A Tall Texan Gives Back

Travis Bain, '56 AlumnusAfter one year at Texas Tech Travis Bain, a graduate of Lubbock High School, left the South Plains for the Forty Acres to study chemical engineering at The University of Texas (UT).

In 1952 Travis started his sophomore year under the watchful eyes of Dr. John J. McKetta, Dr. Howard Rase and Dr. Norman Hackerman. He knew he would have to work hard to make an impression.

“I recall Travis as a tall, extremely handsome, youngster with a deep cleft in his chin,” said John McKetta. “He sat in the third row and was very neatly dressed- even though you could see some mending of holes in his pants and shirts.  He turned out to be one of the top students in that class.”

The 6’2” engineer supplemented his studies with business classes, student government activities and fraternity life as a Delta Upsilon. The first day of Travis’ 5th year, a fraternity brother invited him on a double date with some Chi Omega Sorority pledges.  As a bit of a joke, tall Travis was matched with the shorter of the two young ladies, Karlen Jo Bruner who stood at 5’2”.  Despite height differences, it was love at first sight and the two were inseparable from that point on.

After his graduation in 1956, Travis went on to Harvard Business School and went to work for Texas Instruments’ semiconductor division in 1958.   Later he was recruited by McKinsey & Co and moved to Los Angeles for two years followed by a move to Chicago. In 1966 he bought into the food processing TLC Corporation based in Jackson, Mississippi, which he ran successfully until selling his interest in 1981.

Soon after, a close, but severely ill, friend in Jackson asked Travis to run his $150 million retail merchandising company, which he did for five years before being recruited by Nashville, Tennessee based Genesco in 1986.

Considering early retirement, Travis and Karlen moved to Dallas in 1992. But, always the hard worker, Travis took an opportunity to buy a swimming pool company.  Sandler Pools became his and in 1998, he and the owner of Sandler’s biggest competitor merged to form Texas Custom Pools, a company that is one of the most respected aquatic installation firms in Dallas.

Today Travis works a couple of days a week, and enjoys his involvement on the Board of Atmos Energy Corporation in Dallas and Delta Industries in Jackson.  He and Karlen escape Dallas traffic most Thursdays for their lake home in East Texas, where they fish, relax and welcome the quiet life of the country.

In 2007 Travis and Karlen added a bequest in their wills to designate a percentage of their residual estate to chemical engineering at UT.  When realized, the funds will establish the Travis and Karlen Bain Endowed Excellence Fund in Chemical Engineering to continue excellence in the department.

“I feel good about giving back to the program that helped launch my professional life. In many ways, this pays homage to the people that helped shape much of who I am today,” said Travis.

By including the department in their estate plans, the Bains became members of the Ramshorn Chapter of the university’s Texas Leadership Society.  They hope other alumni will follow their lead to give back so the Department of Chemical Engineering can guide others to a successful future for years to come.

For more information on including chemical engineering in your estate plans or other gift planning options, contact Kelsey Evans at 512-471-6151 or kelsey.evans@mail.utexas.edu.

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