ASU’s College of Business received a $5 million gift from alumni Norris and the Vincents in May. The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents then approved naming the college the Norris-Vincent College of Business.
Rooted strongly in a partnership formed at Town & Country Food Stores, a popular West Texas convenience store chain, the relationship between Norris and the Vincent Family began in the 1970s. Norris worked with Blake and Bryan’s father and co-district supervisor, Drex Vincent.
“I came to work at Town & Country when I was a freshman at ASU,” Norris said. “I worked in the stores through college and worked my way up. Drex and I were talking all the time. We would get together at least once a month to go over everything. Our families knew each other - I knew [former ASU president] Dr. Vincent. When I came to San Angelo for meetings, a lot of times I’d stay at the President’s House with Drex.”
“Lloyd has known us since we were toddlers,” Bryan added. “We all moved to San Angelo about the same time.”
Even though Town & Country sold to Stripes in 2007, that didn’t hinder the two families’ relationship. In fact, this combined gift is not the first time the families have partnered up. Norris played a large part in the development and growth of Blake and Bryan’s company, Principal LED, one of the top LED light companies in the country.
“We wanted a partner to help us,” Bryan said. “I remember talking to my dad, telling him we hadn’t really found anybody. He said, ‘Why don’t you go talk to Lloyd?’ I was like, ‘That’s a good idea.’ So we called Lloyd and showed him our business plan.”
Thus, a partnership was born.
“Lloyd was the kind of partner we were looking for,” Bryan said. “It was a perfect partnership. In any partnership, you have to have the same mentality and the same values – there is a basic underlying of trust.”
“Trust is key,” Norris added. “They were the perfect partners for me, too. I knew their family; I knew they had already run a business like this before. I was comfortable with that.”
With Principal LED’s success, the idea to give a meaningful gift began bouncing around between the three. Both Blake and Bryan credit their desire to give by watching Norris, who, incidentally, credits his desire to Steve Stephens, one of the original founders of Town & Country.
“It all goes back to Steve Stephens,” Norris said. “When we bought Steve out, he immediately donated money for the Stephens Arena, and I thought that was impressive. I told my wife, ‘I’d like to be able to do that someday.’ When we sold the company, the first thing I did was give to establish the first endowed chair in the business school.”
In addition to the Norris Family Chair in Business, Norris has provided funding for ASU’s Norris Baseball Clubhouse and renovations to Foster Field at 1st Community Credit Union Stadium. In 2015, he was named the ASU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus. Inspired, Blake and Bryan look to follow suit.
“You just watch what Lloyd does,” Blake said. “It doesn’t even have to be said. You just see it. It’s impressive.”
“I’ve always said I’d love to be able to give most of everything I made,” Bryan added. “If you have the opportunity to help others, especially by creating a program that teaches them how to better their lives and generate wealth, that’s a much better use of a way to give. I hope that someday we can help someone the same way Lloyd helped us.”
Blake and Bryan are well on their way to achieving those goals. The grandsons of former ASU President Lloyd D. Vincent, they partnered up with Norris yet again to continue to build on the legacy their grandfather left behind. Wanting to keep their money in San Angelo, the three decided to significantly benefit Angelo State, with their generous donation marking the largest gift ever received to benefit the College of Business, as well as the largest endowment held by the ASU Foundation.
“This endowment will provide a stream of income that will allow the college to really fulfill the mission it has,” said Dr. Clifton Jones, dean of the Norris-Vincent College of Business. “These resources will really open the doors for us to do some things that we would not be able to do if we didn’t have them.”
“These gentlemen are the perfect reflection on the whole West Texas ethos,” he continued. “They will inspire our students in ways that allow them to transform their lives.”
Since Jones arrived at Angelo State in 2015, the College of Business has done nothing but grow and change. It was his leadership and direction that also helped inspire such a gift.
“It’s not just about giving the money,” Bryan said. “It’s more about how we can support Dean Jones and his long-term mission. We want to be supportive where we can.”
While their gift will work to expand business programs, it will also help encourage entrepreneurship among ASU students and in the community, something the college has been looking to be actively more involved in as it continues to grow.
“All three of us have a passion for entrepreneurship,” Bryan said. “We’re in a part of the world in West Texas where most people go to work for small businesses, and we need to foster entrepreneurship in some way. I think if we can get the right amount of gas behind the business college, it has every potential to be one of the top business programs in the state, if not the country.”
On a much larger scale, Blake and Bryan also hope to inspire the next generation to continue their legacy, much like Norris did for them.
“I have no doubt, had I not gone through the business school myself, that I would be anywhere near where I am today,” Blake said. “To me, this gift just made total sense. Hopefully, we can inspire other people to do the same thing, to say, ‘I saw what they did and I want to do the exact same thing.’”