A&M-Commerce alumnus creates accounting scholarship for first-generation college students

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Commerce, Texas – The new James Earl Estes Endowed Scholarship in Accounting provides financial support to first-generation students majoring in accounting at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Mr. Estes, a graduate of East Texas State University (ETSU), generously provided the funds for the endowment. He is the owner of Your Controller Plus, a Dallas-based tax preparation and advisory firm.

Estes created the endowment to repay financial aid he received as a student in the 1970s. Born and raised in Dallas by his mother [Susie Lee Estes], Estes was the first person in his family to receive a college degree. He graduated from ETSU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1974.

Estes was exposed to the college environment in high school through Upward Bound, a federal program that prepares young people for college entrance. As a participant, Estes attended summer school at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.

During his freshman year, Estes enrolled in SMU, but he could not plan to meet the long-term financial demands. Looking for a more affordable option, he recalls a school trip to ETSU. Although ETSU’s rural setting seemed a little out of his comfort zone, he decided to enroll.

“ETSU was only 60 miles from Dallas, and that gave me the opportunity to come back to ‘civilization’ often,” Estes joked.

A network of supporters have reached out to offer financial assistance to Estes. He earned scholarships from ETSU, United Way, and the YMCA of Dallas, where he volunteered. According to Estes, this support changed the trajectory of his life.

“If no one had referred me for a scholarship, I might have been a good citizen, but I would never have been able to go to college,” he says.

Despite his initial reservations, Estes acclimated to ETSU and got along well with the other students – the “cowboys” – who attended the rural school.

“We got on well; we got along. It was just different from what I was used to,” Estes said.

However, racial attitudes toward black citizens in the recently disavowed American South meant that not everyone in society encouraged his success.

“Not everyone was my champion,” Estes said. “In fact, some have been keen to say, ‘Are you sure business education is for you?’ And that alone was motivation enough for me to succeed. Some things you can either let destroy yourself or you can take those lemons and make lemonade.

Estes chose to “make lemonade”. Equipped with a solid business education from ETSU, he began a steady climb to business success. Even before graduating from college, Estes completed three internships at successful Dallas corporations, including Goldman Sachs and Raymond D. Nasher, the famed Texas real estate developer. During his final two years in college, Estes traveled 120 miles back and forth between his internship in Dallas and his classes at ETSU.

Throughout his career, Estes has worked for several Fortune 500 companies, including FINA Oil and Chemical, Atlantic Richfield & Company, and First National Bank of Dallas. He was risk manager for FINA Oil and Chemical and chief financial officer for Southern Dallas Development Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation. For the past 15 years, he has worked as an accountant and tax advisor with his tax preparation and advisory firm.

Additionally, Estes works diligently to improve the quality of life in his community. He has held leadership positions at the African American Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art, on the board of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, and in numerous other volunteer positions.

Looking back on his life, Estes says he thanks God for his grace and mercy. Estes is also grateful for positive adult influences throughout his childhood.

“I went to Saint Anthony Catholic School from kindergarten through sixth grade, and all of my instructors were nuns,” Estes said. “At this all-black elementary school in the middle of South Dallas, these teachers helped us build our self-esteem. They taught us that nobody, nobody was better than us. »

At home, his mother also taught Estes to believe in himself and his abilities.

“My mom’s mantra was, ‘Failure isn’t in the equation,'” Estes said.

Estes hopes his scholarship will make a difference for a youngster who might be wondering, “Is a four-year college the right path for me?” Do I have to do to move forward? He hopes the James Earl Estes Endowed Scholarship in Accounting is a nudge in the right direction for a student who needs a little extra encouragement.

“I know there is a population of young people who have a similar history to mine and who need supporters,” he said.

Estes believes that giving back is part of loving others, and not always in a monetary way.

“I’ve been a ‘time philanthropist’ a lot of times,” Estes said. “It’s a term I coined that refers to giving up my time and talents when I couldn’t write a check.”

Dr. Michael Opara, acting department head and associate professor in the Department of Accounting and Finance at A&M-Commerce, expressed his gratitude for Estes’ gift.

“On behalf of the Department of Accounting and Finance, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the generous donation that made this endowed scholarship possible,” said Opara. “Mr. Estes truly embodies the values ​​we cherish and strive to instill in our graduates. We hope this endowed scholarship will make a difference in the lives of first-generation students who take this leap of faith to invest in them.” themselves.

Students can apply for the James Earl Estes Scholarship in Accounting as well as many other opportunities starting October 1, 2022, through the Donor Funded Scholarships application in their myLEO accounts. Contact [email protected] for more information.

The account created to support the James Earl Estes Accounting Scholarship will remain open for additional donations. Contact the Office of Philanthropy and Engagement at 903.468.8187 or [email protected] to find out how to contribute.

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