Texas Tech University

The Gordons Show Support for Rawls College and the School of Law

April 9, 2024

The Gordons Show Support for Rawls College and the School of Law

Personal connections and valued experiences have inspired Pat and Laura Gordon to give back though their time and financial support.

Pat and Laura Gordon are a bit yin and yang. Her beaming smile, bright clothing and bubbly personality are complementary to Pat's more reserved grin, neutral apparel and collected words.

However, both of their eyes lit up as they laughed their way through stories of their time at Texas Tech University's School of Law and their careers beyond.

Building Connections

Before their paths crossed at law school, they led vastly different lives.

Laura was a native of El Paso, but she wanted to break the mold and do something different from her friends for college. With the help of supportive parents, she toured more than 30 campuses across the U.S. before deciding on Bryn Mawr, a women's liberal arts college just outside of Philadelphia.

Although she was no longer in Texas, there was little question from those around her as to where she called home. She said she was one of the few girls who wore makeup, perfume and heels, which earned her some curious questions from the local college residents. 

If that didn't set her apart, then her big pink convertible with longhorns attached to the front did.

“I had put my horns on it, and then I had a retrofitted horn that I could blow that mooed,” Laura said with a laugh after Pat prodded her into telling the story. “And then I had cowboy hats in the trunk that I bought at Kmart – I bought six or eight of them. I would drive my friends, and anywhere we went I'd make everybody wear their cowboy hat.”

Despite the fun she had, Laura was ready to leave behind the brutal winters of the northeast and move back to Texas after she graduated with her history degree. By her sophomore year, she knew she wanted to go to law school. Her parents had two close friends who had attended Texas Tech, and that piqued her interest in the university. She applied, was accepted to the law school and loaded up the decked-out pink convertible to make her way to West Texas.

Pat grew up on a cattle ranch in Waxahachie, and in contrast to Laura, he went to Texas A&M University where he earned bachelor's degrees in finance and accounting. People with those degrees typically went on to work at banks or accounting firms. Neither of which appealed to Pat, so he planned to attend law school.

His sister graduated from Texas Tech and still lived in the area, so the law school was already on his radar. His visit and the camaraderie he felt with the people and professors sealed the deal.

Not only did Pat attend law school, but during his second year, he also enrolled in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business to earn his Master of Business Administration at the same time so he could bypass the extra year of education that would be needed to earn his Master of Laws in Taxation. Pat also took the CPA exam to become a certified public accountant (CPA).

“When I look back, enrolling in Tech's business school, attending law school and sitting for the CPA exam in the same semester was ambitious, but it worked out,” Pat said. “Texas Tech's business school is awesome, and I knew that even back then. They tailored it to fit what I needed. I'll tell you, the tax professors were great – I'm a tax lawyer now. I still use all that they taught me and apply that knowledge in both my legal career and in our commercial real estate business.”

Pat took on this rigorous course load prior to the development of the dual J.D./MBA program now offered by Texas Tech, and neither the School of Law nor Rawls College knew Pat was pursuing a dual degree.

“They discovered that he had enrolled [in both] at the end of our third year of law school,” Laura said with a laugh as Pat responded with a wry grin. “They called him in, and they said, ‘What are you doing? You can't do this.' He said, ‘Well, I've done it,' and he had really good grades in both schools. They said, ‘Well, don't ever do this again. OK?' Then his response was, ‘All right. I'll never enroll in law and business school at the same time again.'”

Pat and Laura were both busy with the intense schedule and classes required to get a J.D., in addition to the extra classes Pat was taking. However, they did cross paths a few times, including in a bankruptcy class they both remember was scheduled at 5 p.m. Friday. 

While the timing was not ideal, they understood it was because the law school was flying in practicing bankruptcy lawyers to teach the class. They now recall it as an important example of the law school's responsiveness to current events and new situations students might face in their careers. 

It was 1983 and the beginning of the oil crisis, where an oversupply of crude oil met with falling demand had devastating effects on the global economy. This was particularly relevant in the area as Texas Tech's oil-producing neighbors in the Permian Basin were not spared in the wrath.

Leadership at the law school knew these events could have long-lasting effects, and their students would potentially be helping entities navigate the legal complexities of bankruptcy. Thus, they organized this class and brought in experts from across the state to give students a real-world perspective of what it was like to work in this legal area.

“It was a very, very good class,” Laura said, “which is another example of how responsive Texas Tech is in general. They recognized that this was a new problem out there, and they arranged to have these very competent practicing attorneys come in and teach a practical class.”

While they had run into each other over their three years at Texas Tech, Pat and Laura were officially introduced at the Barrister's Ball, a spring formal event held by the law school. Laura had been dead set on not going, but her friends showed up to her house to drag her there and were not taking no for an answer – a stroke of luck for the now couple. Pat was on the planning committee for the event and was taking tickets at the door. 

