by Robert Marlin
Tyler is home to some 1,800 nonprofits. It is one of the most “philanthropy-conscious” cities in the state. One of the first charities in Tyler was established in 1878, with the founding of Immaculate Conception Parish by the Diocese of Galveston. Since that time, a combination of community leadership, strong civic pride, and personal responsibility are credited with Tyler developing its philanthropic spirit. A common mindset permeates the community, which in turn, created a culture within the community of “doing things for the greater good of all.” To some, that culture comes directly out of the Bible, specifically from Romans 8:28:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
For others, much of Tyler’s philanthropic spirit was borne out of the Great Depression. The world was immersed in the most significant economic downturn ever experienced beginning on September 4, 1929, when manipulations in the domestic U.S. stock market created a spread of market disturbances affecting exchange rates and fluctuating stock prices into international financial markets. The London Stock Exchanged crashed. The resulting financial contagion spread rapidly across European markets. Then, on what is now known as Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, the largest, single-day sell-off of shares in U.S. history occurred. The market lost 11% of its value on that day. On the following Tuesday, October 29, 1929, U.S. investors traded 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Billions of dollars were lost during panic selling, which at its peak saw some stocks having no buyers regardless of price. Over a two-day period, the market lost an additional 23% of its total value. Black Tuesday’s crash of the U.S. Stock market began a global slide into economic depression that would last for the next ten years.
Within days, 2,300 small banks failed. The immediate effect to the average citizen was the loss of jobs, as small businesses failed at an alarming rate of 133 a day. With the average worker’s savings wiped out, fear gripped the nation, and the throes of the Great Depression was on. One Methodist preacher, in an attempt to express the brighter side of a dire situation, stated during a Sunday sermon, “It really doesn’t matter that money has no value since there is nothing to buy anyway.”
A generation earlier, on January 10, 1901, the Lucas Gusher came in on a hilltop one mile to the east and four miles south of Beaumont, Texas. The field was to become known as Spindletop, due to its appearance like a spindle because of the spindle-trees on its crest. In 1902, Spindletop produced 17.4 million barrels of oil but began to decline rapidly and produced only half as much in 1903. Despite the decline, the Black Gold rush was on and out-of-work geologists and engineers began flocking to Texas. On October 3, 1930, wildcatter Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner brought in a gusher, the Daisy Bradford #3, located near the town of Overton in Rusk County, Texas. This was the beginning of the East Texas Oil Field. Joiner eventually got into legal trouble for selling more interest certificates than he could ever redeem, which prompted him to sell his shares in the Daisy Bradford #3 well to Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt. Hunt, who had a reputation as an astute card-player and gambler, had made a small fortune from three speculative wells in Arkansas and moved his operation into East Texas after hearing rumors that oil would be found there. The Daisy Bradford #3, along with three wells that came in on adjoining leases purchased by Hunt from Joiner, became the basis for Hunt Oil Company. The East Texas Oil Field, of which Hunt owned a significant portion, created one of the world’s largest personal fortunes, securing Hunt’s position as one of the world’s wealthiest people.
The oil boom in East Texas created millionaires overnight. As the Great Depression gripped the nation, small landowners, who had eked out a meager living from their properties, sold oil leases to speculators and reaped enormous rewards. The speculators and promoters, who actually owned the producing wells located throughout central Gregg, western Rusk, southern Upshur, southeastern Smith, and northeastern Cherokee counties, located themselves to the west in Tyler, away from dirt and grime of the oilfield. Tyler became the banking center and was where speculators made their transactions, selling their raw crude to refineries as fast as it could be pumped out of the ground. The new millionaires, who were receiving mail-box money from the speculators, were quick to recognize that many of their neighbors were in dire straits because of the depression. Using their new-found wealth, they were the first to become the donors to worthy causes. In time, they would influence the speculators and promoters to follow suit, but the credit belongs to these regular folks, who had just been lucky, that were responsible for the philanthropic spirit that developed in Tyler and Smith County.
