PASSING BACK SELFLESS SERVICE Fo r m e r s t u d e n t p a v e s t h e w a y w i t h t h e i r Ag g i e education
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS
Letter from the Dean
COLLEGE LEADERSHIP Dean
Dear friend of the college, As many of you no doubt will remember, a train rolls through what is now the heart of campus several times a day. A loud whistle announces its arrival, and I’m reminded that some things never change. Sure, the train keeps moving and campus keeps growing, but every Aggie who’s had the pleasure of being on campus has undoubtedly experienced the thrill (or if you’re needing to cross the tracks or sleep in the new hotel, perhaps inconvenience) of a train passing through Aggieland. Much like the train now rhythmically barreling down the tracks, I am simply passing through campus. My professional service to the College of Liberal Arts and to Texas A&M University will come to a close at the end of August, but my commitment to the college and university will never change. I’ll continue to support Aggies, the college, and university alongside you. As I prepare to serve the college as a donor and volunteer, I think about how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to learn from students, former students, faculty, staff, and friends of the college how best to serve outside of administrative duties. Your generosity and support are more appreciated than I can even attempt to express in this brief letter. This issue of Pillars is full of inspirational stories, examples, and traditions sure to ignite the Aggie Spirit in all of us. It includes stories about two former students whose careers led them to serve in the military. One is about a former Yell Leader now serving as an officer in the U.S. Army. The other features a retired Air Force officer-turned-winemaker. The issue also includes donor spotlights from one of my favorite Q&A series, as well as a unique opportunity to learn more about the Texas Comptroller (who also happens to be a Texas A&M political science grad). Finally, our issue closes with a look at our 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning former student’s journey through the College of Liberal Arts. That train I mentioned earlier may be too far down the line to hear, but like all of you, I know it will be back on campus soon. We’re Aggies, and gathering to support one another is simply what we do. Until we meet again, thanks and Gig ‘em.
PAMELA R. MATTHEWS ’81 Associate Dean, Faculty
VIOLET JOHNSON Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs
STEPHEN M. OBERHELMAN Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Education
MARIA C. ESCOBAR-LEMMON Associate Dean, I n f o r m a t i o n Te c h n o l o g y & F a c i l i t i e s
PAUL WELLMAN Associate Dean, Inclusive Excellence & Strategic Initiatives
LEROY G. DORSEY Assistant Dean, Finance & Administration
KRISTINE BRISCO Senior Director of Development
ANDREW MILLAR ’14 Assistant Director of Development
NIKKI SUAREZ ’14
M AGA Z I N E STA F F Manager of Strategic Communications
HEATHER RODRIGUEZ ’04 Editor
RACHEL KNIGHT ’18 Graphic Designer
ANGELYN WILEY ’17
MIA MERCER ’23 AMBER FRANCIS ’22
Pamela R. Matthews ’81 Dean email
On the Cover
Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Corp of Cadets
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2020 – 2021
T H I S
I S S U E 4 SELFLESS SERVICE: FROM YELL LEADER TO ARMY LEADER
Chris Powell ‘14 shares his experience as an Aggie and talks about how selfless service has shaped his journey to becoming a leader in the U.S. Army.
16 BOTTLING THE AGGIE SPIRIT
Former political science student and entrepreneur Duke Meadows’ love for the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M has aged like a fine wine.
20 MORE THAN WORDS
We talked to retiring Dean Pamela Matthews who shared her story, her love of words, and her plans to stay involved with the college.
22 A C OMP T ROL L E R ROO T E D IN SERVICE
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar ’93 harvests his Aggie core values to make the state of Texas a better place for all.
SERIES OF SERVICE Read a sample of our online Q&A series, which highlights some of the college’s closest donors, friends, and former students.
26 PULITZER In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, former student Caleb McDaniel ’00, ’01 (M.A.) shares Henrietta Wood's story, which sheds light on life for Black women in America in the 19th century.
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SELFLESS SERVICE FROM FROM YELL YELL LEADER LEADER TO TO ARMY ARMY LEADER LEADER
B Y MIA MERCER ’23 It’s September 14, 2013. Texas A&M University is hosting the biggest game of the year against the University of Alabama at Kyle Field. Every Aggie in the country is hoping for another win after the 2012 upset against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Chris Powell ’14 and his fellow yell leaders stand at the cusp of excitement waiting to lead the football team out of the tunnel into the south end zone. Intro music builds anticipation. Fans rise to their feet and eagerly begin singing, shouting, and waving 12th Man towels. The cannon goes off, and Powell begins running out of the darkness toward the sound of the roaring Aggie crowd. As kick-off approaches, the sound of 82,600 people following Powell’s lead and yelling, “Beat the hell out of Alabama!” is almost deafening. Powell smiles as he looks up into the bleachers and is overcome with the excitement of leading the Aggie spirit and being part of something bigger than himself. The school’s rich military history, tradition of selfless service, and support of Corps of Cadet members through scholarships inspired Powell to pursue his undergraduate degree in sociology in Aggieland. Seven years after graduating from Texas A&M, Powell continues serving others. As a captain in the U.S. Army, he’s giving back to his country and spreading the Aggie spirit across the globe.
