Loyal advocate continues to serve
He didn’t attend Texas A&M College of Dentistry. He’s not even a dentist. However, when Dallas businessman Erle Nye talks about the dental college and its new clinical facility, there’s a warm, familial tone to his voice. “We” and “us” are his go-to pronouns.
“When you’re good–I think we’re excellent–it’s hard to get better, but if you’re not getting better you’re falling back, in my opinion,” says the chairman emeritus and retired CEO of TXU Corp. “I think we ought to grow because if you have a good product, which we do, you ought to expand your program as much as you can within the context of limited space and funding.”
Strong ties to the college, spanning more three decades, prompted this 1959 Texas A&M engineering graduate and his wife, Alice, to make a gift to benefit the college’s new Clinic and Education Building. The new building will allow expansion “both from a qualitative and quantitative aspect,” he says. “It will allow us to serve more and serve better.”
The prospect of doing more to serve others resonates with Nye. A member of the dental school’s Hall of Fame and an honorary alumnus, he spent 1985 to 1995 on the board of trustees and was chairman during a critical juncture for what was then Baylor College of Dentistry. In the early ’90s, concerns over future funding for small independent schools prompted trustees to investigate multiple options before ultimately recommending a merger with The Texas A&M University System, which became official in September 1996.
Nye, a Texas A&M University Distinguished Alumnus, is pragmatic about the transition to a state university system. In addition to the critical importance of achieving stabilized funding, he points to the strength of the A&M System name and its substantial reputation in scientific fields, which broadens available expertise and research funding opportunities.
“We were and are a first-rate dental college by any measures, and yet we were not very well known beyond the dental community,” Nye says. “I think the new building gives us a presence we didn’t have before in the community. We really didn’t have the profile that our quality warranted. Now we do.”
The building funds from the Nyes are earmarked specifically for the faculty and staff lounge. Nye offers effusive praise for the “great people” in the college and is pleased that their gift will offer the college’s employees a comfortable environment in which to recharge.
“I hold dear the memory of what was then the Baylor College of Dentistry because it was and is a wonderful institution with good leadership and a very fine faculty,” says Nye. “There’s a good solid culture there that goes way back. We need to hold on to it.”
This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2019 Texas A&M Dentistry magazine.