As Tyler and Smith County grew, many of its local businesses took on the mantle of philanthropy. Those community leaders, who had reaped benefits from the community, understood the importance of giving back to their community. It is a tradition that continues to this day.
There is one local company that has taken its commitment of “doing things for the greater good of all” to a higher level. In 1992, Jon Jasper created Engineering, Procurement & Construction, Inc., a company dedicated to solving problems within the hydrocarbon industry. Jasper believed his background as a Chemical Engineer qualified him to take a leading role in building a plant capable of processing natural gas to allow midstream producers to take it to market. After his 1969 graduation from the University of Kentucky, Jasper took a position with Humble Oil in Tyler. He and his wife Susan would eventually settle in Lindale, after living in various places throughout Texas while Jasper continued to work for several companies in the oil and gas industry. Their first child, Carrie-Ann, was born in Tyler. Two other children, daughter Jane E. (pronounced Janie) and their son Brent were born in Houston, and the family lived for a time in Katy, a small community outside of Houston. Their children, each two years apart in age, began their elementary education in Katy.
“My sister Jane E. was in the sixth grade, and Brent in fourth grade, when our family moved to Lindale. We grew up in Lindale and each of us graduated from Lindale High School,” says eldest daughter Carrie-Ann Jasper-Yearty. “Our parents were always generous people, giving money to church and donating to church mission work; or, giving money to families that were struggling. We were taught from an early age that, if we had a dollar, we put ten cents into the collection plate at church. The act of giving to others was always a part of our lives as we grew up.”
According to Carrie-Ann, her father never intended his company to be a family business. “It was his intention for it to be a God-honoring company. He always wanted to take care of his employees, and at the same time, he wanted to impart to the employees his sense of giving back to the community.”
Each of the Jasper children continued their educations. Carrie-Ann enrolled first at TJC and continued at UT Tyler as a business major; Jane E. became an Ultrasound Technician; Brent was an accounting major at Texas State in San Marcos. Eventually each of the Jasper children went their separate ways. Carrie-Ann was in Tennessee, then North Louisiana. Jane E. settled in Austin. Brent went to Dallas. Carrie-Ann was the first to return, helping her father to run the company when his partner retired and left the company. Carrie-Ann has been with the company her father founded for eleven years now. Because of her background in human resources, she now holds the title of VP People and Culture.
As Jon began to wind down his personal involvement, in favor of spending more time with his wife Susan and their grandchildren, each of the Jasper children came home to Tyler, and the business began to transform. Brent Jasper is the President and uses his background in accounting to guide the financial destiny of the company. Jane E.’s husband, Les Campbell, is VP of Shared Services, utilizing his background in finance and marketing, with skills he learned after working domestically and abroad for Dell Computer. Les jokingly says, that in his role with the company, he basically does everything that Brent and Carrie-Ann don’t want to do.
“When we took on the reins of management, we wanted to continue the work Dad started to honor his legacy of providing meaningful work for employees so they could provide for their own families,” Carrie-Ann explains. “My parents have eleven grandkids and two great grands, and they have earned the right to slow down their pace and enjoy the fruits of their labors.”
In 2016, the siblings changed the name of the company to Jasper Ventures. Jon is still involved, but his role is more that of an advisor. Carrie-Ann, Jane E., and Brent each share a passion for the behavior that was patterned for them by their parents. They each have different gifts and perspectives, which they use to contribute their particular skills to the company, while maintaining the focus that was begun by their father. Through pay and profit sharing, the employees learn about generosity and the rewards it brings. They established an employee giving committee and matched employee gifts to charities, while also encouraging employees to serve on the boards of nonprofits and adopt volunteerism as part of their lifestyles.
There was a multiplicative effect that occurred with 200 employees taking part in philanthropy. By modeling philanthropic behavior, and encouraging employees to become generous with their personal resources, Jon Jasper felt that his company’s donations would be multiplied, which would mean many more people’s lives would be affected than by his actions alone. He remained committed to providing solutions to his company’s clients, but he was equally committed to creating a culture of giving among his employees. Today, Jasper Ventures is a family-owned business dedicated not only to building world-class gas processing solutions for its customers, but to do so in a way that serves God’s Kingdom and impacts the lives of those across the community and world.
