Texas A&M has built a remarkable legacy.
Since its beginnings as the state’s first public institution for higher education, this legacy has been preserved and perpetuated by Aggies around the world, every day. I have spent much of my first year as president listening to the stories behind our most powerful statistics. I have heard infinite accounts of Aggie strength, integrity and intentionality—stories of collaboration, innovation and inclusion. And as I embark on my second year, I want to recognize a select few milestones from the university’s 140-year history that, to me, define and differentiate Texas A&M as a world-class institution. I invite you to join me on a journey of [re]discovery as we explore these moments of historical significance and examples of how Aggies make a difference here in Texas and around the world.
Michael K. Young
More than 150 years ago, one of our nation’s boldest and most fearless pioneers, President Abraham Lincoln, signed Justin Smith Morrill’s land-grant act into law, laying the foundation for the first public institution of higher education in Texas and what would become one of the greatest teaching and research universities in America.
Opened in 1876, Texas A&M transformed a struggling, post-Civil War Brazos County into a beacon of knowledge, discovery and innovation. In 1989, it was recognized as one of the first land-, sea- and space-grant universities in the nation and, to this day, shares that distinction with only 16 other institutions.
In many ways, going first is synonymous with fearlessness. Over the course of Texas A&M’s 140-year history, we have logged countless firsts, pioneered vast change and proven ourselves a national leader in academic and research excellence. Today, fueled by our heritage, we are defining what it means to be a 21st century land-grant university. And facilitated by our triple-designation, we are uniquely positioned to transform lives and tackle the most pressing issues of our time, charting measurable impact here in the great state of Texas, across the nation and around the globe.
A Symbol Of Strength
At a time when Texas A&M was faced with massive deficits and unsupportive legislators, one man stood up against the forces attempting to shutter our university. Edward Benjamin Cushing, Class of 1880, wrote a personal check to guarantee Texas A&M’s line of credit and led a major push to showcase all the college was doing at the time to benefit the people of Texas. Cushing’s valiant effort demonstrates the fortitude of the Aggie network – today 450,000 strong – and is an early testament to our resolve to impact change.
Texas A&M was created to transform lives. And thanks to the clear vision and steadfast commitment of E.B. Cushing, the university has been able to articulate its impact and honor its mission to this day. Year after year, we continue to protect our ability to deliver and invest in high-quality education, and in doing so, to deliver transformative intellectual experiences to a broad spectrum of our state’s young minds. And every day, through practical, purpose-driven research, Aggies uncover new ways to keep the world safer, smarter and healthier.
A reverent display of the Aggie spirit
The Texas A&M name stands alone when it comes to heroic acts on all fronts. During WWII, 20,229 Aggies served in combat and 14,123 served as commissioned officers – more than the combined total of the Naval Academy and the Military Academy, and more than three times the total of any other Senior Military College in the country.
Only months after the end of WWII, 127 Aggies proudly gathered in front of Malinta Tunnel on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines to honor their fellow Aggies who, four years earlier, had given their lives to defend the island. This memorial encapsulated one of the university’s most cherished and time-honored traditions: Muster.
Seventy years have passed since that very memorable roll call for the absent, when a small group of Aggies on an outpost during WWII captured one of our greatest traditions. And each year, Muster has grown in strength and significance. All around the world, we come together to honor fellow Aggies and mark them present in our hearts—to celebrate camaraderie and feats of courage. It is a massive, unmistakably moving display of remembrance, respect and reverence when we softly call the muster, and let each comrade answer, “Here!”—and it speaks volumes to the unyielding Aggie spirit.
A force of public good
Median barriers. Breakaway sign supports. Guardrail treatments. Railroad grade-crossing inventories. Culvert grates. Much of the infrastructure and safeguards found on today’s roadways can be traced to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). Originally established to train the next generation of transportation professionals, TTI quickly accelerated into a national leader for highway safety advancements.
One of TTI’s most notable inventions is the ET-2000, a guardrail end treatment that dramatically reduces a car’s force upon impact. In the United States alone, devices such as this are estimated to have saved more than 10,000 lives.
Aggies take an issues-driven approach to all that we do. In the 1950s, with Texas’ population growing and more vehicles on the road, the TTI was created to meet the challenges of the region’s transportation system. Now, TTI research—from vehicle-emission studies to traffic congestion and highway safety improvements—has benefited virtually every mile of roadway across the state. And on a grander scale, more than 540,000 TTI-patented highway safety devices are in use in the United States and throughout the world.
