by Kristin Todd
Tom Powers admits he did not know what he was getting into when he entered Baylor’s accounting program his freshman year.
“Without really understanding what the profession was truly about, I was advised by many well-intentioned people to go into that field as I was gifted and had a love for numbers,” Powers said. “Talk about doing something for the wrong reasons—but I did.”
Fortunately, things worked out just fine for Powers, who attributes his interest in the field to his late father.
“Besides the wonderful gifts of his views on life, responsibilities, ethics and many other things, he apparently passed on to me a special gift for math and numbers,” Powers said.
Powers used this gift to his advantage, received an accounting degree and began working with Price Waterhouse in Houston. After gaining six years of experience with the firm, he decided that public accounting was not exactly his niche. Powers moved on to work with a diversified financial services company owned by the former Texan senator, Lloyd Bentsen, and a group of prominent business people in Houston.
“They proved to be my mentors and helped mold my thinking about a lot of things,” he said.
At the age of 38, opportunity knocked on Powers’ door when he and a close friend went in with a group of people and bought one of Bentsen’s companies. The asset management company they acquired exploded from $400 million in assets under management to over $12 billion.
“I never dreamed of running a company,” Powers said. “That came later as I saw how others did it and resolved that I could do that too—only better. Opportunity is the motivating factor that drives successful people to seek solutions and answers where others are not looking.”
Powers spent much of his career managing Transamerica Fund Management Company (formerly Criterion Funds, Inc.), until 1990 when it was sold to the Transamerica Insurance Companies.
“You don’t necessarily have to be the very best in your field, although we all desire that position,” he said. “You just have to be in the right place, and your fortunes will rise like a ship that moves up with the incoming tide.”
Although he is a driven man, Powers is also a family man. He promised his wife, Pat, that he would retire from a daily job at 55, which he did. He also caught flights home to make it to T-ball games when his children were younger.
“Those were investments in the future…just like the time I spent learning how to manage a $12 billion company,” he said.
Failure was never an option for Powers, who only acknowledges the road to success. While some feel success is measured in monetary values or status, Powers holds his own definition.
“I have come to realize that success is something that emanates from within,” he said. “That is, true success comes to a person when they feel they have been true to themselves and allows God to use their life to its maximum potential. And only that person can make that judgment.”
Powers said Baylor not only prepared him for the business world academically, but also instilled in him ethics, beliefs and convictions.
“These traits began to surface after graduation, and within a couple of years I began to realize these qualities, while initially instilled at home, had been firmly planted in my soul,” he said. “These are the seedlings that become roots that soon tie you to their source for the rest of your life.”
Powers maintained these ties to Baylor by serving as a regent and helping to create the Baylor Foundation, which oversees the management of the university’s endowment funds. He and his wife also established the Powers Foundation, for which he adopted a motto that he uses in his own life daily: “We all have a responsibility to plant trees whose shade we may never sit under.”
A man fueled by determination and experience, Powers understands the importance of leaving a legacy.
“We will realize our primary job is to make a better way for those that follow,” he said. “We absolutely must commit ourselves to using our resources and talents towards being examples, rather than impediments, to reaching the goals we want for those that follow.”