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LIFE IN AGGIELAND Born at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., Powell grew up on the East Coast. His father’s military service kept his family on the move from base to base. As a result, Powell felt more at home in the military lifestyle than in a specific city or town. When it came time to choose a college, Powell was torn between two schools: Texas A&M and West Point. "My dad graduated from Texas A&M in ’84, so his connection to the university and the Aggie community were a big part of my decision," Powell explained. "Since I wanted to go into the military after college, I realized Texas A&M was the best choice. It allowed me to be a part of a tight-knit community and prepared me for my future military career. So in the end, I chose to be an Aggie." In addition to his enthusiasm for the military-style leadership training offered at Texas A&M, Powell was impressed with the quality of the academic education offered by the university’s College of Liberal Arts. His greatest academic interest was learning how people interact in different situations, and he found his ideal undergraduate degree program in the Department of Sociology. "What I appreciated most about the College of Liberal Arts is how you're really challenged to think outside the box," Powell said. "There's not just one way to solve a problem, and it's awesome that this college promotes free thought and different ways of looking at things."
SERVING ON CAMPUS In addition to gaining remarkable leadership skills and an excellent undergraduate education, Powell further developed his affinity for service opportunities during his time in Aggieland. Inspired by his parents' example of selfless service and sacrifice in his early childhood, Powell sought every opportunity to give back as a student. In his junior and senior years of college, Powell became part of two prestigious service groups on campus: The Ross Volunteer
Company and the Aggie Men's Club. As a Ross Volunteer, Powell was part of the honor guard for the Texas governor and participated in official drill ceremonies such as Silver Taps and Muster. As a member of the Aggie Men's Club, Powell had the opportunity to grow academically and spiritually with fellow Aggies who also enjoyed serving others. "I was able to give back to my community and Texas," Powell said. "Everything we did in these groups, we did towards the betterment of the university, whether that be through giving a 21-gun salute or taking part in mission trips and community service projects." Powell's most memorable undergraduate experience was being an Aggie yell leader his senior year. "As a yell leader, you have a platform that enables you to be a positive light to other people and the community," Powell shared. "Wherever I went and whatever I did during my time as a yell leader, I got the chance to represent this school that I love so much while making people feel valued and appreciated. Seeing the reactions and joy and happiness that we would bring to other people is something that I'll never forget."
CIVIC DUTY Powell attended college on an Army ROTC scholarship that required him to serve in the Army for four years after graduating. His military service began with a basic officer intro course in San Antonio. Next, he served in Germany for almost four years. "Professionally, my experience in the service has been a wonderful opportunity to grow as an officer," Powell said. "I was a platoon leader and a company executive officer, and I actually had the opportunity to serve and travel with a general officer as his aide-de-camp. I visited about 50 countries, going to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, which has totally changed my perspective on the world, allowing me to see so many different cultures and people while serving my country."
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A LASTING IMPRESSION
After being stationed in Germany, Powell came back to the U.S. briefly before his deployment to South Korea in 2019. This fall, Powell will be back in Texas, pursuing a dual master’s degree in business and healthcare administration at Baylor University.
Powell gives back to the community daily through his military service. He credits his experiences and education at Texas A&M with making him a better leader. He also said he is thankful for the scholarships he received during his time in Aggieland.
In his current position as a company commander, Powell is responsible for doctors, nurses, and soldiers. He utilizes what he learned in the College of Liberal Arts to be a more compassionate leader.
"My mom and dad worked multiple jobs while putting themselves through college and had to balance multiple jobs on top of their scholastic requirements. I know that without my scholarships, I could have been in a very tight financial situation," Powell said. "My scholarships were definitely a blessing. They made my college life easier. Some people aren't as fortunate, so I don't take it for granted."
"As an Army officer, I sometimes have to think outside the box and be a bit more flexible in my approach when it comes to solving problems,” Powell shared. “It's the same thing with the College of Liberal Arts, where you are encouraged to be creative with how you approach problems, since there’s rarely a straightforward process to handling every situation. Sometimes, you have to leverage your faculties to be able to get to the problem, and most importantly, take care of the soldier.”