After finishing his work for the evening, Pat came up to Laura and struck up a conversation about their weekend plans. There had been a decent amount of snow that year, and Laura and her friends had plans to go skiing, but they were dreading the drive up the mountain. So, when Pat told her that he also enjoyed skiing, Laura invited him – but only if he would drive.

However, there was one small glitch in Pat's plan. He had a weekend seminar class for his MBA where students were grouped into teams and completed projects together. While he now admits it was an important class where he learned practical business lessons, at the time, it was standing in between him and a fun weekend trip with a girl he liked.

“I decided to go skiing,” Pat said.

“He told a fib,” Laura said teasingly.

“I left a note on my professor's car that I had a family emergency,” Pat responded.

 “Because we didn't have cell phones back then,” Laura interjected.

“Well, we go skiing, I come back, and you know when you ski where there's sun?” Pat asked.

“Goggles and a sunburn,” Laura said as a smile formed.

“I looked like a raccoon,” Pat admitted, even though he grinned at the memory. “So, I got busted, and the professor knocked me down a letter grade and made me write a paper about what I missed.”

Despite the repercussions of skipping his class, it was worth it, because Pat and Laura began dating. Although they admitted it was terrible timing, as they were only a month away from their May 1983 graduation and going their separate ways, they decided to make plans to redirect their lives together. 

The Gordons in caps and gowns. The Gordons in caps and gowns. Gordons dressed up.
Pat and Laura in law school.

Creating Their Careers

Pat had accepted a job in Dallas, and Laura had accepted a job in El Paso, but they still had to pass the bar exam. They studied together for the three-day written test they took in a classroom at the law school.

“It was hideous, but we survived it. That was a big test of our relationship, to get through the bar exam. If you can get through the bar, you can do a lot of different things,” Laura said shortly before their 40th wedding anniversary.

They spent about a year traveling back and forth to see each other and were looking at buying a home in Dallas, but then Pat was recruited to a firm in El Paso by a fellow Texas Tech graduate who had been on law review with him.

Pat moved to El Paso and they got married in March 1984. Following suit with their personalities, Pat's career followed the more traditional path for lawyers while Laura blazed a trail all her own.

Laura and Pat on their wedding day. Laura and Pat outdoors in autumn. Laura and Pat with Sandra Day O'Connor.
Pat and Laura as a young married couple.

Pat started his career in El Paso at a boutique firm that focused on tax law with a specialty in international tax and business. He worked for another lawyer who was also a CPA, and the firm had several clients in Mexico, giving him a unique opportunity to develop expertise in that area. He worked there for a time, then spent stints at a couple of other firms before he and four other attorneys turned an idea scribbled on the back of a napkin into reality.

In 1994, Pat became a founding partner of the firm he still works at today. They opened the practice just a year after the internet gave lawyers access to burgeoning digital law libraries and other information. They were on the forefront of an opportunity ripe for the taking.

“We decided that we wanted to just be a very small boutique firm with no more than five lawyers,” he said before admitting, “We immediately grew to 12. Now we're around 20.”

The firm, Gordon Davis Johnson & Shane P.C., has a strong base in international tax and real estate law among many other areas.

A founding principle of the firm was to provide a high level of service to its clients without the constraints of the traditional law firm model. Breaking from that mold has allowed them to create a more relaxed environment – that, and the Gordons' many rescue chihuahuas and other dogs that can often be found in the office.

On the other hand, Laura has held several different positions over the course of her career, taking advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves.

“Honestly, I've been so blessed,” she said graciously. “I've never even had to apply for a job, because the jobs have come to me.”

Laura's first job was working as a briefing attorney for the Texas 8th Judicial District Court of Appeals. While she was in that position, a friend who worked for the County Attorney's Office told her they had received a grant to start an anti-DWI project and they wanted her to apply. She walked to their office downstairs, chatted with the county attorney, and next thing she knew, she was a prosecutor and anti-DWI coordinator for the county.

In addition to the trial experience she was able to get as a prosecutor, Laura organized several programs as the anti-DWI coordinator. She coordinated their Project Graduation (now known as Project Celebration) and developed other projects with specific criteria that those who had received DWIs could participate in to earn dismissal of the charge.

After several years in this role, Laura began to consider other options. She was chatting with her local dry cleaner who also served as a city council representative, and he suggested she work for the city. She went to discuss job opportunities with the city attorney and was immediately offered a job at the office she would end up staying at for the next 17-and-a-half years.

She began as a self-described “baby lawyer” in the trial section and worked her way up to first assistant. However, after nearly two decades, political turmoil struck and she was fired on Christmas Eve 2003.

“It created a big hoopla in El Paso,” Laura said. “El Paso is really a small town. There were 27 news stories. People wanted me to be on the radio, on talk shows, all this kind of stuff. It was crazy.”

The media attention brought about her next role – right back where she started at the Texas 8th Judicial District Court of Appeals. The chief justice there had seen what happened on the news and offered her a job as a staff attorney – a position she stayed in until 2005. 

