The Cash family’s philanthropic investments at Texas Tech University are inspired by their West Texas values.
The values of the American West are often personified in the honest, hardworking and generous character of cowboys and cowgirls.
These guiding principles of the Western lifestyle certainly are familiar to those who have lived in West Texas, and they are at the core of how the Cash family strives to live and give.
Don and Kay Cash, their son Clay and his wife Ashley, all have a connection to and appreciation for rural ranching communities and these values.
“I don't know that there are many people better than cowboys and cowgirls, just that amazing spirit,” Ashley says. “They're honest, hardworking, good people and just willing to give you the shirt off their back.”
Take Pride in Your Work
Don Cash, grew up surrounded by a ranching family and is a self-described “country-boy” from McLean, Texas. Both he and his wife are Texas Tech alumni, who earned their bachelor's degrees in the late 1960s – Don in industrial engineering and Kay in elementary education. Clay carried on the Texas Tech tradition when he earned his bachelor's degree in business management in 1997.
Don spent most of his business career in Salt Lake City, Utah, before moving back to West Texas in retirement. He never strayed from his country roots and could always be found in his signature cowboy hat and boots.
“It stood out a bit more in Utah,” Clay says with a laugh.
Ashley melded right into the Cash family when she married Clay in 2002, bringing a family legacy of more than 120 years of ranching in Texas and New Mexico. She described herself as a tomboy, much to her mother's despair, and grew up hunting, fishing and working cattle with her family on the Turkey Track Ranch.
According to Clay, Don knew he wanted to return to West Texas after retiring and prepared by gradually purchasing land in the area for more than 17 years. As Don and Kay became less involved with production over the years, Clay and Ashley have taken over the ranch management, expanding as they are able, and now run a full cow-calf operation.
While ranching is not their sole business venture, it is the one Clay and Ashley love most, despite the ups and downs.
“Ashley and I have been blessed, and we have a number of businesses,” Clay says. “I'm not going to tell you that the ranching side is the easiest of all of them, but I love the lifestyle. I love the people.”
His wife agrees.
“The people are the best part of ranching – the cowboys, cowgirls and the people in the surrounding communities,” Ashley adds. “It's just the friendliness, the hospitality, the willingness to be a good neighbor and the willingness to always lend a hand and help. That's what I love most about ranching, farming and rural communities. It's the people.”
The Cash family's involvement in the ranching community and their passion for the lifestyle and people are what led Ashley to begin serving on the board for the National Ranching Heritage Center (NRHC), a museum and historical park at Texas Tech University dedicated to preserving the history of ranching. Her involvement sparked what is now a 20-year Cash family tradition of serving on the board, with her father-in-law serving after her and Clay currently on the board.
The Cash family takes pride in their work and the work of others in the ranching community, so when an opportunity became available to share that story through the NRHC, they knew they wanted to help in any way they could.
“It's such a wholesome, good way of life,” Ashley notes. “Some people don't even know where their food comes from, let alone the never-ending work and commitment that goes into getting it to the store.”
On June 30, the Cash Foundation made a $3.5 million commitment to the NRHC with the intent to create the Cash Family Ranch Life Learning Center, a dedicated area focused on the present and future of ranching. The Cash family is among 21 supporters of the project thus far, and the project is nearing completion. However, more support is needed to ensure the ambitious project can be built.
The project will be an indoor/outdoor educational center built at the NRHC, including interactive exhibits on animal and plant agriculture, range management, the role of cowboys and more, alongside an immersive version of the ranch from the “Hank the Cowdog” book series. The center will teach the public about what is involved with ranching and how it contributes to the care of livestock and land.
“The Cash Family Ranch Life Learning Center affords us the opportunity to tell the story about what we do,” Clay says. “People talk to us about ranching, and really, they think it's about cows, horses and cowboys. Those are important, but there are so many other things that go into explaining what a ranch is. The center would afford us the opportunity to tell the whole story. Doing so with ‘Hank the Cowdog' allows us to grab hold of young people and give them at least a rudimentary understanding of how ranching works.”
In addition to helping educate people of all ages and walks of life about the reality of ranching, Clay and Ashley hope the Cash Family Ranch Life Learning Center will help share the values embodied in the ranching community, which are often shown more than they are discussed. They want others to see the appreciation ranchers have for their land, the respect with which they treat others and the dedication with which they work, all without need for recognition – the “talk less and say more” attitude by which most ranchers abide.