As an Army officer, I sometimes have to think outside the box and be a bit more flexible in my approach when it comes to solving problems. It's the same thing with the College of Liberal Arts, where you are encouraged to be creative with how you approach problems, since there’s rarely a straightforward process to handling every situation. Powell only needed five years of military service to meet his Army ROTC scholarship requirements, but so far he's served in the military for more than seven years with no intention of leaving anytime soon. "I've truly enjoyed serving. It is not only fulfilling both personally and professionally, but it allows me to do right by my family, my community, and my country," Powell explained. "By seeing the effects of selfless service in my childhood and in my time at Texas A&M, I understand that what I'm doing is simply my civic duty."
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In addition to the four-year Army ROTC scholarship, Powell was awarded the Sul Ross Scholarship, which provided $2,000 a year for room and board. These scholarships helped fuel Powell's Aggie adventures and ongoing selfless service.
"My experience at Texas A&M led to me adopting and applying the Aggie core values to my own life," Powell explained. "Thanks to the university, and the College of Liberal Arts, I've become a catalyst for selfless service towards everyone I meet. I want to be able to look back one day and see that what I did was for the betterment of my family and my community."
ANSWER POWELL’S FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASSESS YOUR OWN SELFLESS SERVICE We can all learn from Powell’s example by applying the value of selfless service to our own efforts. Supporting the College of Liberal Arts is a good place to start serving our fellow Aggies, because the college offers more undergraduate core curriculum hours than any other college. A gift to the College of Liberal Arts is really a gift to every undergraduate who takes a required English, history, communication, ethics, economics, psychology, philosophy, sociology, or other liberal arts course. Powell’s story is an inspiration, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a little help from others. As a result, Powell challenges others to follow in his service-oriented footsteps. Answer Powell’s five questions about selfless service below to assess your own dedication to this Aggie core value.
ONE Who are you serving and where are you serving them, whether it’s in your city, community, or nation? Throughout his life, Powell searched for opportunities to serve, both on campus and in the military. Now, thousands of miles away from Aggieland, Powell continues to give back to his community through his work in the Army. His example proves that you don’t have to be right next to someone to make a difference in their life.
TWO What are you doing to make the world a better place? As a yell leader, Powell worked constantly to make every Aggie feel connected to something bigger than themselves. Now, as a company commander, Powell works to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone he works with, which empowers them to excel in their own selfless service. By serving the College of Liberal Arts, you enable more Aggies to selflessly serve, too!
THREE What do you want to leave as a legacy? Powell’s work on campus in his college career helped to preserve and uphold the traditions Texas A&M holds dear. Now, he works to keep our country safe for future generations as he serves others in the U.S. military. Like Powell, you can leave a legacy through an endowment level donation.
FOUR Who are your service role models? Are you following their example? Powell has been blessed with role models of selfless service and giving. He simply looks to his family and other Aggies for service inspiration. Follow Powell’s example, and be a positive change in another Aggie’s life.
FIVE What are you waiting for? Powell uses his leadership abilities to create a better world for everyone. Contact Andrew Millar, senior director of development for the College of Liberal Arts, at email@example.com to discuss opportunities to help shape and mold more selfless Aggie leaders like Powell.
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2020 – 2021
Selfless service is more than a phrase in Aggieland; it’s a way of life. From the time each Aggie first sets foot on campus, they are indoctrinated into the Aggie core values belief system, which consists of six ideals: respect, excellence, loyalty, leadership, integrity, and selfless service. Though a desire to selflessly serve bonds the Aggie family together, some go above and beyond by giving back to their alma mater after finding success in their careers. These Aggies pay it forward by funding student scholarships. They embolden life changing research. They set an example for generations of Aggies yet to come and provide hope for a better tomorrow. The College of Liberal Arts pays tribute to such dedicated Aggies in an online series of Q&As conducted with donors, Liberal Arts Development Council members, and Liberal Arts Advisory Council members. While the interviews are shortened and condensed for clarity, the influence these Aggies have on students, the College of Liberal Arts, and Texas A&M University itself reaches beyond state borders and will continue in perpetuity so long as Aggieland continues to produce outstanding leaders, thinkers, and innovators.
