Recognized for an array of contributions, Frosty Gilliam Jr. and his wife, Rhonda, of Odessa were given the Texas A&M University Foundation’s highest honor, the Sterling C. Evans Medal, during a Thursday dinner at the Odessa Country Club.

Gilliam said Monday that the university “provided me with a first-class education with mentorship from professors, other industry people and A&M graduates so that when we got re-engaged there, the natural progression was to give back.

“It’s a great school with great core values and traditions,” he said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and competition, and you want to excel because all the students are really bright and energetic.

“Then when you graduate, the Aggie network helps you stay in touch not only with the school but also with Aggies throughout the state, the country and the world.”

Gilliam credits W.D. “Doug” von Gonten, the university’s late petroleum engineering department head, with giving him crucial guidance.

He had wanted to be a bioengineer, but working with his late father’s service company for a year and a half after graduating from Permian High School in 1975 directed him to petroleum engineering, said Gilliam, who founded Aghorn Energy Inc., an oil and gas exploration company, with his younger brother Tim in 1988.

The 1980 A&M graduate and his wife have two children and two grandchildren. His mom Betty is at Carthage in East Texas.

Foundation Board Chairman T. Randall Cain

Frosty and Rhonda are stalwart members of the Aggie community who have generously shared their time, talents and resources over the years.”

Gilliam described himself as “the classic case of the 20-year disconnected Aggie” until his son enrolled at College Station in 2005 and his campus visits renewed his ties.

A university spokeswoman said the couple endowed three petroleum engineering scholarships and a professorship in honor of Frosty Gilliam Sr. and contributed significantly to remodeling the Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center.

They provided the lead gift for the Rhonda and Frosty Gilliam Jr. ‘80 Indoor Track Stadium and made substantial contributions for the Plaza in the Cox-McFerrin Center for Aggie Basketball and the Football Student Athlete Center in the Bright Football Complex, which are also named for them, along with a substantial donation to renovate Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park baseball stadium. They’re also credited with a significant gift for the renovation of the Kyle Field football stadium as founders.

The spokeswoman said Rhonda Gilliam, a Sam Houston State graduate, “fully immersed herself into the Aggie life and became active in the Sandstorm Aggie Mom’s Club in Odessa.”

The couple is on the Lead by Example campaign’s executive cabinet and the Chancellor’s Century Council. Gilliam is the immediate past chair of the 12th Man Foundation Board and is involved with the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering Industry Board.

Foundation Board Chairman T. Randall Cain of San Antonio said the Sterling C. Evans Medal, named for a 1921 graduate who served on the university board of directors from 1959-71 and helped President Earl Rudder transform the school by admitting blacks and women and making the Corps of Cadets voluntary, “is the foundation’s highest honor.

“Frosty and Rhonda are stalwart members of the Aggie community who have generously shared their time, talents and resources over the years,” Cain said. “Their influence extends across Texas A&M’s campus. They’ve been instrumental in helping our petroleum engineering program remain a global leader and our athletics programs become a dominating force.”

Gilliam was named a distinguished petroleum engineering graduate and the Odessa Heritage Foundation’s Statesman for Business in 2009, and he was recognized as a distinguished alumnus of the A&M College of Engineering and as the Odessa Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2012.