Lion alumni Bruce and Barbara Trego have generously pledged $400,000 to benefit the Department of Engineering and Technology at Texas A&M University-Commerce. The Trego Family Engineering and Technology Endowment makes history as one of the most substantial planned gifts from a private donor to the department.
The endowment serves a dual purpose: providing scholarships to electrical engineering majors while supplying discretionary funds to the engineering department.
In a recent interview, Bruce said he hopes the scholarship will open the door to an engineering degree for economically disadvantaged students who might otherwise miss the opportunity.
“Barbara and I are excited to assist students in this way. This planned financial donation is another way to help aspiring electrical engineers achieve their goals,” Bruce said.
The Backstory: Bringing Electrical Engineering to A&M-Commerce
Bruce Trego’s behind-the-scenes work to bring the electrical engineering program to A&M-Commerce makes this story even more remarkable. It all started in 1985 when he began his undergraduate journey as a non-traditional student at age 32. By then, he had been employed at E-Systems (now L3Harris) for over a decade and was ready to start college and advance his career.
He considered a degree in electrical engineering, but East Texas State University (now A&M-Commerce) didn’t offer it, so he pivoted and pursued a degree in computer science from ETSU instead. That decision led to a successful 40-year career at L3Harris. Later, he capped his bachelor’s degree with an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
As he climbed the corporate ladder at L3Harris, Trego continued to encounter the need for an engineering program at A&M-Commerce. For several years, he was involved with recruiting engineers to Texas, a challenging task.
“A large part of my job, on occasion, was traveling around the United States trying to recruit engineers to move to Texas, which frankly wasn’t always easy,” he said. “People had families and were not always willing to leave.”
In 2017, A&M-Commerce administrators met with Trego and other senior L3Harris administrators. By that time, Trego was president of the Mission Integration Division at L3Harris’s Greenville facility. During the meeting, he learned that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) had denied permission for A&M-Commerce to offer an electrical engineering program, citing a lack of industry demand in the region. Trego was stunned; he knew that an electrical engineering program at A&M-Commerce was exactly what local industries like L3Harris needed.
“At that time, L3Harris had somewhere between 200 to 300 engineering openings, and a fair number of those openings were for electrical engineers,” Trego said. “Having a quality electrical engineering program at A&M-Commerce would only increase L3’s ability to recruit and retain engineering talent in the local area.”
After the meeting, Trego and Tom Brown, head of Human Resources for L3Harris’s Aerospace Group, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They were determined to help A&M-Commerce appeal the decision and convince THECB that Northeast Texas could indeed support an electrical engineering program. Several other local industries joined the effort, and A&M-Commerce successfully gained THECB approval for an electrical engineering program in April 2017.
Looking to the Future: The Electrical Engineering Program Expands
Thanks to supporters like Trego, the electrical engineering program has seen remarkable growth since its inception, and the future is bright. Dr. Andrea Graham, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, emphasized that the Trego Family Endowment is vital to the program’s future expansion.
“Bruce and Barbara Trego have been instrumental in the success of the electrical engineering program from the very beginning,” Graham said. We are so grateful for their invested interest in our students. As we look to the future, we can’t begin to measure the impact the Trego Family Endowment will have on our engineering program and our region’s industries. It’s a gift that will keep on giving.”
A&M-Commerce President Mark Rudin also expressed gratitude to the Tregos, affirming that their generosity resonates with the Lion spirit.
“We are indebted to the Tregos for their significant impact on engineering at A&M-Commerce,” Rudin said. “Bruce and Barbara’s spirit of service lifts others up, and we are thankful that they are a part of the Lion family. The Trego Family Endowment will educate future generations of electrical engineers for the state of Texas and beyond.”
A Lifetime of Commitment
The Trego’s connection to A&M-Commerce spans decades. The couple met in the 1970s when Barbara was studying journalism and political science at ETSU. The couple has actively supported the university in many ways over the years, through financial gifts and service.
Bruce has taught as an adjunct instructor for the College of Business and served on various advisory boards. He was also honored as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2018 and has served on the A&M-Commerce Foundation Board.
The Trego’s story is a testament to the power of education and the impact of giving back. It is an inspiring legacy that strengthens the university and the community it serves.