Leadership against the grain
As a U.S. Lieutenant Colonel —and later, major general—former student James Earl Rudder led the historic WWII Pointe du Hoc battle during the Invasion of Normandy. His fearlessness on the battleground was equally matched by his display of courage out of uniform. In 1959, Rudder was named president of our university and he spearheaded educational integration efforts across the South—ultimately opening Texas A&M’s doors to African Americans and formally admitting women.
During the Rudder era, participation in the Corps of Cadets became voluntary and our name was changed to Texas A&M University—the “A&M” becoming primarily a nod to the past.
In a resistant state climate, Rudder had the foresight and fearlessness to lead inclusion and integration efforts at Texas A&M, broadly signaling that our academic community benefits from differences. Today, in continued efforts to shape leaders of character and global citizens of substance, our university embraces broad perspective and diversity of thought and of background. What’s more, Aggies are driven to boldly address disparities—especially as they relate to access and affordability of a world-class education.
Leading an industry
With funds from the atomic energy commission, and fueled by our purpose-driven approach to research and discovery, Texas A&M built a cyclotron on campus. Though the “atom smasher” was accompanied by public controversy, it served as both a teaching facility and as a launch pad for the expansion of nuclear engineering education. At the same time, it signaled the start of our transformation from an agriculture school into a comprehensive research institution.
The cyclotron paved the way for Texas A&M to build the largest university-based nuclear engineering program in the United States—one that awarded the first nuclear engineering degree in the Southwest. Since then, we have expanded infrastructure with the addition of two nuclear reactors and have staked our claim as a national center for nuclear studies. Attracting field expertise and new funding streams we are able to help solve for grand challenges in space science, materials science and nuclear medicine.
A record-setting act of thanks
What began as six aggies cleaning up a local cemetery as a way to show their appreciation for the Bryan-College Station community, the Big Event has since grown to become the largest one-day, student-run service project in the nation. Every year, tens of thousands of Aggies volunteer their time, their labor and their love.
Today, the event model has been replicated by more than 100 schools across the country and around the globe—a true representation of the Aggie spirit in action.
In 2016, a record 22,500 TAMU students came together on April 2 to complete more than 2,700 community service jobs around Bryan-College Station. These collective acts of compassion are a symbol of our gratitude toward a community that has, for so long, stood by our side. This day is the catalyst for profound relationships between students and residents. Truly, the Big Event represents a student body that is united by a like-minded, like-hearted appreciation for neighbors and friends.
As a land-grant university, serving others is part of our heritage. But the defining characteristic Aggies share—the desire to leave the world better than they found it—starts even before Texas A&M. Students arrive here wanting to make a difference; once on campus, we channel that inclination into something actionable and memorable. Truly, Aggies are a community of change agents.
Making Our Voice Heard
Former student and NASA flight director Gerry Griffin, Class of 1956, introduced the Aggie War Hymn as a wake-up call for the astronauts on the International Space Station. A rousing tune that rallied the astronauts, this simple, yet impactful act served to further underscore the fact that Texas A&M’s footprint is far-reaching. As far even, as outer space.
The breadth, bonds and ambitions of the Aggie Network are unparalleled. No other university can rival our close community, coupled with our extensive reach. As demonstrated by our partnership with NASA, Aggies have always dared to go bigger and to explore farther, fueled by our triple designation as a land-, sea- and space-grant university and driven by our shared responsibility to make a world of difference.
Healthier and Safer
By design Texas A&M is an incubator of interdisciplinary programming. Our Center for Food Safety was established as a collaborative effort to expand food safety research and education, and to enhance the visibility of food safety activities. As awareness of and support for the Center grew, so too did its expertise. The university soon launched the Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center, a leading research institution in food safety and beef quality assurance, and the most comprehensive facility of its kind in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that foodborne diseases cause approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. More than half of all foodborne illnesses are attributed to improper handling of food prepared away from home. This pioneering food safety work epitomizes our focus on interdisciplinary programming and practical, purpose-driven research to develop solutions for society.
