Walking with Titans

November 17, 2023


Corey Muñoz ’06


Britt Harris ’80 is building the next generation of business leaders one ‘Titans of Investing’ class at a time.

Thomas Britton “Britt” Harris IV ’80 is a titan in the truest sense of the word. A giant of the investment community, Harris’ bio reads like a resume for U.S Secretary of the Treasury. He has led as chief executive officer or chief investment officer for eight different funds, including but not limited to Bridgewater Associates, Verizon Investment Management, Teacher Retirement Systems of Texas, University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company (UTIMCO, the largest public endowment fund in the nation), and most recently, the Texas Permanent School Fund. Harris has been honored with three lifetime achievement awards, served as advisor to the Federal Reserve, on the U.S. President’s Council for Financial Markets and as an advisor to the New York Stock Exchange.

Harris would say his most meaningful investments haven’t been fiscal in nature, but rather familial. A father of four with his wife of four decades, Julia, he also has six grandchildren and 900+ former students. Harris, a fourth-generation Aggie, is the founder and executive professor of the high-impact program, Titans of Investing at Mays Business School. The goal of the seminar-style course is to shape high-achieving, well-rounded leaders equipped for meaningful success in both life and business.

Harris’ style of engagement is at once disarming and deliberate. He sets high standards but welcomes a teachable spirit. On paper, he could be mistaken for a man of inherent contradictions: one of the great financial minds of a generation, defining the measure of success through a holistic lens that puts financial achievement behind a list of more critical accomplishments. But he’s no charlatan; everything Harris does is intentional. He lives out his life’s principles and spends innumerable hours instilling these values in those he’s identified as tomorrow’s
leaders. Harris is determined to equip the next generation for a life well lived and puts his money, time and relationships into bringing that goal to fruition.

“He doesn’t just want you to take the class and finish the assignments,” noted recent Titans of Investing graduate, Brittny Efendy ’21 ’23. “He wants you to grow, to have a key experience in every moment that he’s able to influence.”


Approaching the midpoint in his illustrious career in the early 2000s, Harris found himself considering philosophical and spiritual abstracts, “What is the purpose of more than enough? Where is the financial finish line? What do you do with the surplus?” After significant prayer and consideration, he and Julia decided he should begin a course at Texas A&M University. Harris approached Mays leadership stoking the idea for a course – what can we teach that they aren’t already teaching? For Harris, the answer was simple: “wisdom and relationships.” Always book in hand, Harris had just completed Ron Chernow’s biography of John D. Rockefeller, Titans, and he landed on a name for the course: Titans of Investing.

Those envisioning a traditional academic setting with hours spent extrapolating key insights from historical investment data would be underestimating the program. The discourse runs deep in unpacking the complexities of global financial markets, but interviews with more than a dozen program alumni affirm that Titans of Investing is much more than a course. At once a way of life with demanding curriculum and a society with lifetime membership benefits, Titans operates more like an adoptive family than an academic circle. It offers a unique path to personal and professional growth through a carefully curated series of conversations and lessons in the best of leadership, industry and strength of character.

Titans’ curriculum might best be described as practical wisdom for a holistically successful life. Harris takes students through “the characteristics of really successful people” as he defines success versus significance, the latter being the ultimate goal. He shares The Five Fs – Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness and Finance – in that order. Harris is quick to reference the works of others, including concepts from Gary Keller of Keller Williams. Keller’s concept of balance as an illusion explains that we are all juggling different balls; some balls are rubber and others are glass. Harris laments the number of young people mistakenly identifying which balls are glass. He also walks students through James Baker’s Five P’s – prior preparation prevents poor performance – as well as more straightforward truisms like learning to manage your money instead of letting your money manage you.

The nontraditional curriculum underscores an irregular course structure. Comprised of 20-25 students selected through a highly competitive process each semester, Titans meet twice weekly for the duration of the course. On alternating weeks Harris is present for one of the meetings, often accompanied by a visiting speaker. After each class, Harris organizes a mandatory group dinner to fuel group cohesion and fellowship.

