Texas dealer works to leave a legacy of aiding education
Each November, international students attending Texas A&M University get to experience life on a Texas ranch, including riding horses, watching a blacksmith and eating barbecue. Last year more than 500 students attended the Cowboy Cookout, which Toyota dealer Paul Atkinson and his wife, Cindy, have hosted at their ranch for seven years.
"They don't really know what to expect," Atkinson says. "When they leave they have huge smiles."
Atkinson, general manager of two Toyota dealerships, also is a lifetime member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which raises college scholarship money. He also is launching the Atkinson It Pays To Stay Program at 16 high schools in Bryan/College Station and Madisonville, where Atkinson's dealerships are. The program will reward high school seniors for perfect attendance. In July, one student will win a new Scion.
Education "is our future," Atkinson says. "As human beings, we have a responsibility to pass on to the next generation a better society. I am doing that."
Atkinson, 58, has been a dealer for three decades, but it wasn't his first career. The Dallas native was a minister in Sugar Land, Texas, until 1982. When he left the ministry, church elders pointed him toward the car business, Atkinson says. His two dealerships sold 3,800 new and used units in 2012.
In December, Atkinson sold his two stores to Purdy Motor Group of Costa Rica. He is now general manager of the dealerships and is working to expand Purdy's footprint in North America.
"As we go into more communities in Texas and the U.S., we will be carrying the same message," he says. "Let's help communities."