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$3M gift supports Coaching Academy in the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University

$3M gift supports Coaching Academy in the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University
August 27, 2021 SEHD Communications

$3M gift supports Coaching Academy in the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University

Dorothy Jersild McFerrin, through The Artie and Dorothy McFerrin Foundation, has committed a $3 million gift to the School of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University to support and expand the services offered through the Texas A&M Coaching Academy. The academy will be renamed the Thornton-McFerrin Coaching Academy in honor of Dorothy McFerrin and John Thornton.

The Texas A&M Coaching Academy was established in 2012, by way of a combined supportive effort between the Department of Health & Kinesiology, the School of Education & Human Development and the Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance. John Thornton founded the academy with the goal of preparing, supporting and promoting individuals interested in and currently engaged in the coaching profession or related areas of youth development.

The academy has developed programming to support students preparing to be coaches, coaches already in the field, administrators in a variety of sports settings, and a year-long mentoring model. Each year the academy hosts, and participates in, multiple coaching events including seminars, clinics, workshops, guest speakers and conferences.

“We have the energy, vision, dedication, and now the track record to continue to push forward the impact of the coaching academy,” stated Thornton. “With this gift the academy will continue to strive to instill four guiding principles — Leadership, Integrity, Fundamentals, Excellence — into future and existing coach’s everyday habits helping cultivate each individual coaching philosophy.”

The Coaching Academy made an impact on Lizbeth Oyervides, class of 2019. She participated in academy programming during her time at Texas A&M and says it helped her grow as a coach and as an individual.

“Thanks to it, I have created lifelong friendships and have developed mentor relationships which have supported my career,” stated Oyervides, now an assistant basketball coach in Cy-Fair ISD. She said she accepted the position right out of college because she had the experience and knowledge from the Coaching Academy.

“I took on the challenge knowing I had been prepared for it,” stated Oyervides.

Dorothy, and her late husband, Artie, have long prepared Texas A&M athletics for success with seven-figure gifts in support of numerous facilities including the McFerrin Indoor Athletic Center, the Cox-McFerrin Center for Aggie Basketball, the Bill Byrne Student-Athlete Center at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park, the R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center, and the redevelopment of Kyle Field. They have also impacted students in the School of Education and Human Development through the endowment of the Marilyn Kent Byrne Student Success Center as well as the Byrne Chair.

“Through Dorothy and the McFerrin Foundation’s generosity, this transformational gift will allow the vision of the Coaching Academy to become reality,” stated Joyce Alexander, Dean of the School of Education and Development. “Their dedicated support will ensure that those who seek to mold young minds will have the resources they need to train, inspire and encourage the athletes entrusted to their care.”

“For many students, their biggest influence in their lives is their coaches. Coaches are the mentors, leaders and many times are the adult they spend the most time with during their school years,” stated Dorothy McFerrin.

McFerrin and her daughter, Jennifer McFerrin-Bohner, appreciate that the Coaching Academy develops those undergraduates who want to make a big impact in the lives of children and their communities through sports. They want to support the work of the academy in teaching hands-on practical skills, and offer continuing education and support to set these future coaches up for success.

“This academy can make the difference and we want Aggies to be the leaders of Texas sports,” stated McFerrin-Bohner.

Through this gift, the academy will sponsor and institute the McFerrin Coaching Symposium. This symposium will bring together current coaches at all levels — youth clubs, high schools, college, recreational — and connect them with high quality speakers in an all-Aggie weekend learning immersion (Friday afternoon – Sunday noon with social activities; including facility tours and sporting event attendance). Additionally, the academy will be able to enhance and expand existing programming and implement additional activities to positively impact new and existing coaches, athletics and sport across the state of Texas. This includes developing continuing education training modules to serve coaches in the field and expand the R.O.C.K. Mentor year-long program to further professional competencies.

“Texas A&M University has always taken a leadership role in subjects like business, agriculture and engineering,” stated Dorothy McFerrin. “I envision the Coaching Academy to assume the same position in impacting sports in Texas schools.”

“Anyone involved with sports knows that coaches are more than just X’s and O’s. Coaches set the tone for our youth, and if they are good leaders and role models then their influence is far reaching,” stated Melinda Sheffield-Moore, former department head of health and kinesiology. “Our department, college and university community are extremely fortunate to have a leader like John Thornton to promote and establish a new standard of excellence in the career path of coaching. John’s lifelong coaching passion, combined with the financial support of The Artie and Dorothy McFerrin Foundation, leave no doubt that the Thornton-McFerrin Coaching Academy has the ability to elevate the field of coaching like no other program in the country.”

“I see our coaches focusing on the continual improvement model and using these skills to produce better athletes on the playing field, the classroom and ultimately to the boardroom,” stated Jennifer McFerrin-Bohner. “Filling the gaps of coaching staffs with Aggies in small towns and metropolitan areas will make events like Friday night football in Texas even more entertaining and rewarding for coaches, athletes and the community alike.”

“After almost 10 years of work by Dr. Thornton and his associates, as well as the financial support the Coaching Academy has received from many donors, it is thrilling and touching that the McFerrins are investing in the Coaching Academy,” stated Dr. J. Timothy Lightfoot, Director, Huffines Institute. “I have no doubt that their gift will be a multiplier and will help the Coaching Academy students and their initiatives have a life-changing impact on students of all levels — from elementary school to the professional ranks.”

Before his involvement with the Coaching Academy, Thornton held a variety of administrative duties in the Athletics Department at A&M. He served as the Interim Athletic Director as A&M transitioned into the Southeastern Conference. Prior to that he served as Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development at Texas A&M and helped coordinate student-athlete academic services, strength and conditioning, athletic training and financial aid.

While serving in his administrative duties he was recognized by way of the Academic Inspiration Award in 1998, the TAMU 2002 Student Organization Advisor of the Year Award and was honored in 2002 by having a Fish Camp named after him. He was the recipient of the Student-Athlete Award of Excellence in 2003, the Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in 2012, and in 2015 he was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Honor.

Before his administrative duties he was a nine-year assistant basketball coach for Head Coach Shelby Metcalf at Texas A&M and served as interim Head Basketball Coach in 1990.

Thornton was a 2-year letterman on the Texas A&M Basketball Team where in 1974 he earned the Newcomer-of-the-Year in the Southwest Conference and won the team Most Valuable Player Award. In his senior year at A&M, he was voted Team Captain of the 1975 Southwest Conference Champions.

Prior to his tenure at A&M, Thornton was a basketball coach at the high school and junior college level.

Thornton-McFerrin Coaching Academy

The Thornton-McFerrin Coaching Academy is dedicated to preparing, promoting, and supporting coaches and sports programming through truth, education, and fundamentals. The goal is to develop and enhance the ability of coaches to positively impact those with whom they come in contact.  

School of Education and Human Development

The School of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at Texas A&M University is the fourth-largest college at Texas A&M with more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students studying across four academic departments (Educational Administration and Human Resource Development, Educational Psychology, Health and Kinesiology, and Teaching, Learning and Culture). The college is among the leading institutions in the state for producing the highest number of certified teachers in bilingual education, special education, and STEM-related fields. It has consistently been ranked among the top five educator producing programs in Texas.

 Texas A&M Foundation

The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aspires to be among the most trusted philanthropies in higher education. It builds a brighter future for Texas A&M University, one relationship at a time. To learn more, visit


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