(WACO, Texas) – The TSTC Foundation, the support arm of Texas State Technical College, has received a significant gift to help students in specific programs on the Waco campus.
The $1 million cash gift to create the David and Valerie Fallas Scholarship was announced at the TSTC Board of Regents meeting and quarterly dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Attendees gave the Fallas family a standing ovation following the announcement.
“TSTC provides extraordinarily high value for students because tuition is affordable and the resulting careers are lucrative,” said Mike Reeser, chancellor and CEO of TSTC. “So the benefit provided by a gift of this magnitude will be felt by many students for years to come.”
The scholarship will benefit TSTC students in the Drafting and Design program and Robotics and Industrial Controls Technology program at the Waco campus.
The gift will also help workforce training students taking mechatronics classes at The WORKSITE, a collaboration between the city of Waco, McLennan County and other community partners to deliver workforce training and microcredentials to address the industrial skills gap for existing and future industries of Waco and McLennan County.
Beth Wooten, provost of TSTC’s Waco campus, said the gift is transformational. She said the Fallas family has consistently donated to TSTC for several years.
“They believed in what we did and the impact not just in individual lives, but collectively across Texas,” Wooten said. “They are so passionate about what they do at (the family-owned) Fallas Automation and in helping other people. To meet them, you sense it immediately.”
Pete Rowe, TSTC’s vice president of external relations, called the Fallas family “the ultimate partners” in supporting TSTC.
“They want to see where the money is going and want to meet the students and follow them,” he said.
David Fallas said he was working in the early 1970s at M&M/Mars in the United Kingdom when he was chosen to move to Waco to build and design what is now the Mars Wrigley Confectionery in Waco.
“I had developed an ultra-high-speed modular wrapper for Snickers bars (that would wrap) 500 bars a minute,” Fallas said. “The original machine was 170 a minute. It was a huge success.”
He said he talked to his wife about starting his own company when he was 40 years old. In 1979 the family founded Fallas Automation, which specializes in producing automation support equipment and compact case packers.
“I embarked on a new technology — case-packing machines, which placed premade bags of food, like candy, spaghetti and frozen vegetables, into corrugated shipping cases,” Fallas said.
He said COVID-19 changed the way business is being done, including a shift toward mechatronics, which combines electronics and mechanical engineering.
“This changed the way young people think,” Fallas said. “Sometimes a four-year engineering degree is too long.”
Fallas said he sees firsthand the need for skilled workers to work in robotics and mechatronics. His company has hired several TSTC graduates.
“Val and I wanted to give a chance to young students, so we came up with this 10-year scholarship fund, which would allow the students to get a two-year associate degree … and finish college without any debt,” Fallas said.
The scholarship will give $10,000 to 10 students each annually starting in fall 2024. The TSTC Foundation has estimated that the scholarship will assist at least 100 students in the years to come. Scholarship recipients must be Texas residents and attend TSTC’s Waco campus to be eligible.
For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu.