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Former electrical engineering students, Shari ’81 and Carlton Smith ’80 give back to support electrical engineering graduate students. | Image: Courtesy of Shari and Carlton Smith
Shari and Carlton Smith have established the Shari ’81 and Carlton Smith ’80 Endowed Fellowship. Distributions from this endowment will be used to provide one or more fellowships to students pursuing a graduate degree in electrical engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Shari and Carlton met at Texas A&M while pursuing their degrees in electrical engineering. They married in 1981, and both accepted jobs with The Dow Chemical Company in Houston, Texas. After several years, the Smiths moved to the Louisiana operations site for Dow Chemical, where they remained for the rest of their careers. 

For several years, Dow Chemical has been partnering with employees to provide scholarships for chemical and mechanical engineering students at Texas A&M. Shari and Carlton were excited for the opportunity to contribute but wanted to expand the scholarship to include electrical engineering students. “We wanted to support our degree too,” Shari said. 

Over the past several years, Shari and Carlton have established three undergraduate scholarships in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M. Shari and Carlton enjoyed getting to know their scholarship recipients and witnessing the advances in the department. “We enjoy sharing our experiences with the students of what it was like when we went to school and what the technology was like,” Shari said. 

The Smiths decided to take their contribution to the next level and establish an endowed fellowship for students pursuing a graduate degree in electrical engineering. “We wanted to create something different that still supported the department we studied in,” Shari said. They made additional preferences that the scholarship be given to a Texas or Louisiana resident. 

The department currently has 29 endowed fellowships, with a majority of its recipients being first-generation college students. 

“We recognize that not everybody is in a position to have their parents pay for school,” Shari said. “We would like to see that the money is used to help relieve some of that financial burden to enable them to achieve their goals.” They also aim to instill a spirit of generosity in the recipients’ lives. “We hope the students will also give back to the university as they are able to later in life,” Carlton said.

Shari followed in the footsteps of her father, who was also an electrical engineer. She knew that studying engineering at Texas A&M would be the best fit for her. Two of Shari’s younger siblings followed her example and chose to study electrical engineering at Texas A&M as well. 

Studying in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering gave Shari clarity about what type of career she wanted to pursue. “I wanted to apply what I learned in school first, and then eventually change over to a job that would involve being out in the field more,” she said. 

Coming from a rural town in the Texas panhandle, Carlton experienced a lifestyle at Texas A&M unlike any other. His Aggie degree launched him into a career that would later allow him to travel globally and experience a variety of cultures. He lived in the United Kingdom for two years, traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East. “It was an opportunity to see how people lived in different parts of the world,” he said.

After working with Dow Chemical for over 30 years, Shari and Carlton are now retired and live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They have four grandchildren who they hope will decide to be engineers as well.

How to Give

The College of Engineering is one of the leading engineering programs in the United States, ranking first in undergraduate enrollment and ninth in graduate enrollment. Fellowships encourage collaboration between the faculty, students and industry mentors while allowing graduate students to further their education and thus having a greater impact on the industry. If you are interested in supporting the College of Engineering and its departments or would like more information on how you can give, please email True Brown, senior director of development, at tbrown@txamfoundation.com.