Giving back, a treasured value
““I always assumed that I would become an engineer,” says Fort Flowers ’85, who’s from a family of MIT engineers — father Dan ’41, uncle Fred ’41, brother Joseph ’90 — and whose two daughters are now MIT students, too.
“We were all raised to be thankful for opportunities that we were given through education, so it was just natural to be supportive of MIT,” he says.
Fort and Beth Flowers — who along with their extended family, once established a professorship in the department of mechanical engineering — recently made another major gift to that department to support graduate fellowships.
“We offered a fellowship in order for MIT to attract the best graduate students in the world,” Fort says. “I had outside support when I was a student, and wanted to give back so someone would benefit as I had. We also wanted to recognize that the accomplishments of MIT students help to solve the largest problems in the world.”
Fort Flowers earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1983 and a master’s from MIT in 1985, both in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he worked at Anadrill Schlumberger, a Houston energy company, as a design engineer. Next, he joined DIFCO, the family’s engineering and manufacturing company, which produced railroad and mining equipment, and later he assumed a lead role in managing the family’s investments. Then in 1997, Flowers co-founded Sentinel Trust Company, a Houston wealth management firm, where he now is president and CEO.
Beth Flowers, a psychiatrist, earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Texas A&M and an MD from Baylor College of Medicine. The couple has five children. Their daughter Betsy is an MIT sophomore; Caroline is a freshman.
Recently, the whole family honored their long connection to MIT with a visit from Houston to see their daughters in Cambridge and to celebrate Dan’s 90th birthday.
“Our trip was fantastic. We shared great stories and memories,” says Fort, adding that he, his father Dan, and Dan’s late twin brother Fred ’41, had all lived as students in the former Ashdown House, now known as W1. “We toured our old dorm and actually found the rooms we had lived in. Mine kind of looked just like I left it,” he says.
“Giving back is an absolute responsibility and is a value that our extended family treasures,” he adds. “I am so thankful for the opportunities that MIT has given me and our family. The Institute gave me a profound appreciation for what MIT students and faculty do for the world. In the long run, we feel that our gift is a very effective way to use relatively few dollars to make a huge impact on society.”