Since moving to Corpus Christi in 2020, Robert Morales and his wife have discovered that they love being on the water. The couple own a small pontoon, and when the weather is right, they’ll set sail in the bay near their home.
“The cool thing is that when you’re out there, you get to see a different kind of nature,” Morales says. “There are a bunch of dolphins right there in the bay, and every time we go out to sail, there they are.”
In a way, this image of Morales and his wife’s sunsoaked pontoon sharing the bay with a small group of playful dolphins encapsulates what this Baylor alum truly values. As the people in his life will be quick to tell you, Morales is a man motivated not by material things, but by moments of joy, be they big or small. Usually, those joyful moments include his faith, family, friends, and acts of service.
Service, whatever it may look like, is a particularly important part of Morales’ life. He is an active donor to his beloved Baylor, and he has devoted his career to nonprofit work. In fact, service and success are practically synonymous for the proud Baylor Bear.
“Success is pouring into someone else,” he says. “To me, success is if I can make a difference in the life of an individual.”
With the exception of a four-year stint as the senior living sales director for the Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo, Morales has spent much of his career in the world of development. It’s a profession that suits him: His wardrobe always includes a warm smile, and he has an uncanny ability to connect with just about anyone. Perhaps most importantly, he makes you feel seen and heard.
“If he’s not the nicest guy I’ve ever met, he’s definitely in the top five,” says Patrick “Pat” Crump, ‘91, who worked with Morales for several years and whom Morales considers an instrumental figure from his time in college. “I remember meeting him and thinking, ‘Wait a minute, no one is really that nice,’” Crump says. “But it turns out, Robert is. He’s just constantly putting others before himself, both in his personal life and his professional life.”
The future colleagues met after Morales matriculated at Baylor. He was a first-generation college student, and he recalls immediately feeling at home on campus. He also remembers a distinct feeling of success, like he had achieved something simply by being the first in his family to attend college. Of course, he had.
“It just felt like a college campus,” Morales says of the university. “The red bricks, the arches and the columns: everything about it felt like the kind of place you dream about when you dream of college.”
While on campus, he played a small role in helping other students’ dreams come true by stuffing letters for the admissions office. It was something of a full-circle moment for Morales, who still remembers his admission letter and the day he learned of the scholarship he received to attend Baylor.
“I didn’t expect that to happen,” he says. “But because of all of those donors, I got an opportunity. They gave me a chance to go to school and change the trajectory of my life. I knew if I ever got the opportunity to give back, I’d take it.”
After graduating, Morales took a job in the very office for which he used to stuff letters. Yet while he loved his time working in admissions, he discovered his heart belonged to the nonprofit world, and development in particular.
His fundraising work (which he calls “relationship building”) often finds Morales connecting people to the causes they cherish – or discovering new passions altogether. According to Crump, it’s a profession perfectly suited to someone as warmhearted and personable as Morales.
“Robert is very relationship-oriented,” Crump says. “He is very good at identifying resources and making connections in the community, and he has this crazy ability to remember pretty much everyone he has ever met. I don’t think it’s a superficial thing, where he’s just really good at names and faces; I think he truly cares for everyone he meets. And that’s served him well.”
Indeed, Morales has had a wildly productive professional career, during which he has led many multi-million dollar campaigns for nonprofits across Texas. In the fall of 2019, he took his talents to Corpus Christi, the same city where he earned an MBA. As a development coordinator for the Coastal Bend Food Bank, he was tasked with raising vital funds for families throughout South Texas.
Roughly six months into his tenure at the food bank, the pandemic began. The crisis meant longer hours, more distributions than ever before, and a new capital campaign with a daunting goal: $30 million.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my stars, a 30 million dollar project?!’” Morales says. “But I just said, ‘Lord, please help our food stretch far and wide. Help it stretch.’”
In the end, it stretched. Morales and his team were able to keep up with the spike in demand created by COVID-19, and as of this writing, they have accrued roughly $25 million of the $30 million they set out to raise.
When Morales talks about his work at the food bank, it is clear he has a passion for the work he does every day. It’s a passion for people as much as it is for fundraising.
“Some of the people we help have to drive twenty, thirty, forty miles to even get to a grocery store,” he says. “Hunger simply doesn’t discriminate. It affects single moms, children, and everyone else: regardless of religious or political affiliation. Food is a basic need, and no one should have to go without it.”
Which brings us back to those small moments of joy, be it a dolphin in the bay or a meal delivered to a family in need. During the two-and-a-half years since Morales started working in Corpus Christi, time and again, he has seen what he considers “small miracles.”
“It may not be as big as the Lord speaking to us; it could just be a person opening their heart to donate for the first time, or a father sharing a kind word during a drive-through distribution. There are small miracles all around us,” he says.
When asked what advice he has for current Baylor students, Morales keeps it simple: Look out for those small miracles. And he encourages all Bears to embrace the values and vision of the university.
“Baylor laid the foundation for who I am today,” he says. “It taught me that life is all about making the world a better place. It taught me that everybody has a chance to make a difference, and that’s what I’m trying to do to this day.”