Dr. James Sacchettini has dedicated the past 20 years to running a lab centered on combatting “diseases of the poor” around the world—in essence, discovering new drugs to treat tuberculosis, life-threatening bacterial infections, and other diseases plaguing large poverty-stricken populations. His research has been published repeatedly more than 280 times in the best scientific journals in the world. Perhaps his single greatest contribution was overseeing the team responsible for synthesizing a novel drug that sensitizes drug-resistant cancer cells in standard chemotherapeutics.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives have been spared thanks to medical breakthroughs originating in the Sacchettini lab. That level of impact would not have been possible without Dr. Sacchettini’s personal vision and professional commitment. By the same token, the ability to make such a measurable difference would never have been realized without Dr. Sacchettini’s team of nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research technicians, collectively striving to take a new vaccine or therapeutic from the lab to the patient in need. Together we can solve the world’s most pressing issues and build a better tomorrow.
Resilient Through and Through
Aggies will never forget the fateful November night of the Bonfire collapse. And we will forever remember the strength and solidarity of the Aggie community in the wake of tragedy. Those brave students, faculty and staff who arrived on the scene within minutes and commenced a 24-hour rescue effort. And the 40,000 students and supporters who gathered on the planned Bonfire night to host a candlelight vigil, paying tribute to those lives lost but never forgotten.
Bonfire was a spirited tradition for 90 years, as members of the Texas A&M and Bryan-College Station communities came together around its building and burning. Even at its fall, when we lost 12 Aggies and saw 27 others injured, it still served to bring us together and solicit a tremendous display of Aggie spirit—this time in sadness, rather than celebration. Today, Bonfire—while no longer built on campus— lives on as a symbolic reminder that our greatest strengths are our compassion and support for one another and the connections we forge together.
The Ripple Starts Here
This University can claim quite a few scientific firsts. On the genetic-replication front, Texas A&M VetMed scientists were the first to successfully clone a calf from an adult steer and, later, what is believed to be the first animal specifically cloned for disease resistance. This pioneering work propagated the Missyplicity Project: a $3.7M program that would result in the cloning of more species of animals than any other university.
Since cloning the first domestic animal, Texas A&M subsequently cloned the first deer, horse, pig and cattle, squarely positioning the university as an international cloning leader. Our signature work in the reproductive sciences has helped to unlock the mysteries of the genome. We are finding answers for genetic diseases and discovering new ways to improve livestock that feeds the world. These advances in genetic modification have led to novel concepts that will impact the future of pharmaceutical delivery.
Jumping Into Action
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, our campus became a relief shelter for thousands of evacuees, and a refuge for Loyola and Tulane students whose schools were shuttered by the storms.
Following Hurricane Rita, specifically, our Large Animal Hospital was converted to a surge hospital for special-needs patients. At the same time, Aggies helped to organize and operate a companion-animal emergency shelter on campus for the more than 700 animals evacuated from the coastal regions of Texas.
The selflessness and servitude of Aggies, along with a deep sense of responsibility to be part of the solution, catapulted our community into action around the hurricanes. We offered a safe haven for those who were displaced. Cared for those who needed medical attention. And extended transformative educational experiences to our college neighbors who, like us, appreciate the unique role that universities play in transforming lives and charting impact.
Solutions for the Future
As our global population continues to grow exponentially with a projected 9 billion people by 2050, Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is spearheading interdisciplinary solutions that can feed, clothe and shelter the next generation—and generations to come. In 2012, the College embarked on a faculty-driven initiative to address our most pressing global challenges by connecting faculty research expertise and funding ambitious projects in areas that work toward this mission. The Grand Challenges effort proves our collective determination to explore uncharted areas and forge better solutions for the most fundamental societal issues.
As a triple-designee land-, sea- and space-grant university, Texas A&M is inherently issues-driven. And the global challenges Aggies are solving for—clean water, renewable energy, affordable health care, accessible education—demand a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recognizes our extraordinary potential as a world-class academic and research institution to address these complex issues, and their facilitation of this exciting initiative will have positive impact on the world.
For 140 years, we have imparted knowledge in the most intentional way—shaping global scholars and citizens of substance.
Our efforts have led to amazing discoveries and innovations that can be felt across every industry, in pockets all around the globe. And although the reason we educate the way we do remains consistent, how we do it is ever-evolving. Now more than ever before, we have the expertise, resources, and human and technological capacity to take on the world’s most pressing matters. And this university is uniquely qualified to fulfill one of the most profound missions of all: driving longstanding societal impact and transforming lives. Thank you for sharing in this journey of self-reflection and progress. ’Gig em!