty will guide the students’ research projects and serve on their graduate advisory committees. To be eligible, the students’ field research should address critical needs in marine and coastal conservation such as:

  • Design and restoration of marine habitats.
  • Water quality for marine life.
  • Short- and long-term impacts of freshwater inflows.
  • Rearing and release methods for sportfish species to cope with changing environmental conditions.
  • Development of government policies to reduce or eliminate industrial, urban and agricultural marine pollution.

The collaboration is intended to have a “multiplier effect” on research output and educational benefits. Both programs will gain from the Gulf Coast location and facilities, as well as benefit from the potential for attracting and retaining top faculty and student researchers.

The Frisbies’ gift commitment shows vision and leadership, said Kirk Winemiller, Ph.D., university distinguished professor and interim department head for the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology.

“Someone rarely has the opportunity to make this kind of impact on natural resource conservation,” Winemiller said. “We will be good stewards of this opportunity to train outstanding scientists who will impact the world.”

Many donors interested in conservation issues are thinking about how to have a long-lasting impact.

“A planned gift like what the Frisbies have created allows us to support students interested in these same issues many years down the road,” Barrera said. “Through this vehicle, Ray and Renée’s conservation-mindedness and efforts will continue in perpetuity.”

Training special education teachers

Katelan Frisbie’s passion is helping students with learning disabilities succeed. She graduated from Texas A&M in 2009 in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in special education and spent much of her career as a special education teacher. She now works with youth at a nonprofit organization, The Forge for Families, in Houston’s 3rd Ward. The organization helps families grow educationally, economically and spiritually. 

To honor their daughter’s dedication, the Frisbies planned The Katelan Frisbie ’09 Endowed Special Education Scholarship to provide scholarships to undergraduate students who pursue a degree that leads to a special education teaching career. The Department of Educational Psychology will select recipients based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities and financial need.

Advancing integrated pest management

With AgriLife Extension, Frisbie developed and delivered integrated pest management, IPM, systems to farmers. IPM is a combination of tactics that economically control pests and reduce pesticide pollution. During his time as department head, Frisbie helped develop a collaborative research consortium between Texas A&M, The University of Texas and Texas Tech University to develop IPM tactics to manage the red imported fire ant.

He also played a vital role in the development of a plan to eradicate the boll weevil, a key cotton pest, in Texas. Except for an area in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the boll weevil has been eradicated not only from Texas but also from other cotton-growing regions in the U.S.

To further his dedication and work, the Dr. Raymond E. and Renée Barsalou Frisbie Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Department of Entomology Integrated Pest Management Program Support Fund will advance IPM research by funding travel, equipment and supplies, and special projects for the AgriLife Extension IPM Program.

Helping The Gardens grow

Another endowment honors Renée Frisbie’s passion for gardening. The Dr. Raymond E. and Renée Barsalou Frisbie Leach Teaching Gardens Endowed Student Scholarship reflects her love of the campus oasis at The Gardens at Texas A&M University and her volunteer service with the Texas Master Gardener program, which supports AgriLife Extension horticultural programming throughout the state.

Master Gardener volunteers lead educational outreach activities such as plant sales, home garden tours and educational programs in elementary schools. Along with these activities, Renée Frisbie also volunteered public relations support for the organization, using the marketing and advertising skills she acquired through her work for Texas Monthly magazine and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. She also owned a marketing and advertising consulting business in College Station.

“We are so pleased with the Leach Teaching Gardens—its design, the way it is maintained and the fact that it is a public garden. We want to help keep it perpetually,” she said. “And we want students to have the opportunity to work with gardens in the most expert capacity to prepare them for top-level jobs.”

 The premier research and teaching gardens serve as an outdoor classroom where students learn about gardening, landscape design and construction, production agriculture and environmental stewardship.

These endowment funds will provide scholarships to full-time students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the Texas A&M campus in College Station.

The Gardens have become one of the Frisbies’ favorite places. About once a week, they bring breakfast to The Gardens and stroll through the 7-acre sanctuary.

“It’s just amazing to us that this exists,” she said. “It’s like a little heaven.”

To learn how you can leave your legacy at the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, contact Allyson Tjoelker ’02 at [email protected]. To learn more about how you can use a legacy gift to support Texas A&M after your lifetime, contact Angela Throne ’03 at [email protected].

The original story appeared in The Texas A&M Foundation Gift Legacy newsletter.

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