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2020 – 2021
CARRYING ON THE FAMILY LEGACY
KAMILAH JONES ’99 "MY HOPE IS THAT BY LENDING MY LEADERSHIP AND TALENTS TO THE COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS THAT STUDENTS WILL THRIVE AND LIVE INTO THEIR CALLING. TEXAS A&M SHOULD ALWAYS BE A PLACE WHERE ALL ARE WELCOME, ALL ARE SEEN AND VALUED, AND EVERY STUDENT IN THE COLLEGE IS EMPOWERED TO BE THE BEST VERSION OF THEMSELVES." 10
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2020 – 2021
The late Woodrow “Woody” Jones, Jr. was the first Black dean in the history of Texas A&M University. Today his daughter, Kamilah Jones ’99, carries on the legacy he helped build in both the Jones and Aggie families. Like her father, Kamilah is a dynamic leader. She uses what she learned from her family, cultural experiences, and the College of Liberal Arts to mobilize consumers and communities toward social impact by delivering award-winning brand experiences. She’s developed marketing communications programming for major brands like Verizon, Lexus, McDonald’s, Teach for America, PepsiCo, Obama for America, and Sun Chemical, to name a few. In this interview with Kamilah, we learned what she’s up to now and how she’s carrying forward her family’s legacy. Tell me a little about your childhood. The foundation of my childhood was faith, learning, and culture. I grew up in San Diego, California, where my dad was a political science professor at San Diego State University. I spent a large part of my childhood traveling around the world and spending time on university campuses. My parents were committed to building and empowering communities, so I spent a good portion of my upbringing giving back — whether that was volunteering at homeless shelters, teaching systemically underserved students, or serving HIV-positive children in Kenya. By focusing on meeting their needs and taking the time to understand their experience, I became committed to continuing the work as an adult and developed more compassion for our collective humanity. Your dad was a pillar in the College of Liberal Arts and a champion of diversity at the university. How has your relationship with him influenced your opinion of both the college and the university itself? If you are a daughter of Dr. Jones’, you are raised to be a leader. When I arrived at Texas A&M, yes, I was Woody’s daughter, but I also was independent and led within my cohort. I got involved right away in different campus organizations, and I started mentoring incoming students from diverse backgrounds to ensure they had an inclusive experience. Early on in my college journey, my father introduced the multiculturalism requirement for general education courses. There was immediate pushback on campus, even within the student body. There was deep resistance to having to learn about the fullness of our diverse human experience. Yet, while there was resistance, many students were incredibly excited and engaged by the updated requirement. We felt that it was beneficial for all students to learn more about cultures outside of their own to create stronger leaders who could further impact our global society. We organized a march in support of the requirement and also had several meetings with university leadership. Ultimately, the requirement moved forward and is a lasting part of my father’s legacy. The university created space for that necessary, healthy dialogue to get to a place of shared understanding and collective leadership to move forward. That experience is why I intentionally make space on teams I lead to have courageous conversations, especially on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s crucial to facilitate shared understanding and collective impact.
degree programs, he was an innovator and had a clear vision for liberal arts being the university’s heart and soul. Every time I run into former students or staff, the first thing they do is talk about my father. He was an advocate for people. He deeply respected the work of faculty and believed in strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion. He would fight for students, talk with parents, and give second chances when hope seemed lost. First-hand, he knew that a college degree could provide generational impact and spent his personal time mentoring students. Any given Sunday, there would be students at our house for dinner because he took that time to ensure both undergraduate and graduate students were thriving. When you’re the first at anything, especially the first Black American to make that accomplishment, you’re the one that carries the legacy of your community with you. The truth is my dad faced deep-rooted adversity when he took on the role because of his race, and yet he also had strong allies who rallied around him so that he could bring his vision forward. He had an incredible development council with Eddie Burge, G. Philip Huey, and others who stood by him as both thought partners and friends. How have you used your liberal arts education so far in your life and career? My liberal arts education is the foundation for the work that I do. I believe a liberal arts education provides a depth of understanding across multiple cultures and disciplines that allow you to see a more holistic picture of what is happening and why it’s happening. When I approach problems or challenges in the workspace, I am the person who will ask you to step back, look at the whole picture, and ask why. I’ll ask who’s being affected (not just the immediate person, but broadly), how can we process and think about this differently, and what are the ways to change or evolve our thinking. Having a liberal arts education makes you more open and adept at navigating change and evolving for the better. Should other people join the council as well? Absolutely! One of the things I learned from my father as a child was that if you want to continue to see things grow and become the best version of what they can be (including yourself), you have to make the investment. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines, but the best work comes from getting involved. That’s true about the student population of Texas A&M; we are not sit-on-the-sidelines people. We get in there, pull up our sleeves, and get to work. I would encourage any alumni from the College of Liberal Arts who want to get more involved in creating and shaping the college and the university’s future to get involved in the Liberal Arts Advisory Council or the Liberal Arts Development Council. What do you want your legacy to be at Texas A&M University? My hope is that by lending my leadership and talents to the College of Liberal Arts that students will thrive and live into their calling. Texas A&M should always be a place where all are welcome, all are seen and valued, and every student in the college is empowered to be the best version of themselves.
What do you consider your dad’s legacy at Texas A&M? My dad’s legacy is alive within the College of Liberal Arts and across the university today. From curriculum to faculty to expanded
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2020 – 2021
SELFLESS GRAD & C.E.O.