Talk Less And Say More
The “talk less and say more” standard is not only how the Cash family works in the branding pen on the ranch, but it also guides their philosophy toward philanthropy.
Over the past 23 years, the Cash Foundation has impacted 21 entities in the Texas Tech University System. Their generosity spans two Texas Tech University System institutions – nine colleges at Texas Tech University, three schools at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and much more. Their impact ranges from endowments supporting scholarships, professorships and research, to gifts funding athletic teams, buildings and capital campaigns.
Where they see a need, the Cash family does what they can to fill it. They do so humbly, without need for attention, but to help all of Texas Tech rise and excel. For many students at Texas Tech, the Cash Foundation plays an essential role in why “From Here, It's Possible™.”
The Cash Foundation has not only contributed to projects connected with their family passions, such as the NRHC, Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, College of Education and the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business, but also others including Texas Tech Athletics, the School of Nursing and the J.T. & Margaret Talkington School of Visual & Performing Arts. In each case, they simply saw an exemplary program in need of a boost.
A good example of the Cash family's philanthropy of helping where and when they see a need is their support of the Texas Tech Pom Squad. When Clay saw on Facebook that the Texas Tech Pom Squad was heading to the National Championship and the team members were having to pay out of their own pockets to go, he said he and Ashley knew they had to step in and help.
At the next sporting event, they spoke with the program director and began the process of setting up the TTU Pom Squad Support Fund to help fund travel for the team.
This is one of the countless stories that could be told of the Cash Foundation supporting endeavors Ashley describes as “not necessarily flashy, but equally necessary” to helping Texas Tech shine.
The Cash family believes their support of Texas Tech not only helps to shed light on excellence within the university but also Lubbock and the surrounding area.
“As Tech grows and becomes a bigger star within the state, it boosts not just Lubbock, but all the surrounding rural areas, too, creating more jobs and economic prosperity for the entire community,” Ashley says. “All of which is critically important to the bigger picture.”
The generosity of the Cash Foundation extends into the surrounding community as well, as they give their time and financial support to local charities and initiatives in the area. Clay and Ashley said they hope their philanthropy inspires others to give as well.
“I think the more our community and society can help one another and see other people helping, it will inspire others to do the same,” Clay says.
Do What Needs To Be Done
Ashley and Clay said they consider themselves blessed for the opportunity to give financially, but that is only one of the many opportunities. According to their philosophy, they, and others, must practice philanthropy of all kinds.
To the Cash family, the most important part of philanthropy is just giving what you can, whether that be time, ideas, knowledge, skills, expertise or money. The best of what you have to offer is what should be on the table.
“Philanthropy comes in a lot of different forms,” Clay realizes. “Whether giving your time, money or intellectual capital, giving is the most important thing. Make the world a better place however you can do it.”
Today, aside from running a cow-calf operation, Clay and Ashley both have successful careers outside the ranching industry that took substantial amounts of their time. Clay spent many years working for Atmos Energy and now manages Cash Family Investments. Ashley has worked in banking, sales and land development and now owns and operates her own real estate investment company.
It took time, sacrifice and hard work to get to the point where they can give back like they do today. Working 70 to 90 hours per week in their early careers was common for them, a trait that is often found in ranch life as well. They sacrificed time with their families to dedicate themselves to continuing their education and developing their businesses. They found their passions, pursued continuing education opportunities and acted.
Clay and Ashley offer three pieces of advice for others looking to establish successful careers and begin their philanthropic journey: always give more than you receive; treat others the way you want to be treated; and surround yourselves with others who know more than you.
“Probably the most important thing I did in my career was surround myself with people who were smarter than I was,” Clay says. “Look to people who aspire to lift you up and not pull you down, people that can help you be a better person.”
Ashley said this starts at home. The kindness, generosity and creation of a good environment for others starts with yourself and teaching those qualities to your children — actions they have implemented in their own lives and with their four children, Coble, Collin, Cannon and Carson. Taking pride in your work, talking less while saying more and doing what needs to be done starts with the individual and passes on to those who see others do good works.
“Cowboys and cowgirls are some of the most generous, kindest, hardest working, honest people that I know,” says Ashley. “Having grown up with them all my life, I just have the utmost respect for them. If we could all emulate their values, our society would be so much better.”
Contribute to the Cash Family Ranch Life Learning Center
You can join the Cash family and others in supporting the Cash Family Ranch Life Learning Center by contacting the NRHC (806) 834-4120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.