On the bye weeks, students are expected to self-organize for discussions known as Juntos. Designed from Benjamin Franklin’s accountability group of the same name, Juntos are intended to foster deep and meaningful conversations in service of mutual improvement and enlightenment. These unmoderated discussions cover a host of dense topics for which participants are expected to prepare, including ‘the relationship between wealth and happiness’, ‘China and Taiwan’, ‘what makes a good or bad parent’ and ‘how do you feel about philanthropy’. “I’ve held onto the Juntos philosophy,” shared Ross Willmann ’08, director of finance for the Texas A&M Foundation. “Ten years later, I still meet with a group of men who see the value in coming together, sharing life and pushing each other for mutual improvement.”

Beyond the obvious benefits of understanding self-governance and the merits of the discussion topics themselves, Harris identifies Juntos as helping Titans bridge the civil discourse gap in an increasingly polarized socio-political landscape. “One of the purposes of Juntos is to build a place where we can have civil conversations about things we don’t agree on,” shared Harris. “Titans learn to turn defensiveness into curiosity. We coach them not only to speak the truth in love, but to demonstrate a desire to understand how someone else arrived at a different conclusion.”

Each week, a group of Titans are tasked with presenting a Titan brief: a 10-page, highly academic executive summary covering a work of business, investing, leadership, psychology, political science or history. “One of the markers of highly successful people is that they are voracious readers with insatiable curiosity,” noted Harris. The Titan briefs provide ready access to dozens of books that would take years to consume cover to cover. Each features a book culled from Harris’ list of Titans Classics: a library of his personal favorites, catalogued alongside top recommendations from his network of world-class investors and financiers. “Britt basically surveyed the most important investors around the globe and asked, ‘what are the 2-3 most important books you’ve read?’” shared Matthew Wey ’10 ’12 ’18, chief investment officer for the Sovereign Wealth Fund of the Chickasaw Nation. Books and briefs are often sponsored by industry experts or course speakers who will discuss the book with the students assigned to its briefing. Following the class, participants and sponsors alike have access to more than a decade’s worth of Titan briefs.

During the evening class sessions, speakers engage in candid exchanges with students and pull back the curtain on a view of holistic success – not just the good, bad and ugly of their respective careers, but also personal failure and triumph. Titans’ speakers, brief sponsors and reunion dinner keynotes are captains of industry and the public sector – a series of MVPs drawn from Harris’ personal rolodex. Titans might interact with financial heavy weights like Cliff Asness, Howard Marks, George Roberts, Bob Prince, Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon. They would just as likely encounter experts on the environment and renewable energy, elite quantum physicists, psychology experts like Flip Flippen or politicians such as former Secretary of State James Baker III. One year, Titans each received a signed letter from Dr. Ken French, alongside Nobel Laureates Eugene Fama and Myron Scholes, encouraging them to “be both truly rational, and truly compassionate.”

Despite the formidable collective expertise and experience of the speaker and sponsor rosters, Titan students spoke consistently to an undercurrent of humility in leadership flowing through each of Harris’ contacts. “Here are these incredibly impactful and high-achieving individuals who actually want to talk to a roomful of students,” said current Titan, Dylan Young ’24. On campus with Harris, speakers seem at ease, offering up a side of themselves not often seen by the watching public.

“To see some really impressive world leaders let their hair down in these intimate settings is remarkable,” shared Kelli Walter ’11, asset management partner at Partners Real Estate in Houston. Walter, whose husband, Corey ’10 ’11, is a similarly accomplished former Titan, continued, “Britt is such a genuine person, he’s obviously technically exceptional, but also elicits a unique response among his peers.”