BRIAN SMITH ’92 "MORE STUDENTS AT TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY PARTICIPATE IN THE [COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS] CURRICULUM THAN THE CURRICULUM OF ANY OTHER COLLEGE. WHAT BETTER WAY TO MAKE SURE YOU'RE TOUCHING AS MANY LIVES AS YOU CAN THAN BY SUPPORTING THE LIBERAL ARTS?"
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2020 – 2021
Brian Smith ‘92 is no stranger to hard work. He held his first job at his parents’ restaurant in the second grade, ran a lawn service business while also working various jobs to pay for college, worked his way up through the investment business shortly after graduating, started a wealth management company with three other young go-getters, and successfully grew and ran that wealth management company until 2013 when they sold it. Smith still works hard today as C.E.O. and managing member at Smith Texas Enterprise Ventures LLC. Though this role keeps him busy, he still makes time to serve Texas A&M University and the College of Liberal Arts. In fact, the following interview, was conducted over the phone as Smith worked from a $10 million commercial development project jobsite. Tell me a little about your childhood. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. My dad’s degree was in chemical engineering, and he was a supervisory engineer for Procter and Gamble when I was born. We moved from Cincinnati to Elkhart, Indiana, and lived there a few years when I was a young kid while Dad worked as a manufacturer and supervisor for White Hall Laboratories, the company that made Advil. When I was 7 we moved to Fort Worth, so I consider Fort Worth the place I grew up. My parents bought a restaurant in Fort Worth from some friends, and that’s what brought us to Texas. That was an unsuccessful venture. They had the restaurant for about five years. My dad and mom both worked full time plus they ran the restaurant. They wound up having to close the restaurant, and that was pretty hard financially on us. I worked in second grade at my parents’ restaurant. Then when I was fourteen, I started working at a barbecue restaurant as a dishwasher. I worked at a Chick-fil-a all through high school just to pay my expenses. I bought my car, had to pay for gas, and paid for college. How did you decide to attend Texas A&M? After I graduated from Southwest High School in 1988, I spent my first semester in college at Texas Christian University on a partial scholarship. TCU felt too small though, and even on a half scholarship, I had to work four days a week to cover my half of expenses. Within a few weeks I felt like I’d made a mistake. I had some friends who went to Texas A&M, and I’d gone down to visit them. I realized while visiting my friends who were at Texas A&M that I really loved it. I loved that it was big, and for me that was something totally different. So, I applied to transfer to Texas A&M. I started my second semester in the spring of 1989 at Texas A&M, and loved it! How have you used your liberal arts degree in your career and life so far? I would sum that up in one word — communication. I started, ran, and sold a wealth management firm in Austin over a period of about 25 years. As the C.E.O. of that company, I had to do a lot of verbal and written communication. I had to deal with a lot of legal documents, reading, editing, and writing. My liberal arts degree prepared me really well for that. The liberal arts showed me how to take complex ideas, emphasize them, and turn them into a relevant argument that could be communicated easily and interpreted relatively quickly.
Club numerous times over the years. We awarded 10 scholarships each year. One year, a particular applicant caught my eye who I felt strongly deserved a scholarship. I found myself in the committee meeting advocating for this applicant. When we finalized our 10 recipients, committee members had the opportunity to volunteer to reach out to recipients and notify them that they’d been chosen. That year, I volunteered when the candidate I advocated for was chosen. When I called him, I shared the news, and he was very excited and very happy. I also offered to provide transportation to our Muster ceremony at the state capital, which is when we awarded the scholarships. As I drove him and his family around that day, I really got to know them. That particular scholarship recipient is not only a first-generation college student; he’s a first-generation American. He came here in the eighth grade and didn’t know English. He is a remarkable person. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Texas A&M at the top of his class. He has gone on to receive his masters from Harvard and is currently in the Ph.D. program there. He’s worked hard. He’s busted his butt. He’s overcome so many obstacles to achieve great success. He’s a phenomenal young man and leader, and I know he’s going to go on and accomplish even more great things. One of the things I said to him early on was, “You are getting an opportunity to get some doors opened for you and to have some help up. When you’re older and established, the obligation is you have to go back and serve and help others.” He’s done that and he continues to do that. Why did you decide to further your service to fellow Aggies by taking on a leadership role in the LADC? One of the things Texas A&M teaches us is the importance of selfless service, leadership, and loyalty. For me it’s a natural manifestation of those core values. Just like I said to my friend, there’s a certain level of obligation of responsibility that comes with receiving from others. I learned a lot at Texas A&M from the people who had come before me. Why is it important for people to support the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University specifically? One of the most obvious reasons is that we as a college touch more Texas Aggies than any other college. More students at Texas A&M University participate in our curriculum than the curriculum of any other college. What better way to make sure you’re touching as many lives as you can than by supporting the liberal arts? The College of Liberal Arts doesn’t teach people what to think. It teaches people how to think. I don’t mean to diminish the value of teaching people how to be an engineer or how to function in business. Those are obviously important and very valuable as well, but liberal arts is the college that has the broadest impact. As such, it’s worthy of our support — both our treasure and our time and talents. What do you want your legacy to be at Texas A&M University? I’ll leave legacies up to other people. I don’t want to have input on what my legacy is. I want to just be quiet, keep my head down, do what needs to be done. I’ll let other people be the judge of what a legacy of mine should be in the end.
