Spirit is published three times per year by the Texas A&M Foundation, which manages major gifts and endowments for the benefit of academic programs, scholarships and student activities at Texas A&M University.
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Gathright was selected as first president of the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas after Jefferson Davis declined the position. Gathright’s administration faced an undefined curriculum, student housing shortages, enrollment problems and faculty squabbles. In 1973, the university created the Thomas S. Gathright Scholar Award in his honor to recognize students for outstanding scholastic achievement.
A Confederate soldier in the Civil War, James set the tone for decades to come by improving military training and redesigning the curriculum to include practical agriculture and engineering courses. Under his administration, the Ex-Cadets Association met on campus for the first time to call roll for recently deceased Aggies (now part of Muster).
In 1879, Cole was summoned by the faculty via telegram saying, “Come here immediately and come prepared to stay.” Yet he served the shortest term of any president. After returning from a trip to establish a better reputation for the college, he found that the board of directors had abolished the presidency in favor of a “chairman of the faculty” to align with the organization of other universities.
Dinwiddie was elected the first chairman of the faculty. He enhanced the reputation of the college and the Corps of Cadets within the Texas legislature and redefined Texas A&M as a technical agricultural and mechanical college. During his administration, the railroad built its first depot in College Station and began to make regular stops.
The second and last chairman of the faculty, McInnis established faculty department heads for botany, horticulture, civil engineering and veterinary medicine. He is attributed with creating the beginnings of the Aggie Code of Honor when he required 16 cadets to sign an honor pledge stating: "I pledge my sacred honor that I neither gave nor received any assistance during the examination in English Grammar on Monday last."
Bringhurst, a son-in-law to Sam Houston, served as acting president until Ross could assume his role. Bringhurst died in Corsicana, Texas, but in 2007 his descendants discovered that his remains were buried in the Bryan City Cemetery beneath an unmarked tombstone.
Ross was a former Texas Ranger, a general in the Confederate States Army and a twice-elected governor of Texas before becoming president of the college. During his administration, living conditions improved on campus and the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, the first intercollegiate football team, the Singing Cadets and The Battalion were formed. His death established the first use of the now long-standing tradition of Silver Taps.
As the college’s first engineering professor and head of mechanical engineering for 21 years, Whitlock served as acting president following the deaths of Ross and Lafayette Lumpkin Foster. He was instrumental in establishing mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and scientific agriculture as leading university programs.
An early advocate of allowing women to enroll at Texas A&M, Foster died in office (of pneumonia) and is the only president ever buried on campus, in the area between Duncan Dining Hall and Dorm 9. His grave was later relocated to the new College Station Cemetery.
Houston served as dean of faculty at The University of Texas prior to his presidency at Texas A&M. During his term, he raised the age of admission to 16 years to combat an overpopulated campus. During his tenure, Texas A&M received the largest legislative appropriation ever granted ($266,070) to fund facilities construction.
Harrington is the only president to resign after a student-led strike against the administration, which protested a shortage of student housing (more than 100 students still lived in “temporary” tents built in 1906) and primitive living conditions. Under his administration, the Yell Leader tradition was born.
Milner established a four-year course in agricultural engineering and increased university enrollment to more than 1,000 students. The earliest known Aggie Bonfire was held during his presidency.
As a faculty member before his appointment to acting president, Puryear supported athletics and introduced tennis to campus.
The first president born in Texas, Bizzell earned a degree from Baylor University. Under his tenure, nearly half of all living Aggies joined the fight in World War I, leading to the suspension of campus classes and no formal graduations for nearly three years. In 1922, the 12th Man tradition was born during a game against Centre College.
Known as “the students’ president” and fondly nicknamed “Prexy,” Walton exceeded the average seven-year tenure by serving 18 years. During his term, enrollment reached 6,000, the college hosted its first Midnight Yell (1931) and administrators awarded the first Ph.D. (1940). When student Michel T. Halbouty ’30 was short on cash, Walton found him a job to cover tuition costs. Halbouty later became one of Texas A&M’s most generous donors.
Under Bolton’s second presidential term, The A&M College System was established and The Grove was built. An open-air theater commonly used for yell practices and movie showings, The Grove was located near what is now Cain Hall. Although it was demolished in 2003, the university plans to recreate The Grove in The Gardens at Texas A&M on West Campus.
Under Gilchrist’s administration, the Texas A&M Research Foundation was established and new anti-hazing rules were implemented. The latter offended student cadets, who unsuccessfully urged for Gilchrist’s dismissal. After his term, he became the first chancellor of The Texas A&M College System.
Former student Harrington was the first to simultaneously hold the position of president and chancellor of the university in 1953. A longtime chemical engineering professor, he was nicknamed “Empty” as a play on the sound of his initials, M.T. During his presidential terms, campus construction was rampant and Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant became head football coach of the Aggies in 1954. As chancellor, Harrington lured him to the college with a $15,000 annual salary, a beautiful house in College Station, two Cadillacs and a promise to secure Bryant a couple of oil wells.
Under Morgan’s administration, the Texas A&M Development Foundation (now Texas A&M Foundation) was established to encourage capital giving to the university, Aggie Bonfire was relocated to Duncan Field, Fish Camp was initiated and cadet membership was made optional after the first two years.
During Williams’ term as acting president, the All Faiths Chapel was built. Though he was well-liked, Williams was uninterested in remaining president and recommended the position be combined with that of chancellor. Thus, M.T. Harrington was named both titles during his second term as president.
One of Texas A&M’s most influential officeholders, Rudder was a U.S. Army major general who as a lieutenant colonel commanded the historic Pointe du Hoc battle that was part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War II. Rudder changed the name of the university from The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas to Texas A&M University, made membership in the Corps of Cadets optional and opened admission to African-Americans and women, starting with the wives and daughters of university administrators. During his term, the colleges of education, liberal arts, science, geosciences and architecture were established. The E. V. Adams Band Hall was constructed and the world’s tallest bonfire was built at 107 feet and 10 inches in 1969.