After the political issues had been resolved, Laura returned to her job at the city where she remained until 2016 when she made the decision to join the family real estate business.

Parallel to their legal careers, the Gordons had established their place in the local real estate field. They founded what is now Vista Star Inc. and developed commercial industrial parks. Pat's family had been involved in real estate for years, and that had been a driving force in what inspired him to get his dual degree at Texas Tech.

In addition to ranching, Pat's family developed and owned commercial real estate, and he always knew he eventually wanted be involved in the business. In fact, when he graduated from Texas A&M, he had already obtained his real estate broker's license.

“What really interested me in the Texas Tech MBA program was that I could leverage the law degree and the law practice to develop my real estate career as well,” Pat said. “In my area of law, you can leverage the two together. They're very complementary to each other.”

A Connection Never Forgotten

Though they attended Texas Tech 40 years ago, Pat and Laura are still very connected to the university and attribute many of their professional successes to what they learned while attending.

“Texas Tech is very special, obviously,” Pat said. “We not only graduated with law degrees and a business degree, but I met my wife, so it definitely holds a special place in my heart.”

Laura is a member of the Texas Tech Law School Foundation Board where she and other alumni oversee the foundation and philanthropic investments at the law school. Pat has served on the Texas Tech University System's Board of Regents since his appointment in 2021.

Laura and Pat

“At our point in our careers, we're in a better position to be more active and be leaders of this institution and what it's doing,” Pat said. “It's a lot of work, but it's very, very important. We serve Texas Tech because of what it has done for us and our family.”

While each of their positions has given them a deeper understanding of the impact philanthropy has at Texas Tech, they were donors long before they took these roles.

The Gordons established the Pat and Laura Gordon Endowed Scholarship at the School of Law in 2006 and have continuously given to the scholarship fund ever since. Additionally, they have contributed to several other initiatives at the law school, including the construction of the Mark and Becky Lanier Professional Development Center, moot court competitive teams, the Dean's Fund and more.

They have also given to the capital campaign at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in El Paso. They recently established a scholarship fund for nursing students attending the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing in El Paso, many of which are first-generation students.  

“As we've gotten older, we've become more aware of the significance of school beyond getting an education, because it's really a package of how you develop as a person,” Laura said. “We have become more aware of the benefits and the blessings of having obtained a law degree. It makes us more supportive of the school. We want to give back. We want to recognize that an education is a valuable asset, and we want to help develop that.”

As part of the scholarship programs at the TTU System, students write thank you letters to the donors who supported the scholarships they received. Each year Pat and Laura receive letters from several students in the law school, as well as letters from the students they support through scholarships at TTUHSC El Paso.

“It really personalizes the experience,” Laura said, “because it makes us realize it's not going into the abyss but is actually impacting somebody directly. It's the personal connection that says, ‘Hey, it did help me.'”

Pat echoed Laura's sentiment. 

“You almost get tears when you read those,” he said, “because you realize that you really made a difference in somebody's life. We believe that a scholarship can change a person's life.”

There is no doubt the Gordons have made a tremendous difference in the lives of students, but they have also had a resounding impact on campus programs. Just last year, they set up the Gordon Family Center for Real Estate Endowment. The gift supports the Center for Real Estate in Rawls College which was established to promote excellence in real estate education through academic programming, student engagement, research initiatives and strong partnerships with alumni and industry experts.

Founded in 2016, the Center for Real Estate has seen immense success in student success and developing connections with the community. This caught the Gordons' attention. 

“Our law practices have been an incredible journey, but they have always been integrated into and parallel with developing our family's real estate business,” Pat said. “Now our son and daughter work in the business and will continue our family's journey. In fact, Laura serves as general counsel for our son, who has recently taken the reins as president. We owe this to Texas Tech.”

As members of the dynamic field that is real estate, they saw the Center for Real Estate as an opportunity to invest in a program run by world-class faculty preparing students for a specialized industry.

“It takes a special person to want to give back and educate people and have them grow and develop as professionals,” Laura said. “Each of those specializations [in business] needs resources in order to grow them and to actually be able to fill the needs of what the students need in order to take that information and that opportunity and then apply it out in the real world.”

For Pat and Laura, giving back is a responsibility, but one they accept gladly. They have immense pride in Texas Tech and the impact it has not just on students, but also on communities and families. 

They see this time in their lives as an opportunity to step up as leaders for the university, and they want others to know their support – both financial and through their unwavering belief in the Texas Tech ability to succeed – is given out of love for this university and its people.

“What Tech does is change the lives of a lot of people, and we see that,” Pat said. “We see it in ourselves. We see it in our other classmates, and we feel like it's our responsibility to give back and to be leaders of the school. We want the students and the faculty to know that we appreciate what they're doing and we're behind them. We have faith in this institution and are excited about its future.”

Texas Tech Now