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In The Footsteps of My Forefathers

Mechanical engineering Ph.D. student Austin Rogers ’19 chose Texas A&M for its strengths in industrial energy efficiency, but a recently discovered family heirloom made his decision more meaningful.

Just days before moving to College Station from Utah, I discovered a pocket watch given to my great-grandfather in a drawer of family heirlooms. The inscription on the back read, “Presented to Capt. A.R. Bourland by BTRY. F.F.A., 1932, Texas A&M.”

Intrigued, I learned that the watch was presented to my great-grandfather Albert Reese Bourland ’32 by the Battery F Field Artillery unit in the Corps of Cadets, of which he was captain his senior year. I also found a 1932 commencement booklet in which he was listed as a graduate in electrical engineering, along with several photos of him at the “A&M College of Texas.”

Growing up, I was only generally aware of my Texas heritage on my mother’s side, but I was unaware of family ties to Texas A&M. Even though I chose Texas A&M for a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering because of its strengths in industrial energy efficiency, discovering my great-grandfather’s Aggie heritage made my decision more meaningful.

First-Choice School

It is fitting that my decision to become an Aggie coincided with another life-changing experience: fatherhood. My wife Geraldine and I welcomed our son Rowan into our family last April, and despite the financial challenges of new parenthood, we decided that I would still pursue graduate education. We expected to settle at a second- or third-choice school, but to our immense gratitude and surprise, I received the William E. Dark ’54 Graduate Fellowship in mechanical engineering.

Mr. Dark’s generous funds allow me to pursue the degree of my choice at the school of my choice. Now that I know my great-grandfather and several of his siblings attended Texas A&M (his brother Lacy Bourland ’28 was the Corps commander for the 1927-28 school year), I am proud to continue my family’s Aggie legacy.

A Model of Energy Efficiency

My pride for Texas A&M extends beyond my family heritage to the classroom experience it offers. Not only am I challenged—which makes me more confident and qualified—but the collaborative atmosphere I’ve encountered in my research group and classes continues further, to my interactions with former students. Whenever I seek information from industry professionals, Aggies always respond.