“Only by the grace of God is this class so successful. It has been more than I could have ever imagined and I’m pretty optimistic.” – Britt Harris

Speaker topics cover a wide range of subjects, including technology and the double-edged sword of AI; quantum computing and physics; climate change and renewables; and the proper approach to relationships. For hot-button topics, Harris will bring in speakers on both sides of an issue. “There is no uniform narrative for the speakers, who can have vastly differing opinions,” shared Young. Harris even does a week on ‘the relationship talk’ in which participants are expected to bring their significant others along to the post-class dinner.

Titans wouldn’t be what it is today without the tireless effort of Britt’s right hand, Sharon Toalson, who coordinates with meticulous attention the logistics of the program. Similarly essential to the evolution of the course have been the now retired Lanny R. Martindale, former associate director of Aggies on Wall Street and a senior finance lecturer at Texas A&M, and Dr. Sorin M. Sorescu, director of the Adam C. Sinn ’00 Center for Investment Management, Foreman R. and Ruby Bennett Chair in Business Administration, and professor of finance at Texas A&M.


The program is as rich in relationships as it is in content, a merit both current and former students credit to Harris’ deliberate emphasis on friendship. Under different circumstances, the relationships forged within Titans and the framework for the class might feel overly contrived. But the eagerness with which aspiring Titans pursue acceptance into the highly competitive network yields an enthusiasm for the intimate relationships and irregular structure required of those who participate. “It’s for people who want to work really hard and try to do something significant,” shared Brittny Efendy, who will join McKinsey & Company later this year. “It gives you a small, tight-knit community in an otherwise enormous student body.”

The social components of the class are more than encouraged, as Harris facilitates activities designed to nurture relationships. Olympic gold medalist, entrepreneur and former Titan Breeja Larson ’14 ’16, shared that Harris writes each student a note at the course onset, outlining the expectations for fraternal engagement among the Titan class. “He is working to create this network of high-quality people and he essentially says, ‘you will be best friends; your job is to be vulnerable and sincere in supporting one another.’” Harris backs up his desire to cultivate meaningful friendships with a serious sense of fun and not just at Titans weekly dinners or weekend reunions. Legend has it that one semester he invited the whole class out to the pool for a 25-yard race in a 50-meter pool. Harris suited up and raced alongside a Titans class that included Larson, before jumping off the 5-meter platform with the group. Larson insisted that “Britt almost won,” but she also stood in awe of the purpose of the exercise and his
commitment to it. “This was another fun, if unexpected, push outside of our comfort zones to help us learn to trust the team around us. And he was all in.

The network fostered within Titans isn’t about the “who’s who” of collegiate elites,
but rather forging memorable, lasting connections and alliances with likeminded achievers of diverse talent. James Ross ’20 ’23, a recent Titan graduate and Army veteran, credited Titans with helping him to socially reacclimate after being deployed. “Veterans can have an inclination to wall themselves off in a post-military experience,” shared Ross. “Titans forced me out of my shell; even if I wanted to cocoon, the Titans wouldn’t have allowed it.” Notably, both Larson and Ross list Titans among the highest caliber camaraderie groups they’ve been a part of. For an Olympic athlete and a veteran, that’s high marks. Amazon Software Engineer Shikhar Baheti ’22 moved to the U.S. from India at age 14 and considers his Titans classmates kin. “I don’t have family in this country, so Texas A&M and the group of people I surround myself with in Titans are who I lean on for support and a sense of belonging,” shared Baheti. “They are my family.” Every current and former Titan spoke with fondness for their cohort and most Titans – even a decade out from their time at Mays – still count Titan classmates among their closest friends. “Coming out of this class, I’m going to have to expand my list of groomsmen,” quipped Ross.

Former Titans participate readily in the recruitment and evaluation process for prospective new members. Kelli Walter described Harris’s goal for the Titans: “have the best and sharpest people that are kind, generous and interesting, with a plan to give back.” Harris laid out four primary requirements for Titans candidates:

• Someone we trust must believe the candidate is going to make something of themselves, early.

• They must be a person of high character who will use their success to generously serve the needs and betterment of others.
• They must be a fully engaged, interesting person – we are looking for uniquely-minded and diverse thinkers.
• They must like to eat.