Essentially, the Jasper Children are following the lead their Dad provided when he started EPC. For twenty-five years he faithfully ran a company that provided solutions for his customers, while remaining steadfast about dedicating his business to the Lord while also caring for his employees. With that as the heartbeat of the company, it has now been transformed as the second generation of the family took over the reins. In the process of that transformation, the company has grown stronger serving clients, employees, and the community. Taking the concept one step further, in 2017, Beyond Business was formed. The name itself indicates the intentional way in which the business remains dedicated to honoring the Lord while caring for its employees. Beyond Business is the culture of Jasper Ventures, reflecting the way to love and care for its own employees, its clients, and the community. Secondly, it is the conduit for helping other businesses and organizations to learn to provide that same love and care for their employees, clients, and communities.
While continuing to serve the hydrocarbon industry, Jasper Ventures is now a tool for creating revenue that is used to fund philanthropic endeavors across the community. “We worked with some amazing attorneys and accountants, aided through prayer and careful consideration, to give the original company away entirely to charity,” says Carrie-Ann by way of explaining how Jasper Ventures continues to build wealth while discovering new ways to be generous with the community. “We wanted to glorify God’s Kingdom and make a bigger impact with what the Lord has entrusted to us.”
In making this transformative move, they explored the many areas of need that exist throughout the community. “We soon realized that we could not accomplish our goals alone. It is not about the family. It is a way to honor God and His work,” says Carrie-Ann. “We joined forces with East Texas Communities Foundation so we could make a bigger impact in the community.” Their normal realm of philanthropy has been to strengthen families. For that reason, they developed a strong focus on organizations that had strong foundations serving family need, particularly those that were God-centered. Among them are Mentoring Alliance, Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County, Young Life Tyler, Promise Academy, Hospice of East Texas, and others. “Each of these organizations are there for families who need others to come alongside them, some who are embroiled in hard times, and sometimes those whose lives are in dark places. We want to support organizations that can help people get back onto a firm foundation, that only God can provide, and to help them overcome adversity and find their way into the light.”
An area that the Jasper Family had never traditionally been involved in philanthropically was education. Four years ago, they helped establish the Jasper Department of Chemical Engineering at UT Tyler. It is part of the College of Engineering. It also directly addresses a need that had been long overlooked in the Tyler area. The closest schools offering Chemical Engineering were in Lubbock, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. “Because our dad was a chemical engineer, we thought it would be good if we started a program here in Tyler. The College of Engineering was looking for funding, and we partnered to make it a reality.” Now, after the first four years in existence, the first person to earn a Chemical Engineering Degree from UT Tyler graduated earlier this year.
The Jaspers collectively believe there is great joy to be found in giving. More than that, they believe strongly that all people need an opportunity to live out their personal potential. They believe that their family has been blessed and through God’s grace, they have a responsibility to steward the resources they are blessed with to provide opportunity to other people, just as deserving, but whose circumstances have been different and need a hand up to help them begin helping themselves, and in turn, helping others. The multiplicative effect works here as well. They have seen how when someone turns their life around after receiving help when they needed it, can then develop a similar passion to use their resources to help others.
Carrie-Ann has no trouble answering the question as to where her motivation comes from. “I don’t want to be one sitting on the sidelines. This is the community we live in and I want to be involved. I want to know what plagues the community and learn how to address those issues. When I leave this earth, I want my life to show that I did everything I could to honor God. I want to leave without having anything left undone; to know I made every effort I could. Jesus did that and he died for us and paid the price for us. Jesus modeled how we should act and how we should treat others. Sometimes, it is not convenient. Sometimes, it is messy. We are called to love God and to love people, and we need to start right here in our own community.”
For inspiration, Carrie-Ann points to Luke 10:25-37 ESV, the Parable of the Good Samaritan:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.