Stacy ’81 & Tom ’81 Light
Through Jenny’s Assist, generous Aggie couple sheds light on critical student-athlete resources at A&M
By Samantha Atchley ’17
When a critical need and a common goal collided, Stacy and Tom Light found a reimagined purpose for giving to the 12th Man Foundation.
While the two 1981 graduates of Texas A&M University are longtime, loyal supporters of Aggie Athletics, Stacy and Tom are also dedicated advocates for disordered eating awareness. The Lights have firsthand experience and a personal connection to how impactful issues like this can be on a young person’s life.
“Our eldest daughter, Jenny, was a gifted athlete in high school and probably could have competed at a collegiate level,” Stacy said. “However, Jenny has suffered from an eating disorder for many years. Athletes often set a very high bar for themselves, which can drive restricting nutrition and overtraining.”
When it came time to renew their Champions Council membership with the 12th Man Foundation, the Lights shared a vision of funding student-athlete programming, counseling and training in the area of disordered eating and body image for Aggie student-athletes.
“We realized how important it is for student-athletes and staff to have the knowledge to identify issues before they get out of hand,” Tom said. “It is much easier to prevent disordered eating and compulsive exercise than it is to treat it once it becomes too ingrained and a mental health issue.”
Their vision was met with resounding support, and the Lights combined their passions into a gift that will make a lasting impact for Aggie Athletics.
“We wanted to honor Jenny and the struggles which have impacted her sports goals and life considerably,” Stacy said. “We wanted to help keep this from happening to anyone else’s son or daughter and provide hope and healing wherever possible.”
The Lights collaborated with 12th Man Foundation and Texas A&M Athletics staff to establish Jenny’s Assist. According to Dr. Ryan Pittsinger, the magnitude of what Jenny’s Assist will mean to Aggie student-athletes is difficult to put into words.
“I can’t even begin to describe how beneficial it is,” said Dr. Pittsinger, who serves as Assistant Athletics Director, Director of Counseling and Sport Psychology at Texas A&M. “A lot of people, including student-athletes, experience disordered eating, whether that’s body image concerns, underfueling, overfueling; and especially a lot of student-athletes feel pressure to be perfect, to perform or to meet or exceed expectations. I think Jenny’s Assist will really shine a light on this topic and allow people to receive support and services around this that they need.”
Coming from a family full of A&M grads, Stacy and Tom are thrilled to be able to provide hope, healing and much-needed assistance to fellow Aggies.
Close relatives and fellow Champions Council members Tricia and Donal Antill have eagerly joined in to help the cause as well. As Tom’s sister Tricia says, “If Jenny’s Assist can help at least one student-athlete, our contribution will be worth it.”
“I think we already knew we wanted to be a part of Champions Council,” added Donal, “but when Stacy and Tom brought up the idea of directing our donation toward nutritional wellness and eating disorders, it really provided an opportunity to be even more targeted in our giving than we were before. And after hearing Dr. Pittsinger’s whole mindset and thought process of where he can take Jenny’s Assist in the future, it really solidified where we wanted to place our focus.”
The future for Jenny’s Assist is certainly bright. According to Dr. Pittsinger’s plans, funds donated to this endowed program will create an opportunity for the athletics department to increase education efforts, broaden outreach and expand the range of resources available in order to effectively address individual needs and incorporate preemptive measures for a proactive approach. With the financial and personal investments being made, the possibilities for student-athletes are monumental.
“The Lights have a personal connection to the topic, and they really want to impact the student-athletes on a personal level,” Dr. Pittsinger said of Jenny’s Assist. “By them being able to share their stories, share their experiences and communicate that they care goes a long way with our student-athletes and just people in general. People want to feel cared about.”
To the Lights and their family, Jenny’s Assist is truly about the lives of Aggie student-athletes and how they can make an impact beyond competition.
“We all have a passion for Aggie Athletics,” said Tom, “but beyond that you’re looking at individuals who have lives, hopes, dreams and aspirations. They’re people’s sons and daughters, and having a daughter who has been significantly impacted by disordered eating really drives our passion. We are happy to see that A&M is aware of this and willing to focus funding and personnel toward preparing Aggies for life during and after sports.”
“We wanted to honor Jenny and the struggles which have impacted her sports goals and life considerably.”
“We realized how important it is for student-athletes and staff to have the knowledge to identify issues before they get out of hand. It is much easier to prevent disordered eating and compulsive exercise than it is to treat it once it becomes too ingrained and a mental health issue.”
About the Lights
Stacy and Tom Light both graduated from Texas A&M in 1981. Stacy earned a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering and is currently a petroleum engineering consultant. Tom earned his bachelor’s in industrial distribution and recently retired after 30 years with SKF USA.
Stacy and Tom have two children. Jenny, their eldest daughter, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (bachelor’s) and the University of Denver (master’s). Their youngest daughter, Erin, earned her BBA in marketing from Texas A&M in 2013.
The Lights have been Aggie football season ticket holders for nearly 40 years and still tailgate with their college friends every season: Laine ’81 and Ted Totah ’80, Chris ’81 and DeWayne ’81 Travelstead, Tricia and Donal Antill and Greg Light ’79. Stacy and Tom are also Aggie baseball season ticket holders.
There are 15 Texas A&M University degrees within the Light family including Stacy ’81, Tom ’81 and Erin ’13, as well as the Antills’ children Mary Grace ’19, ’20 and Matthew ’20. Three generations of Aggie Rings pictured below include Stacy, Tom and Erin with Stacy’s late father, Jay McElroy ’50.
“Supporting things like mental health efforts and student-athlete engagement is what allows the student-athlete to be a student-athlete. It allows them to perform well academically, athletically, socially, individually and to really be the best version of themselves.”
“We all have a passion for Aggie Athletics, but beyond that you’re looking at individuals who have lives, hopes, dreams and aspirations. They’re people’s sons and daughters, and having a daughter who has been significantly impacted by disordered eating really drives our passion.”
As Stacy and Tom have helped emphasize through Jenny’s Assist, donor support is making an impactful difference far past what is seen on gameday. The well-rounded effort to enhance all aspects of the student-athlete experience at Texas A&M is what separates Aggies from the rest.
“These contributions are a giant help, we’re extremely grateful and appreciative,” Dr. Pittsinger said. “Supporting things like mental health efforts and student-athlete engagement is what allows the student-athlete to be a student-athlete; it allows them to perform well academically, athletically, socially, individually, and to really be the best version of themselves.”
In Tom’s eyes, creating Jenny’s Assist was an answer to an important call from his childhood.
“When we were growing up,” Tom recalled, “the last thing my mother would say to us before leaving the house was, ‘Remember, you’re a Light.’ At the time, that meant, ‘Don’t get into trouble and remember your manners and Light family upbringing.’ As I got older, I realized what she really meant was, ‘Remember, you’re a light in the world and are called upon to live an active faith and help others as you’re able.’ If we can provide some small bit of hope and healing through this endowment, I think my mother’s lesson of long ago will be achieved.”