I understand that the Stacy A. ‘94 and Brian E. Smith ‘92 Endowed Scholarship in Liberal Arts was actually inspired by your relationship with a first-generation student. Tell me a little about that. I served on the scholarship committee of the Capital City A&M
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SUCCESSFUL AGGIE BUSINESSWOMAN
SARAH HLAVINKA ’86 "IN MY OPINION, THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT A LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION IS THAT IT OPENS THE MIND TO ALWAYS APPRECIATING THE VARIOUS SHADES OF ANY SITUATION. IT MAKES ONE APPRECIATIVE OF DIVERSITY AND THE GREAT THINGS THAT DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES CAN BRING."
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2020 – 2021
Sarah Hlavinka ‘86 might be the Aggiest Aggie you’ll ever meet — just ask her friends from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law where she was in fact voted the Aggiest Aggie. After graduating from Texas A&M University as a history major and Spanish minor, Hlavinka headed to Austin to study law. She made it clear that while she was studying at the University of Texas, she was an Aggie through and through. She took old and new friends to Texas A&M football games, and made sure they all had a good time — even the t-sips. After graduating from law school, Hlavinka started her career working for a private firm in Houston. When she thought she had enough experience to market herself as an experienced employee to companies and their in-house legal departments, she started looking for a new opportunity. Her job search initially led her to Cooper Industries, and she’s held a series of in-house positions since then. In 2007, a job with ABM Industries, a facility services company, took Hlavinka to New York City for a decade. While in New York, she became a member of the 2017 Class of the David Rockefeller Fellows Program and of the Women’s Forum of New York. She was then general counsel for Xerox in Connecticut for an exciting bit, before deciding to return home to Texas. Today she is a senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for a company called Itron in Austin. Throughout her career, Hlavinka has made time to tap into her Aggie roots every chance she gets and support the College of Liberal Arts. We chatted on the phone with Hlavinka to learn more about her story, her time at Texas A&M, and the legacy she plans to leave. Tell me a little about your childhood. I was born and raised in a very small town called East Bernard, Texas, which is about 50 miles south of Houston. I was one of six children born in seven years, none of whom are twins, so there was a lot of activity in the house. Some of my very first memories are in the car going to see Aggie football games. My father is class of ‘56, so we grew up being involved at Texas A&M to the extent that we could with so many children. Sometimes it was hard to get us all into the car to go to ball games, but we did it. It was a great way to grow up. What was your first job? My first job was actually working as a janitor in my father’s business. My family started a tractor dealership business more than 75 years ago, which we still run today. My father is trying to retire at the age of 85! My brothers are actively involved and have grown it with the help of wonderful employees. We have multiple locations in the Gulf Coast region. My family has an incredibly strong work ethic and this was instilled in all of the children. I was probably 11 or 12 when I started working at the shop. I would clean the bathrooms, stock the shelves, mop the floors, things like that. I translated that work ethic into babysitting at some point, and then worked at a grain dryer when I was in high school. How do you think your first jobs influenced your life and career? I certainly think that having a sense that I needed to work and that work was very important had a great impact on me. Particularly, my parents instilled in me and my sister that we needed to be able to support ourselves, because one never knows what life will bring. (My sister has a Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M.)
