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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Intersection of Two Jacks

Taking Care of Business

Alumnus brings dollars and sense to chair university’s capital campaign

In April, UTSA made history when it embarked on the first capital campaign in the university’s 43 years. The goal: To raise $120 million by 2015 to enrich the student experience, to provide more scholarships and faculty research and to support new institutes and centers. “It was hard to say no,” said Jim Bodenstedt ’96, when he was asked to be the campaign’s chairman. “I was an alumnus, I had demonstrated major giving and I could speak from my personal belief and my heart that this was a good thing to do.” By the time the university went public with the campaign, it had raised $94.3 million, more than 78 percent of its goal. To date, that number has reached $102.9 million. But that is just the beginning, Bodenstedt said.

When he was 16, Bodenstedt carried a briefcase to school instead of a backpack. Between classes, he’d rush to a payphone to call his stockbroker about the newest stock to buy or sell with $2,000 he had inherited from his great-grandparents.“I was the biggest geek in the world,” he laughs, recalling his teen years.

He may have been slightly ahead of his time, but it served him well.

He already knew he wanted to someday own or run a large restaurant. So he got a job at McDonald’s, and by 18 was managing a Houston store.

“At the time, I was the second-youngest person to go to Hamburger University,” he said. When his father pushed him to go to college, his argument came down to simple math: The average student graduating from college made $17,500 a year, he explained. Bodenstedt already made more than $30,000.

His father relented.

Over the next decade he worked at McDonald’s and Taco Bell. He helped develop some of the 15 Alfonso’s/ChaCho’s restaurants in San Antonio at the time. Then he decided he wanted a law degree.

He walked away from a $60,000 salary and for 23 months approached his undergraduate education at UTSA like he did business, working 80 hours a week. He also tested out of classes through the College Level Examination Program.

“It allowed me to get through school very quickly,” he said. “I think I still have the record for graduating the quickest at the university.”

He never made it to law school, but instead followed his passion for the restaurant business. Today he’s president and CEO of MUY Brands, LLC, which he founded in 2003 with 18 existing Taco Bell and KFC restaurants in West Texas and Corpus Christi. The firm now operates 240 restaurants from Amarillo to Brownsville and from El Paso to Houston, including KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and A&W franchises.

“I’m doing what I wanted to do as a kiddo,” he said. “I’m doing what I dreamt of doing when I was 16.”

That business success allowed him the opportunity to give back.

In 2010, he donated $1 million to UTSA to fund football scholarships, the first private donation of that size to the athletics department.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without UTSA,” he said. “So I feel a sense of responsibility to give back. Mostly I think we need to give opportunities for others to succeed.”

You’ve become increasingly involved with UTSA. Why?

The cities that have a great education base are the ones that businesses want to move their offices to because there’s an excellent, educated workforce. We’ve had a very good labor force here, and it’s been more blue collar and manufacturing in the past. I think it’s important to the city that the university has graduates for the future workforce.

When did you start giving back to the community?

In my 20s. I think people should have a greater sense of the world around them and be less individualistic and more community-centric. If you’ve got yourself in a good position, physically and emotionally, then you are prepared to be able to help others. And I’ve been fortunate that I’ve done well and I’ve had a sense of wanting to help.

Jim Bodenstedt, president and CEO of Muy Brands, LLC, routinely meets with employees.

Why should we participate in the capital campaign?

The fact that over 50,000 of [UTSA’s] more than 90,000 graduates are still living in San Antonio tells me that as we continue to graduate more people every year, they are going to stay here and companies are going to notice that and start moving here because of the educated workforce we have. That hasn’t been the case in the past.

What’s in it for the city?

A high number of graduates and higher-degreed graduates, Ph.D.’s and such, will attract the businesses that bring in the people that buy the houses that pay the taxes that keep the city’s engine running.

What do you think the university will look like after raising $120 million?

I think it will be a good start to continue to provide access to students in San Antonio and South Texas. It will help with Tier One status and being recognized as a research university unparalleled in our area in specific disciplines nationally and internationally.

–Lety Laurel

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