Couple’s Estate Gifts to Create Scholarships at Texas Tech

Cindy Havenhill and Mark Gruenke love being part of the Texas Tech family. They plan to give future students the same opportunity.

Cindy Havenhill only attended Texas Tech University for a couple of years — but the experiences and lifelong friendships made during her time in West Texas left a great impression.

So much that she and husband Mark Gruenke have committed to more than $2 million in combined estate and insurance gifts to help future Red Raiders go to college.

The gift will establish the Cindy Havenhill & Mark Gruenke Scholarship Endowment, which will award scholarships to Texas Tech students.

“Education is important to both of us. It made a difference in our lives and other people’s lives. Our endowment is to help kids who want to go to college but don’t have the financial resources to do so,” Havenhill said.

A long way from Redlands

After working for the Walt Disney Company as a financial analyst, Havenhill started her own financial planning company in 1995.

The certified financial planner has been successful.

“Education is important to both of us. It made a difference in our lives and other people’s lives.”

Cindy Havenhill

It’s a long way from Redlands, California, where Havenhill and Gruenke grew up together on the same block.

But it was not love at first sight.

“We didn’t like each other,” Havenhill said.

“Whenever Cindy came out there was always a fist fight,” Gruenke said.

“We were kids,” Havenhill added.

The fighting had stopped by the time they were in junior high band.

So then they fell in love?


Red Raider recommendation

Havenhill and her family moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for her dad’s work.

She was a National Merit Scholar in high school and could have had her choice of colleges.

A co-worker at her high school job at Walmart was a Red Raider and talked glowingly of the school and campus.

Havenhill was sold.

“I loved it,” she said.

She lived in Wall Hall, pledged Alphi Phi and took a lot of courses.

“I made really good friends who are still friends. Texas Tech has good, wholesome people and I enjoyed it,” she said.

But she didn’t graduate from Texas Tech University, having to move back to California instead, where her parents had returned to live.

She finished at Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in finance.

Meanwhile, Havenhill and Gruenke both had brothers who had stayed good friends.

“I would go dancing with my friends, and Cindy’s brother told me I should call Cindy because she liked dancing,” said Gruenke.

“We became actual friends,” he said.

Havenhill added, “But there was no love connection.”

But they kept doing things together and started enjoying each other’s company.

“After a year and a half he proposed, I said yes and we were married in 1985,” she said.

Planting a seed

Havenhill has never been back to campus and doesn’t follow Texas Tech sports.

Gruenke has never been to Lubbock.

But Havenhill remains a proud Red Raider.

The couple joined the Texas Tech Alumni Association and went to events in Southern California.

“I’ve always had fond memories of Texas Tech, and the way the alums treated Mark as one of their own was really cool,” she said.

Havenhill was also president of the Alpha Phi chapter in Southern California.

It was at an Alpha Phi convention in Florida where the idea of helping students get a college education was planted.

“People were going around and sharing stories of how we got to where we are, and one girl had us tearing up with her story,” said Havenhill about how money from the Alpha Phi Forget Me Not Grant Fund helped her get through college.

“I was thinking it was not that much. But it kept her in school, and she graduated,” Havenhill said.

The story stuck with her.

Giving to a good cause and a good place

Havenhill and Gruenke were making their estate plans about 20 years ago and first thought about leaving money to nieces, nephews and Texas Tech.

But Havenhill had also seen what happens to people and families with inheritance, and a lot of what she saw was not good.

“We’re happy our money is going to a good cause and to a good place.”

Mark Gruenke

“I find your relatives are not necessarily the best stewards of your money or assets,” she said.

The couple decided another organization might be the perfect place to make an impact.

“We decided to give everything to Texas Tech, and once the documents were signed I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said.

“Donors who give through their estates care about the future,” said Nathan Rice, director of gift planning at the Texas Tech University System. “Cindy and Mark already make a difference in students’ lives through their current giving, and their deferred gifts will ensure that generations of students benefit from their kindness.”

At a family get-together soon after, Gruenke told relatives they had decided to give everything to Texas Tech University.

“We knew we did the right thing,” she said.

Gruenke added, “We’re happy our money is going to a good cause and to a good place. We feel very comfortable with that.”

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