unusual for fathers in the late 60s and early 70s to tell their daughters they could be anything they wanted to be. But my father did and I am forever grateful. In fact, he will probably be a little disappointed when Joe Biden doesn’t select me for his VP running mate (even though it’s not the party Daddy aligns with)! How did you decide to study at Texas A&M University? My family has two topics of conversation: Texas A&M and agriculture. Still, we could have studied anywhere we wanted. My family values education of all kinds. Texas A&M was just the natural fit. When I went to college in 1982, my oldest brother was there as a senior, my sister as a junior, my next oldest brother as a sophomore, and then I was there as a freshman. It was very special to have all four of us there together at the same time. And then my brother was a yell leader and my parents were Parents of the Year in 1986 (how could they not be?). How fun is that! How did you choose your major? I took general studies as long as I could while deciding which direction to head. Then I took a World War I class from Dr. Betty Unterberger, who was a world-renowned history professor. One class with her and I was hooked. I then concentrated on World War II and the Vietnam War. Tell me a little about Itron and what you do as a senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary there? Itron is a $2.5 billion publicly traded company with 8,000 employees worldwide, which enables utilities and cities to deliver critical infrastructure services such as gas, electricity, and water. I do something different everyday as general counsel. I might be working on intellectual property issues or working with the board of directors or answering questions for the C.E.O. I have a wonderful team who supports me and helps me think those things through. Why is it important for successful people like you to recognize the value of a liberal arts education? Graduates with a liberal arts education are trained to think about things from so many angles. It’s not math. It’s not a science. It’s an art! And I think the world needs a lot of that right now. You also have a degree from the University of Texas, so what makes Texas A&M stand out as a place you want to support? It is the most special place to study in the world and is transforming into a true world-class university. I want to contribute to that transformation, where we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any institution in the world. What do you want your legacy to be at Texas A&M University? I don’t think about it in that way so much. I don’t have children, so I think about having an influence on future generations and how I might do that without children. I want to contribute resources to enable students to attend Texas A&M and maximize their potential. Maybe one of those students will change the world by curing cancer. Or maybe one of those students will go on to be an incredible teacher in rural Texas who then influences a young child in his or her classroom to grow up and be that person who cures cancer.
My parents were both incredibly supportive, but it was a bit
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B Y AMBER FRANCIS ’2 2 | ART B Y ANGEL Y N WILEY ’17
AGGIE SPIRIT Aggies often talk about the “Spirit can ne’er be told, the spirit of Aggieland.” While many of us struggle to explain it to friends outside the Aggie family, three alumni are attempting to bottle and share it with the world. Duke Meadows ‘96, Mike Nance ‘96, and Zachary Huyge ‘97 are giving Aggies and non-Aggies alike the chance to uncork the spirit of Aggieland one bottle of Texas wine at a time. We spoke to one of the entrepreneurs, political science grad Meadows, to learn more about their foray into the winemaking industry.
DISCOVERING THE SOMMELIER WITHIN
Meadows was afforded the chance to join the Aggie family by his father, an Aggie eager for his son to discover the joys of student life at Texas A&M University uninhibited by the worries and stress of juggling a part-time job. His father’s generosity empowered Meadows to fully indulge in the Aggie experience he and his friends are now sharing with the world.
After graduation, the group of men went their separate ways. Meadows followed in his father’s footsteps and took up commission as an officer in the Air Force. He began his military career stateside and was stationed in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11.
For many, the years we spend attending college are just that: time spent working towards a diploma. To Meadows and his partners at 12 Fires Winery, Texas A&M University isn’t simply a place where they pursued a higher education; it’s the place that forged their Aggie brotherhood. As a political science major and cadet in the Corps, Meadows met his lifelong friends and future business partners (as well as his best friend and college roommate Chris Breen ’96). The four became heavily involved with the annual Aggie Bonfire. The tradition quickly became more than a pile of burning logs to this set of friends; it forged a bond between them and ignited the Aggie spirit within them that still blazes brightly today. “It has an impact on you; it influences you," Meadows remarked. "At Texas A&M you can create something bigger than just yourself. Those core bonding moments, whether found through the Corps, Aggie Bonfire, or university football games, form friendships for life. It's years of your life that can never be duplicated.”
Meadows moved from base to base for a time after serving in the Middle East. He even lived in Las Vegas and took on the role of Texas A&M Club President for a couple of years. After seven years of military service, Meadows made the tough decision to retire from the Air Force, leaving the military behind and returning to Texas to join corporate America. “I still remember the day I came home and took off my uniform for the last time,” Meadows remarked. “There’s always a handful of significant memories in one’s life, and that was mine: taking off that uniform for the last time.” Service men and women often expect the adjustment to civilian life to be rough, because there’s a lack of belonging to a group that serves a greater purpose. Thankfully, the bond between Aggies and our shared core values helped make this adjustment easier for Meadows. In Houston, where he landed after leaving the Air Force, one is all but bound to reconnect with Aggies. Meadows credits his Aggie ring and the alumni network with creating many opportunities for him within the corporate world.
