September 27, 2023

The Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council has established a $25,000 scholarship in honor of Tommy Engelke ’75, which will further the education of students within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

The scholarship originated upon the recommendation of Jimmy Roppolo ’69, longtime Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council board member and general manager of United Agricultural Cooperative in El Campo.

‘An inspiration to cooperatives’

“Tommy has been an inspiration to cooperatives in agriculture throughout Texas and abroad,” Roppolo said. “He’s done a tremendous job of keeping cooperatives motivated, looking to the future and thinking outside the box. He’s devoted his whole life to doing just that.”

The Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council is a voluntary, statewide industry association consisting of agricultural, electric and telephone cooperatives, including water supply corporations and farm credit institutions.

A blue graphic with the words Texas A&M AgriLife in the center

Engelke graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a graduate degree in agricultural communications. He has served as executive vice president of the Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council since 1996, which will end with his retirement on June 30.

“I was just blown away when they made the scholarship announcement,” Engelke said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would major in soil and crop science again.”

Farming, leadership roots

Engelke was born and raised on a 600-acre crop and livestock farm near the South Central Texas town of Kingsbury. He graduated from Luling High School and was FFA president and state vice president. While at Texas A&M, he served as student body parliamentarian, national student president of the Soil Conservation Society of America and national student-recording secretary of the American Society of Agronomy.

“Growing up, there was no question in my family where we were going to go to school after seven degrees coming from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” he said. “Both my parents had 10th grade high school educations, and they scratched out a living on the farm to put us all through school.”

Engelke was named College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Development Council Member of the Year in 2022 and will continue to provide leadership and service to the committee following retirement.

Engelke began his professional career as a trainee for the Soil Conservation Service, now the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Natural Resource Conservation Service. He later joined the Rice Council for Market Development before entering a 12-year career with Texas Farm Credit System, spending eight years with CoBank and four with Farm Credit Bank of Texas.

“Tommy is such a good voice for agriculture,” Roppolo said. “He’s just one of these guys who is Texas A&M and agriculture through and through, and who spends a tremendous amount of time helping other people. He’s a real soldier for agricultural cooperatives, gives all his heart and never backs up from work.”


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