During his seven-month term as acting president, Luedecke achieved a great milestone for the university when he lifted the remaining restrictions on the admission of women, making Texas A&M fully coeducational.
Williams was a former head of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Under his administration, Texas A&M was designated a sea grant college (1971), campus housing opened to women (1972), a women’s athletic program was established and women were admitted to the Corps (1974), and the Texas A&M University Press was founded (1974). When asked about the meaning of “Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!” during a 1970s legislative session, Williams responded, “It’s Chickasaw Indian for ‘Beat the Hell Outta' the University of Texas.” While Williams recuperated from two heart attacks, W. Clyde Freeman Jr. served as acting CEO of the university.
During Miller’s term, many women’s residence halls were built, including the first modular dorms, and the Sterling C. Evans Library was expanded into its six-story configuration. A third deck was also added to Kyle Field. Following his presidency, Miller worked in real estate development and was dedicated to numerous civic organizations.
During Samson’s term as acting president, the largest classroom and office structure was built—the Academic and Agency Building, which later was named for John R. Blocker. Additionally, the university added lighted 16-foot-tall “Kyle Field” lettering on the football stadium.
Despite not graduating from high school, Vandiver was an American Civil War historian who wrote, co-wrote and edited 24 books and published 100 scholarly articles and reviews. He was instrumental in advocating for a law that would create space-grant colleges in the U.S. After stepping down as president, he became founder and director of the Mosher Defense Studies Institute, a defense think tank at Texas A&M.
As dean of the College of Business, Mobley directed it “into one of the most dynamic and expanding business colleges in the U.S.” During his presidency, the Texas A&M Santa Chiara Study Center in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy, opened; Texas A&M was selected as the site for the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum; and Texas A&M launched a six-year $500 million Capturing the Spirit campaign, which raised $637 million. He later founded Mobley Group Pacific, a management consulting firm with clients in China and the Asia Pacific region.
Gage served as acting president during the university’s move from the Southwest Conference to the Big 12 and the launch of the official Texas A&M University website. After his presidency, he was the associate dean for professional programs in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, where he was a pioneer in spinal and neural surgery. He now serves as independent director of the insurance company Citizens Inc.
As president, Bowen was instrumental in achieving Texas A&M’s status as the 62nd member of the Association of American Universities and in launching Vision 2020, a strategic plan for Texas A&M to be one of the top 10 public universities in the nation by the year 2020. Bowen further led the university through the tragedy of Aggie Bonfire, which collapsed Nov. 18, 1999, killing 12 Aggies. His eight-year tenure is also marked by the building of the Student Recreation Center and the beginning of the First Yell tradition to kick off football season. He is now a distinguished visiting professor of mechanical engineering at Rice University.
Gates made significant progress toward the achievement of Vision 2020 by improving four key areas: student diversity, faculty size, academic facilities and the undergraduate and graduate education experience. He initiated the Regents’ Scholars Program and promoted 440 new faculty positions and a $300 million campus construction program, all while increasing minority enrollment. His presidency is also marked by the opening of the Texas A&M branch in Qatar and the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, during which the campus served as a relief shelter for thousands of evacuees. After his term, Gates served as U.S. Secretary of Defense until 2011, and in 2014 accepted a two-year term as national president of Boy Scouts of America.
Davis, a retired colonel with the U.S. Army Reserves, served as interim president when Robert Gates was called back to Washington, D.C. He was largely responsible for the development of Code Maroon, the university’s emergency notification system. As a student, he was commander of the Corps of Cadets and held key financial positions at the university after graduation, including chief financial officer and chief operating officer of The Texas A&M University System. For more than 20 years, he led successful capital fundraising campaigns as president of the Texas A&M Foundation. He retired from that position in early 2016, but continues to work at the Foundation as a principal gifts officer.
A Cuban native, Murano was the first woman and first Hispanic-American president. She improved the school’s academic master plan and managed the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. After Ike struck Galveston Island, she allowed Texas A&M Galveston students to attend classes at Texas A&M for the remainder of the semester. A specialist in food science and technology, she now serves as director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M.
The former vice president and CEO of Texas A&M at Galveston presided over many changes: Texas A&M’s move from the Big 12 to the SEC, the Memorial Student Center’s major renovation and enrollment reaching more than 50,000 students. A physics scholar, Loftin is also known for his active social media presence and signature bowties. After his Texas A&M presidency, he served as chancellor at the University of Missouri before transitioning to a role responsible for developing national security-related research capabilities and opportunities for the University of Missouri-Columbia and other campuses of the University of Missouri System.
Prior to his term as interim president, Hussey served as vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences. As such, he managed the design and construction of the multimillion-dollar Texas A&M AgriLife headquarters buildings on campus, more than doubled giving for scholarships and other programs within the college, and launched a project to design and build educational community gardens on campus. After 14 months, during which he began planning the launch of the university’s Lead By Example campaign, he returned to his previous position as vice chancellor and dean.
A graduate of Brigham Young University and Harvard Law School, Young spent 20 years teaching at Columbia University before serving as president of the University of Utah and the University of Washington. A scholar of Japanese law and an academic at heart, Young will lead Texas A&M through its third comprehensive fundraising campaign, Lead by Example. A little known fact: He paid his way through college by working as a ski instructor.
Since the doors of Texas A&M University opened in 1876, 35 individuals helped shape it into a world-class institution. Of the total, Texas A&M has been led by 13 Texas natives, seven Aggies and five individuals who also served the university in the position of chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. Each of these individuals possessed specific talents that contributed to Texas A&M’s evolution.
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