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COLLEGE STATION– The chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation and his family have committed $2 million to the university's Memorial Student Center (MSC) renovation and expansion project. The gift is the largest to date in a $20 million campaign, and names the grand ballroom the Debbie '76 and John'74 Bethancourt Family Ballroom.
The Bethancourts and about 700 other members of the A&M Legacy Society were the first to experience the grand ballroom during the foundation's A&M Legacy Society gala Friday. The 15,300-square-foot room is the largest event venue on the Texas A&M campus and among the largest in Bryan-College Station. Located on the upper level of the MSC, its south-facing doors open to a spacious pre-event vestibule with a view of Kyle Field.
"One of my first memories of Texas A&M was seeing the Metzger-Sanders gun collection in the MSC with my father," Bryan resident John Bethancourt recalls. "It was as clear then as it is now, that the MSC is the heart of campus."
Bethancourt, a 1974 petroleum engineering graduate of Texas A&M, served as area manager for Getty Oil Co. before spending more than 15 years with Texaco and becoming Texaco Corp.'s vice president and president of worldwide productions operations. He joined Chevron Corp. in 2001, and retired as executive vice president. He is currently serving a seven-year term on the Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees.
His wife Debbie '76, who studied floriculture at Texas A&M, has many fond memories of the MSC. "John and I shared so many great experiences at the MSC during our time on campus," she said. "Our children also built their own MSC memories while attending A&M, by participating in numerous student activities. We like to think of the MSC as our family's second home. I think that rings true for many Aggies young and old."
The Bethancourts passed on their Aggie legacy to four grown children, Justin '98, Kyle '00, Phillip '04, and Christine '06, all of whom were involved in MSC programs during their time at Texas A&M.
The Bethancourts funded two petroleum engineering scholarships through the Texas A&M Foundation, including a President's Endowed Scholarship and a professorship. The couple also created the C.O. Smith '50 Endowed Scholarship in Horticulture in honor of her father, to assist deserving students studying floriculture.
In 2007 John Bethancourt was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the Dwight Look College of Engineering and in 2011 was named Distinguished Alumnus by The Association of Former Students. Bethancourt serves on Texas A&M's International Programs Board and the Petroleum Engineering Advisory Council.
As a student at Texas A&M, Bethancourt attended the J. Wayne Stark Northeast Trip, served as a student senator in the Student Government Association, as vice president of the Student Engineering Council and as Hughes Hall Dorm President.
"I have so many memories of the MSC as a student," John Bethancourt said. "The MSC is not only where I was involved with student activities or spent time with friends, but it is also where I first met Debbie. Little did I know that while I was running an informational booth in the MSC for the Resident Hall Association, that I would meet my future wife."
Debbie and I attended Ring Dance together in the grand ballroom of the MSC during my senior year at A&M," he said. "It was such a thrill to get our first look at the new MSC and this incredible ballroom."