COMMERCE – Texas A&M University-Commerce and Lion Athletics recognized KarolAnn and Chris DeLong with a ceremony on Saturday, November 13, in recognition of their transformational leadership gift to the university and the Lion men’s basketball program.
The DeLongs’ donation includes operational support and an endowment fund for summer school and postgraduate scholarships. This gift is the largest leadership gift to men’s basketball in the history of the program and the largest single gift by a former men’s basketball student-athlete.
“The opportunity afforded me by Jim Gudger and East Texas State University altered my life trajectory more than any single decision I have made,” Chris DeLong said. “I am eternally grateful for my Commerce experience, and with this gift hope to positively influence the life trajectory of future Lion Men’s Basketball student-athletes for generations.”
As part of the transformational gift, the Champions Lobby in the Field House will be known as the DeLong Legacy Lobby, pending approval from the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.
“It’s another great day to be a Lion,” said University President Dr. Mark J. Rudin in remarks at the signing presentation. “To have Chris and KarolAnn make a legacy gift to our institution speaks to everything right about the A&M-Commerce experience. They are wonderful people who value the role that higher education and intercollegiate athletics played in their personal and professional life. As we embark on a transformational chapter for our institution, this type of philanthropic support will continue to advance our mission to Educate. Discover. Achieve.“
ABOUT THE DeLONGS
Chris DeLong graduated from East Texas State University in 1985 with a BS in Marketing. During that time, Chris was a member of the men’s basketball program, Sigma Chi Fraternity, and the Honor’s Society – Pi Sigma Epsilon. Karol Ann (Kelty) DeLong is a Sulphur Springs native and the daughter of distinguished alumnus Tim Kelty. They met due to Chris’s recruitment from Wapakoneta, Ohio to East Texas to play basketball on a blind date at the now defunct Commerce movie theater in 1986. Chris and Karol Ann have been married 34 years and have two children – Chaney and Drew.
Chris began a long career with PepsiCo as a campus hire in 1985 after a successful on-campus interview in the Career Placement office, beginning as an Account Representative in Mesquite, Texas. He progressed through the ranks in various sales and management roles throughout the country. He served in executive roles as Vice President – Food Service in Dallas, Vice President of Pepsi’s South Texas Bottling in San Antonio, and Vice President of Retail Sales for the southern United States out of Orlando. Prior to retirement from PepsiCo, Chris held the position of North American Beverages Vice President of Small Format Sales and later Grocery Sales. Those positions were based out of the company’s corporate headquarters in Westchester County, New York. Post-PepsiCo Chris spends his time as a real estate and alternative asset investor.
The DeLongs have supported multiple student impact areas across the University, including the Lion Champions Fund, College of Business, and the Alumni Association. They enjoy traveling and attending Lion sporting events in Commerce and around the country. Chris has served the University generously with his time as a representative on the Director of Athletics’ Champions Circle, University Strategic Planning Committee, and College of Business advisory board. Chris also served on the City of Commerce Economic Development Board and Karol Ann on the Northeast Texas Children’s Museum Board.
Through this gift Chris and Karol Ann will continue to make an impact on the lives of our student-athletes and on the success, tradition, and prestige of our men’s basketball program.
INVESTMENT WITH IMPACT
“If we put individual pictures next to our Best in Class athletics mission, KarolAnn and Chris DeLong would be right there. Vickie and I are very blessed to know them personally, and I have leaned on Chris’ business acumen, leadership perspective, and management experience often as a member of our Champions Circle Board of Advisors. This investment with impact aligns perfectly with our upcoming athletics transition to NCAA Division I and sends the right message about vision, action, and loyalty from a former men’s basketball letter-winner.”
Tim McMurray, Director of Athletics
“The Lion men’s basketball program and I truly appreciate KarolAnn and Chris DeLong for their support over the years, and we are exceptionally grateful they’ve chosen to make such a monumental gift to our program. This is a game-changing gift for men’s basketball. Not only does this gift enhance our operations and scholarship opportunities, but it also provides an example to our student-athletes and alumni that they can impact the lives of those to follow when they give back to a program that means so much to them.”
Jaret von Rosenberg, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
“The DeLongs’ generosity exemplifies their continued involvement and commitment to A&M-Commerce and Lion Athletics since their very first gift in 1986. This leadership gift for Men’s Basketball will impact Lions who excel in the classroom and on the court for years to come. We are thankful for their dedication and look forward to celebrating the lives that they will help transform. We are thankful for donors like the DeLongs who are leading the way for our students!”