Each Titan offered unique insight into what makes the course so special, but common themes emerged. The relationships make the course. All were moved by the unexpected humility of both Britt and his outsized network. They appreciated the diversity of thought among the course’s high-achieving participants, as well as finishing the course confident they’d grown as person, friend, partner and professional. Titans describe the program as coaching the soft skills you can’t enumerate in a syllabus or gradebook. “There are probably a number of courses that could grow my understanding of financial markets,” shared James Ross. “But because of Titans, I’m a more engaged listener, a better friend and a more encouraging Christian. There’s not another business course, anywhere in the world, that you could walk away from making that claim.”

The most common thread was how deeply Harris cares for the whole person: for the individual and their specific development in the office, at home, with their families and beyond.

His is an unprecedented level of faculty involvement, more often observed in graduate level studies. Unprompted, each Titan shared at least one recollection of a time Harris showed up for them personally, in a meaningful way, for one of life’s important or more difficult moments. Breeja Larson added “Britt does a phenomenal job at helping all the students realize their actual worth, and then helping them learn how to elevate it.

Among Harris’ primary goals for Titans are wisdom and discernment: two attributes his students would use to describe Harris. “Plenty of people are good at knowing how to do things, but few effectively discern whether you ought to,” shared Matthew Wey. “Britt is extremely qualified in the how but uniquely capable in the ought or should.” Harris calls on his Titans to live intentionally – fully engaged and generously in the service of others. As always, Harris leads by example “He’s an extremely engaged and generous individual,” notes Wey. “He lives an intensely intentional life.”

Harris is open about his Christian faith, which shapes his views on leadership, relationships and generosity. He refers to Biblical scripture often but does so as part of a cohesive and intentional delivery of key principles that resonated with Titans across diverse faith backgrounds. Multiple Titans we spoke with referred to one of his personal mantras, “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Harris cares deeply for his students. “The intangibles of Britt Harris cannot be quantified or qualified,” shared Kelli Walter. “He is world-class in terms of team management and how to build a culture of shared respect that is historically uncommon in the world of finance.” For the Titans, at the top of the list of what makes the course special is Harris himself, and all the care, insight, wisdom and willingness
to invest in their personal development that falls under his reach.

Harris speaks of his Titans like a proud father, “some of the most amazing people have come through the program and are now out serving in the world”.

It’s telling that Harris used the word “serving” because that’s exactly what he means. Harris instills the importance of servant leadership heavily in his proteges – and this is a key intersection for Titans principles and Aggie Core Values – selfless service and loyalty. “The purpose of walking the right path is to help others, because that’s what Aggies do.”

Recently, Mays Business School began building the framework for an endowment supporting the Titans of Investing program in partnership with the Texas A&M Foundation. Mays Business School Dean Nate Sharp aims to create a Titans endowed professorship and excellence fund, both in Harris’s name, to ensure the program is a permanent fixture at Mays. True Brown ’04, senior director of development for the Texas A&M Foundation is equally excited about this effort. “This type of endowment would be pretty unique for both Mays and Texas A&M,” shared Brown. “This class has been so impactful for many students and has become integral to the fabric of Mays. Keeping a high impact program like Titans running seamlessly will be essential as Mays pursues its goal of becoming the nation’s preeminent public business school.” In addition to propelling students into top financial institutions, globally, the Titans course has helped launch a venture capital class, as well as a VR portfolio.

Among a cohort of exceptionally high-achieving individuals with schedules to match, every Titan contacted readily found time to speak about the program’s impact on their lives. Their energy and eagerness to engage can only be attributed to the legacy of Britt Harris. Breeja Larson was unsurprised, noting that Titans look to Britt’s example. “Britt lives out his values,” she shared. “He doesn’t just ‘walk the talk’ – he whispers – and then he runs.”

On brand, Harris concludes with a thoughtful observation. “Only by the grace of God is this class so successful. It has been more than I could have ever imagined and I’m pretty optimistic.”

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