Texas A&M University has always exemplified the things Barnett L. Gershen’s mother first taught him. Those lessons were remembered this month when Barnett and his wife Sam, of Houston, committed $1 million to establish the Barnett L. ’69 and Sam Gershen Learning Endowment at Mays Business School.
After his father’s death when Barnett was young, he and his mother made a living with a janitorial company they ran from the family garage. Hard work and dedication formed a part of Margie Gershen Abrams’ legacy for her young son.
Those values, reinforced in his business undergraduate coursework at Texas A&M, helped Barnett build the family-owned Associated Building Services into one of the largest privately-owned building maintenance companies in the nation, with more than 13,000 employees. When he considered how to repay Texas A&M for its influence on his early life, Barnett said he looked no further than the Mays Business School.
“This business school looks like it’s serious about making a difference in education and in the world,” said Barnett, who earned a BBA in management from Texas A&M in 1969. “What a good place to start helping other people get the same opportunities that I had.”
The Gershen Endowment will support the life and advancement of the business school through its faculty, students, facilities and technology.
“Barney and Sam’s extreme generosity will make a huge difference to our faculty, students and programs,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “The Gershen name will always occupy a prominent place in our school and, through this learning endowment, will provide us with the opportunity to pursue new initiatives and increase existing strengths. The Gershens are a wonderful example to our students of how to help others and make a difference in the world.”
After graduating with his BBA in 1969, Barnett headed to the University of Texas for an MBA, which he earned in 1971. He served in the U.S. Army, retiring as captain. Throughout his life he worked in Associated Building Services, serving as CEO for more than 30 years until 2004, when the company merged to create one of the largest maintenance companies in the U.S.
Barnett spent a year and a half implementing major initiatives as vice president of organizational development at publicly-traded Keystone Automotive Industries, Inc. He set up Gershen Consulting, LLP in early 2006. He is now a senior management consultant and investor helping businesses take their practice to the next level. Barnett is a 2004 Mays Business School Outstanding Alumni and member of the Mays Dean’s Development Council.
His wife Sam is retired from a career in commercial property management, and now focuses on the family’s own properties as well as charitable activities. The couple has four children and four grandchildren – Shelby, Connor, Abby and Riley. Barnett’s son Louis is an award-winning chef, and daughter Mallory is a pre-law student at Tulane. Sam’s daughter Karen, Class of 1987, is a teacher in the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, and son David, Class of 1989, is a consultant.
Mays is nationally ranked among public business schools for the quality of its undergraduate program, MBA program and the faculty scholarship of its 105 tenure-track professors in five departments. The school enrolls more than 4,000 undergraduate students and 800 graduate students.