Houston couple endows full-ride scholarship for petroleum students

Kelly L. and William D. “Bill” Von Gonten Jr. of Houston have endowed a full-ride scholarship for Texas A&M University students in petroleum engineering. Full-ride scholarships of this type are rare at Texas A&M.

Kelly and Bill Von Gonten Jr. '87

Kelly and Bill Von Gonten Jr. '87 gave $500,000 to endow a full-ride scholarship for students in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M.

Their $500,000 contribution through the Texas A&M Foundation, which marks the couple’s fifth endowed gift at Texas A&M, creates the Kelly and Bill Von Gonten Jr. ’87 Scholarship in Petroleum Engineering. The award is part of the Von Gonten Scholarship Program, named in memory of Bill’s father, W.D. “Doug” Von Gonten, an influential professor and department head whose 25 years of service resulted in the remarkable growth of petroleum engineering at Texas A&M.

The scholarship will be awarded this fall to a full-time Texas A&M student, preferably sophomore level or higher, pursuing a degree in petroleum engineering. Texas or U.S. residents with a minimum 3.0 GPR are eligible to apply, and selection of the recipient is subject to the Petroleum Engineering Scholarship Committee. The award is valued at $22,000 per academic year and will cover the full cost of attendance. Retention is dependent upon the recipient maintaining a GPR of 3.0 or higher.

“The Von Gonten scholarship celebrates a watershed in scholarship donation generosity,” said Dr. David Schechter, an associate professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering and the holder of the George K. Hickox, Jr. Professorship in Petroleum Engineering. “It will provide one deserving student the opportunity of a lifetime. The holder of this scholarship will have the capability to rise to the top of the petroleum engineering profession and guarantee that the torch is passed to generations of future Aggie petroleum engineers. The Von Gontens deserve special thanks for this tremendous gift on behalf of the College of Engineering, the petroleum engineering faculty and the recipient of this prestigious award.”

Bill Von Gonten is president and owner of Houston-based W.D. Von Gonten & Co., which specializes in oil and gas reservoir engineering worldwide. He also serves on Texas A&M’s Petroleum Engineering Industry Board. Kelly Von Gonten is a 1987 Texas A&M accounting graduate and manages their home and two children. The Von Gonten family’s interest in undergraduate education related to the oil and gas industry dates back decades.

“My father dedicated his career to ensuring the Texas A&M University Petroleum Engineering Department provided all of its students with the highest quality education,” said Bill Von Gonten. “Kelly and I are fortunate to be able to continue his mission by providing a scholarship that will allow an eager and enthusiastic student an opportunity to focus mainly on their studies by relieving some outside pressures.”

The couple previously endowed a faculty fellowship in the Department of Petroleum Engineering to help reward and retain outstanding faculty, and has also funded two scholarships in Texas A&M’s College of Geosciences. In 2010, they established a fund to award undergraduate scholarships to high-achieving students pursuing a degree in petroleum engineering.

The office of student financial aid could confirm only one other such scholarship that by itself provides a full ride to students; usually students need to combine several scholarships to cover the full cost of attending Texas A&M.

Brady Bullard, the Foundation’s director of development for the Department of Petroleum Engineering, described the Von Gontens’ scholarship as a tremendous opportunity for Aggies that will live on to benefit many more well into the future.

“I’m one of the lucky ones who had the chance to get to know Kelly and Bill personally as we discussed different options for how they might support Texas A&M,” Bullard said. “These are selfless people who have worked hard to succeed in their lives and careers. They could so easily spend this money on personal endeavors or interests, but they made a conscious decision to help others in a big way. This endowment solidifies the Von Gonten legacy at Texas A&M and will build talented petroleum engineering professionals long after their lifetimes.”

The Von Gonten endowed scholarship fund will be managed by the Texas A&M Foundation, a privately governed, nonprofit corporation whose mission is to provide private financial support for Texas A&M University. The Foundation’s fundraising and asset management team helps former students, corporations and other nonprofit organizations direct contributions to specific academic and leadership programs.