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Liz and Brad Worsham posed for a photo wearing maroon and Texas A&M attire.
Texas A&M University former student and professor of practice Brad Worsham ’88 gives $500,000 to support the Department of Aerospace Engineering. | Image: Courtesy of Brad Worsham

Gripping the handlebars and planting his feet on the pedals, three-year-old Brad Worsham launched his tricycle down the road to his grandmother’s house. He had watched previous Apollo launches on her color TV and was about to watch humans land on the moon.

Worsham ’88 is an associate professor of practice in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University and a recent donor of $500,000 to the Aerospace Engineering Excellence Fund. He considers himself a product of the space program, having grown up in a world racing to the moon. And he loved it so much that when his mother let him choose the wallpaper for his new bedroom, he went with a red, white and blue Apollo theme.

“The wallpaper on one big wall in my room had astronauts, moons, Saturn V rockets and all of that,” said Worsham. “Having astronaut wallpaper was really cool for the first five years, but when I was 18 it was really stretching its coolness.”

By that time, he was leaving his childhood bedroom for college. It meant a lot for Worsham when he received a President’s Endowed Scholarship to attend Texas A&M and could follow in his brother’s footsteps.

“Without that scholarship, I wouldn’t have come to Texas A&M,” said Worsham. “Not necessarily because we couldn’t afford it, but because I had opportunities elsewhere. So, I’m very sincere when I say that my donors changed the course of my life.”

He entered Texas A&M as a mechanical engineering major, but during his New Student Conference (NSC), two aerospace faculty members at the time, Stan Lowey and retired Lt. Col. Thomas McElmurry, asked him if he had considered majoring in aerospace engineering. For Worsham, it felt like one of those chance encounters that puts everything into place.

“When they asked me about my major, the memories of the astronaut wallpaper and going to my grandmother’s house to watch the launches flashed in the front of my mind,” said Worsham. “That next morning, I changed my major, and that’s how I got to be an aerospace engineer.”

Paying it forward

During his sophomore year of college, Worsham started working part-time with the CIA. Once he graduated, he joined them full time as an analyst. That position eventually took him to Australia, where he met his wife, Liz Worsham. Since then, he’s lived in the United States from the East Coast to the West Coast and raised two daughters. He has worked as a systems engineer for Lockheed Martin, was a consultant for the National Reconnaissance Office and started a company.

In 2009, his company was acquired by a private equity fund, and he made his first gift to Texas A&M.

“Establishing a President’s Endowed Scholarship was the first thing on my to-do list after we sold the company because it changed my life’s trajectory,” said Worsham. “It felt like a debt of gratitude to the university and my donors, and it was just the first obvious thing that I felt like I had to do when I had the opportunity.”

Brad Worsham in a group photo with students at an outdoors aerospace event.
Brad Worsham ’88 is always looking for opportunities to make an impact on students and invest in their experience. | Image: Courtesy of Brad Worsham

From there, investing in the student experience became a priority for Worsham. He has since given to the Zachry Engineering Education Complex renovation and established other scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students across the university. These have included the aerospace engineering department, the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study and a volleyball scholarship through the 12th Man Foundation.

His most recent gift will support the department as it expands both in students and opportunities under the new leadership of Dr. Ivett A. Leyva, the aerospace engineering department head.

“If there was one phrase or word that Dr. Leyva used that really resonated with me, it was community,” said Worsham. “Whether that is the sense of community in the facilities that we have and provide to the students or the sense of community in the types of instructors, professors and advisors that we’re able to hire.”

Worsham hopes his gift will help kickstart the next phase of the aerospace engineering department as it evolves.

“This gift is my way of leading by example to take the department to the next level as it ironically faces the challenges of its success,” said Worsham. “I’m always looking for win-wins, so it’s very gratifying for me to see that perhaps my gift would make a difference, and I trust Dr. Leyva’s direction for our aerospace community.”

Practice makes perfect 

Since 2019, Worsham has also given his time to this community as a professor of practice in the department. For him, it goes back to that chance encounter with McElmurry during his NSC. After Worsham took a few of his classes, McElmurry went on to become his mentor and even taught him how to fly during his last semester.

“I got my pilot’s license right out of college with professor McElmurry’s help, and having that hands-on experience helped me build a better picture of an airplane in my mind in terms of the natural physics and physiology of how it flies,” said Worsham. “That prepared me to talk to students about cause and effect and get them to look at an airplane as an entity as opposed to a collection of equations.”

Worsham is an instructor for AERO 401 and 402, which are design courses where the students build and fly an aircraft. He always had an interest in teaching since both of his parents and some of his grandparents were educators, but McElmurry was his inspiration to come back and teach in the department. Now, Worsham is making his own impact on the students and investing in the resources the department is able to provide them.

“Looking back at my career, I strongly recommend that students keep an open mind and just never stop being a student of engineering,” said Worsham. “There’s any number of things you could have asked me as a freshman that I would have told you were certainties. But in the end, I worked in software, not hardware. I worked with satellites, not aircraft. I worked in Virginia, not Texas. So, keeping an open mind allows you to accept and seize opportunities that you might not otherwise recognize.”

He may have traded in his tricycle, but his excitement for aerospace is still leading him to new opportunities. Right now, that’s helping to create a learning environment for the next generation of engineers.

How to Give

A gift to the Aerospace Engineering Excellence Fund has an immeasurable impact on students and a lasting impact on the department. If you are interested in supporting the College of Engineering and its departments or would like more information on how you can give, please contact Anna Norville, senior director of development.