Toole Family Makes Major Gift Toward Reed Arena Expansion Project
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
October 25, 2006
As an avid basketball fan and Texas A&M student in the late-1970s, Jeff Toole was treated to an array of exciting and entertaining hoops memories that helped accentuate his overall collegiate experience.
Toole, who graduated with an accounting degree from A&M in 1980, often played pick-up games against "The Wall" and watched with delight as the 1979-80 team won the Southwest Conference title and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
"I played basketball in high school at Clear Lake, and a good friend of mine from Clear Lake, Steve Sylestine, was on the A&M basketball team," Toole said. "So, I knew a lot of the players on that team and played pick-up games with them. I even thought about trying to walk-on, but I never did.
"But I watched some very good basketball when I was a student. The teams during my junior and senior years were really great to watch. Like most every other student at A&M back then, I had hoped that the basketball team would continue to rise for years to come."
Unfortunately for Toole and many other A&M basketball fans, the 1980 season represented the end of a triumphant run; not the beginning of one.
A quarter of a century later, hwever, Aggie basketball is back in the national spotlight under the direction of Billy Gillispie. The 2005-06 Aggies came within one heartbreaking shot of reaching the Sweet 16 last March.
Although the Aggies lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to LSU, A&M is clearly a program that is building something special under Gillispie. And Toole recently made a commitment to help the Aggies continue their momentum by making a major donation to the 12th Man Foundation in support of a proposed 40,000-square-foot basketball facility that will connect to Reed Arena and provide both the men's and women's basketball programs with state-of-the-art locker rooms, practice gyms, player lounges, meeting rooms and coaches offices.
The proposed facility, which will be located on the southeast side of Reed Arena, would also include equipment, treatment, rehabilitation, cardiovascular and weight rooms that will be shared by both men's and women's teams, as well as an impressive donor hospitality center and "great hall" that would add to the basketball ambience of Reed Arena.
The basketball facility is part of Phase II of the Championship Vision campaign for athletic facilities. Along with the basketball facility, a Phase II objective includes a multi-purpose indoor facility adjacent to Kyle Field.
Toole, who also made a major gift in support of football during the initial Championship Vision campaign, said he and his wife, Lorrie, are excited to be able to help Gillispie and women's coach Gary Blair continue to increase the national reputation of A&M basketball
"Until this past year, those teams when I was in school were really the last national-quality teams that we have had," Toole said. "Going to school at a time when basketball was so good made it really hard to watch some of the teams we were putting on the floor in the recent past. I had season tickets for several years prior to (Gillispie) coming to A&M, but it was tough to watch at times.
"But now, it's a great experience to come be a part of it. We love coming to games. I am very pleased with the direction of the basketball programs. Billy has far exceeded my expectations for the first two years. He has really gotten the most of his talent the first two years. Now, it's really going to be fun to see what he can do after he has recruited some national-profile players. It's just an exciting time to be part of the program, and we're thrilled to be able to help out with a financial gift."
Toole is the first member of his family to attend A&M. His mother and father moved from Alabama to the Houston area during his freshman year in high school, and he earned a Naval R.O.T.C scholarship to A&M.
After earning his degree in '80, Toole went to work for an accounting firm for five years. He then received a call from one of his former co-workers at the firm with a job offer from a small private equity firm.
"I went there for about a year and one-half, and then I got a call from an executive placement firm to go to a savings and loan that was doing subordinated debt investing," Toole said. "After a couple of years, the savings and loan was taken over as part of the Southwest plan for savings and loans. We left there as a group and set up the firm that I have been with since then.
"The firm I am with now is called Rice Sangalis Toole and Wilson (RSTW Partners), which was founded in 1989. I am one of the partners. What we did over the years was to raise three funds of money, primarily from public pension funds and foundations, along with a couple of private pension funds, and we invested those funds in private equity transactions, which we originated all throughout the United States. We are on the board of those companies and involved in the management of those companies. We are actually in the process of winding down the partnership. But it's been a very good ride for 17 years."
During the last 17 years, Toole has also invested plenty of time in exposing his kids to Texas A&M. He has two children from a previous marriage-a 17-year-old son, Barrett, who is beginning his senior year at Memorial High School, and a daughter, Ali, who is starting her freshman year at Memorial.
Ironically, the revival of the A&M basketball program has helped Toole sell the idea of attending A&M to his kids.
"Football is my son's deal, but he enjoys watching all the sports," Toole said. "He is a really smart kid, who scored extremely well on the SAT and ACT. He has his choice of schools to go to. He's non-committal on that right now, but, of course, my hope is that he ends up at A&M.
"My daughter is actually a very big fan of Texas A&M basketball. We took her to football games and volleyball games at A&M, but basketball really got her hooked. She plays volleyball, but A&M basketball is what she really likes to watch. And going to games is something we really enjoy doing as a family."
Toole says he and his family members are already excited about the 2006-07 basketball season. And, with funding and planning for the new facility well underway, he believes the future of the basketball programs are extremely bright.
"We're very excited about the direction of the programs," Toole said. "But my motivation in making the gift is that I love A&M, and I want to see A&M have a national presence in all facets-athletically and academically. I think athletics is very important for a world-class university.
"Athletics attracts attention to the university in ways that nothing else can, enabling a school to attract great faculty, great administrators and great students. I also think athletics brings former students back to campus and keeps them invested in the university. The more people who are up there watching games, the more people are going to be hearing and seeing what is going on. And then, I think the more people are likely to give back to the business school, for example, which I also did. I'd encourage all former students to come back to game and get reconnected with the university."
If you would like to be part of the successful completion of the proposed basketball facility or other initiatives of Phase II of the Championship Vision, please contact Stu Starner, Director of the Major Gifts group of the 12th Man Foundation at 979-260-7935, or Travis Dabney at 979-260-7579.