Baylor University Mourns Passing of Alumnus, Philanthropist Thomas R. Powers
Powers served the University on Board of Regents, business and social work boards
WACO, Texas (Jan. 26, 2024) – Baylor University is mourning the death of Baylor alumnus, former Regent and Board Chair and dedicated philanthropist Thomas R. “Tom” Powers of Houston, who passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 24, with his family by his side. Powers was known for his prominent investment career and for his leadership and service on several nonprofit boards, including Baylor’s Board of Regents and Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund board, where he served as chairman for both.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Patsy Graves Powers, and their three children. A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at the Sanctuary at Second Baptist Church in Houston. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Tom and Pat’s tradition of giving consider a gift to the Tom and Pat Powers Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Baylor.
“There are alumni who leave an indelible mark on Baylor University – through their philanthropy or through the wisdom they provide in leadership and service,” said Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “Baylor is blessed to have been the recipient of this faithful dedication from Tom and Pat Powers, and our deepest prayers are with Pat and her family at this difficult time. Tom Powers was a man of faith and conviction who believed in Baylor’s Christian mission and worked alongside faculty, administrators and others to hold Baylor to that high standard. His support of Baylor faculty and students – through his and Pat’s endowed chair in our business school to the student scholarships they have established – will continue to bless future generations of the Baylor Family. We are grateful for Tom Powers’ life of service and unwavering support of his alma mater.”
A man of deep, abiding faith, Tom Powers served his community and committed himself to a life of excellence, whether that was in his successful professional career, his commitment to his family and his role as a father or supporting those in need and his Baylor community through his extensive leadership and service. He spoke eloquently of the responsibility he felt to supporting future generations in a Baylor Business Review profile: “We will realize our primary job is to make a better way for those that follow,” he said. “We absolutely must commit ourselves to using our resources and talents toward being examples, rather than impediments, to reaching the goals we want for those that follow.”
Born in East Texas, Tom Powers, B.B.A. ’60, grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. He finished in the top 1% of his high school class but had no resources for college tuition. Encouraged by Milton Cunningham, B.A. ’50, a friend from church who later became a Texas Baptist leader, Baylor Board member and University Chaplain, Tom set his sights on Baylor and secured an academic scholarship to attend. At Baylor, he met Pat, B.B.A. ’62, his future bride.
Their commitment to giving back was a staple of their marriage. As newlyweds, Pat and Tom made a commitment that as soon as they had the resources, Baylor would be on their priority list—particularly to do something that would help future students. Tours of Cambridge and Oxford helped solidify their plans.
After graduation, Tom was a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves and worked for a national accounting firm, Price Waterhouse. He then joined a privately owned investment operation led by former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. In 1976, Tom and a business associate organized the acquisition of an investment advisory firm that was part of Bentsen Group holdings. For the next 14 years, they developed Funds Inc., into a national investment advisory firm, Criterion Group, managing mutual funds for investment managers globally. They took the company public in 1986, and in 1991 agreed to be acquired by Transamerica, where Tom stayed on as CEO until his retirement in 1993.
The late 1980s and 1990s also saw Tom and Pat fulfill their earlier commitment to philanthropy in transformational ways, establishing the Tom & Pat Powers Foundation which supports education and healthcare. They also established The Pat and Tom Powers Chair in Investment Management. It was their first major gift, given “as soon as we were able” and becoming one of the earliest endowed faculty positions within the Hankamer School of Business. Shane Underwood, Ph.D., is the current holder of the Powers Chair and chair of the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate.
Tom Powers believed strongly in the power of philanthropy. A quote of his, which has often been repeated in Baylor’s Office of Advancement where he and Pat developed deep friendships as they supported Baylor’s fundraising efforts, points to the heart of their giving:
“We all have a responsibility to plant trees that we may never sit under,” Tom said in a Baylor Magazine article honoring his and Pat’s impact. “We live in a world of instant gratification, and charity is not something where you necessarily get the result immediately. It’s an investment in the future and you may never sit under the shade of the tree that you plant, but somebody will. Whatever you have, you’ve got to give back to keep Baylor alive. We continue to strive to fulfill that promise and leave Baylor, and this world, a better place.”
“The impact and legacy Tom Powers leaves here at the Hankamer School of Business cannot be overstated,” said Sandeep Mazumder, Ph.D., The William E. Crenshaw Endowed Dean of the business school. “We are forever grateful for his generosity toward the Hankamer School of Business and the genuine care he had for the students at Baylor.”
The Powers also established the Tom and Pat Powers Family Scholarship in Business and the Tom and Pat Powers Family Scholarship in Social Work to support Baylor students, as well as the Houston Gala Scholarship for Exceptional Music Students. They also contributed to building projects such as the McLane Student Life Center, McLane Stadium and the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.
Tom and Pat also committed their time, serving in leadership capacities across Baylor’s campus. Tom Powers was a Baylor Regent from 1988-97 and Regent chair from 1996-97 during a significant time in the life of the University: the creation of the Baylor Foundation and Baylor entering the Big 12 Conference. He also served on the advisory board of the Hankamer School of Business. While a Baylor Regent, he used his expertise in investment management to help build Baylor’s endowment management strategy. He also provided significant support for many of Baylor’s leaders, such as Diana R. Garland School of Social Work Dean Jon Singletary, Ph.D.
“Tom would remind me that I needed to keep working on my business model for the school, and he was right—he helped connect the dollars and cents with the hearts and minds in a more integrated and meaningful way that helped define the future of our school,” Singletary said. “I am so grateful for the support and influence of Tom (and Pat) Powers in the life of Baylor and the Garland School of Social Work. They were on our Board of Advocates when I stepped into the role of dean, and they were instrumental in helping us launch our Houston campus. They introduced us to many new friends who made that site a possibility—and now, it is home to a multi-million-dollar research team that helped Baylor take the step to becoming an R1 institution. Tom Powers was deeply committed to Baylor, to his church and primarily to his family – and in all of these he saw the hand of God at work and was grateful for the work he could do to shape the university. And I am grateful for the commitment he made to help shape the Garland School of Social Work.”
Tom Powers also served as a Trustee on the Fidelity Charitable board from 1995-2012 that formed the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, and later served on the Fidelity Non-Profit Management Foundation, the Johnson family's private foundation. The Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund is now the largest of its kind in the world. His goal was to help provide funding for groundbreaking healthcare research for the betterment of all. Powers also appointed by then-Gov. George W. Bush to serve on the Texas Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board in 1998 to help with technology implementation in Texas public schools.
Powers was a member of several professional organizations, including the Texas Society of CPAs and the American Institute of CPAs, and served on various boards in the investment and medical field, including The National Association of Securities Dealers, the Memorial-Hermann Healthcare System and Baylor College of Medicine.
He received numerous awards and honors for his extensive community service and philanthropic leadership. At Baylor, Tom and Pat were honored in 2014 with the Baylor Legacy Award, which recognizes their extraordinary service and philanthropy to Baylor. They also received the Herbert H. Reynolds Award for Exemplary Service and were recognized as through the Endowed Scholarship Society, the 1845 Society and the Medallion Fellowship.
Tom is survived by his wife, Pat, their three children, and five grandchildren, including Matt (BBA ’89, MBA ’91), and wife Laura Phillips Powers (BBA ’90) and children Megan (BA ’20) and Sam (BBA ’22); Joell Powers; and Paige Powers Bell (BBA ’94) and her husband Doug (BBA ’93 MBA ’99) and children Brooks (BBA ’22), Lindsay (BS ’24) and Colt (hopefully BBA ’34, according to the family).
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.