Returning the Favor

Written by: 
Leslie Wimmer
Photography by: 
Michael Clements

Tait Cruse (’89) credits UNT with giving him the opportunity to reach his potential and build a successful career in personal finance. Today, he’s giving back by supporting College of Business students and the Career Center.

“UNT gave me a shot and I’m so grateful for that,” says Cruse, who graduated from high school with little financial or academic support for college and worked his way through. “I want to create opportunities for students today.”

Cruse, a native of Rockwall, is the managing partner of Northwestern Mutual’s The Texas Financial Group–Dallas. He began his career after earning a bachelor’s degree in finance and then began giving back. With matching funds from Northwestern Mutual, gifts include $85,000 to the Career Center in 2007 and $100,000 last year to support the College of Business capstone course, now named the Northwestern Mutual Integrated Case Competition.

The course helps seniors apply the knowledge and skills they learn throughout their undergraduate career to solve a complex business problem by working in groups. They then present their solutions to a panel of judges, who are experts in various business fields, at the end of the semester. The course is designed to reward creative thinking that cuts across traditional business function boundaries.

“Not only do our students gain valuable real-world experience, but we also keep adding new tools and techniques to help enhance the learning experience,” says Derrick D’Souza, professor of management who teaches a section of the capstone course each semester.

Cruse’s gift supports the course by providing prize incentives for student participation, learning tools, marketing opportunities and a reception and lunch celebrating the final day of the competition.

“I’m extremely appreciative of UNT and the chance I was given to live up to my potential,” Cruse says. “UNT made a commitment to me as a student and professors believed in me. I’m happy to put my money where my mouth is and return that favor.”