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His Aggie connections even played a role in landing his current job as a capital project sourcing director in industrial gas. In the thrall of corporate America and eager to own his own business, Meadows excitedly began researching business opportunities. Sipping countless glasses of wine, he pondered over everything from fitness to food, but nothing felt quite right. One fateful evening, on the drive home to Houston from a Texas A&M football game in College Station, Meadows dropped by Bernhardt Winery to see his buddy Nance. Nance was volunteering and learning to make wine there. Meadows had always been passionate about wine from a consumer perspective, and something clicked that night. Meadows returned to Bernhardt to volunteer alongside Nance during harvest. Together, they slowly learned more about the art of winemaking. Eventually they brought in Huyge, and started exchanging spreadsheets, powerpoints, and ideas centered around founding a winery. Starting a business together felt as natural as breathing. “We Aggies have a brotherhood and sisterhood that’s hard to find,” Meadows said fondly. “It only makes sense that I’m going to build a winery with my Aggie buddies.” The group of friends spent a while looking for suitable land to build their winery on, and though it took some time, Meadows eventually found and purchased a plot in Johnson City during 2017. This purchase strengthened their resolve and determination to fully realize their business idea. Their first two years of owning the land were spent clearing it and planting the vineyard. Finally, in 2019, they began selling their first wines out of a cooler.
IGNITING THE AGGIE SPIRIT THROUGH WINE Each Aggie uses his talents and expertise in their role at 12 Fires. Huyge oversees the company website as well as the social media accounts, marketing, and IT for the company as 12 Fires’ resident technology-savvy salesman. Nance serves as winemaker, traveling year-round to vineyards across the state to find Aggie grapes to make their Aggie wine. Meadows, a man with a keen sense for numbers, works primarily behind the scenes of the operation, handling the bulk of the administrative work including spreadsheets, accounting, and contract negotiations. As a political science major-turned businessman, Meadows accredits his degree with teaching him the importance of keeping a close watch on presidential administrations and their economic policy. Those policies can have massive repercussions for business owners, who he champions as the backbone of America. He also asserts that his political science background encouraged him to be more cognizant of how government decision-making impacts businesses.
I T HA S A N I M PAC T ON YOU ; I T I N F LU E N C E S YO U. AT T E X A S A & M YO U C A N C R E AT E S OM E T H I N G B IG G E R T HA N J U ST YO U R SE L F. Political scientists often look back at historical decisions, tactics, and practices to make sense of the current political climate. Looking back to the early days of the winery, Meadows reminisced on what he stressed to be the most difficult task of all: finding a name. “It's one of the hardest things to do, believe it or not. Everything else is color-by-numbers; you buy the land, clear the land, plant the vineyard, get with architects to design the buildings. The name is different,” Meadows explained. “It dictates what your brand is going to be, what your marketing will be like; it's everything.” Despite the initial difficulty, as time went on the direction that the company was taking became more and more clear. “The number 12 kept coming up. We bought 12 acres of land for the winery. With Texas A&M there’s the 12th Man, and I was in Squadron 12,” Meadows goes quiet for a moment. “And when the bonfire fell in 1999, that's how many souls passed away. One of them was my best friend and roommate in Squadron 12, Chris Breen.” Naming their winery 12 Fires was a way to make Breen part of the process of
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bottling the Aggie spirit. It gives the Aggie business partners at 12 Fires a chance to share the story and legacy of the 12 students who passed anytime someone asks about the company’s name. Symbolism is important to the alumni at 12 Fires, which is why their logo resembles the Bonfire Memorial on campus. The ring of fire around the number 12 represents the Aggie family rising like a phoenix after the tragic collapse of the 1999 Aggie Bonfire. It depicts the 12 portals at the memorial, one for each Aggie’s life claimed by the collapse. Each portal is alight with the Aggie spirit, symbolizing that the Aggie spirit connects us to the Aggie family even after we are departed. “Yes we’re trying to sell good wine, but we also want to have a good story, a respectful story. It's a fine line of naming something after a tragedy. You never want to come across as capitalizing off of people’s deaths,” Meadows assert. “But it's a legacy, and you want their memory to live on. In it’s own odd way, 12 Fires is a tribute to those twelve souls who passed that evening.” The Aggie Spirit at 12 Fires doesn’t stop at names and branding; it’s an ideal embedded within the very fibers of the business itself. Texas A&M alumni are involved in nearly every step of the process. As a relatively fresh startup, the business operates in phases. The Aggie sommeliers are currently in talks with investors to expand their facilities and construction projects. They hope to have a formal tasting room completed in 2021. Thanks again to the Aggie network, 12 Fires wines are available for purchase in Bryan-College Station at Aggieland Outfitters, The Republic Steakhouse, and Gate 12. On the weekends, 12 Fires holds its wine tasting nights, with all three owners traveling to Johnson City and conversing with guests one-on-one in a makeshift tasting room. What 12 Fires Winery currently lacks in multimillion-dollar buildings, it makes up for with great wine, an overwhelming sense of sincerity, and a great story, often gaining them customers for life. On their tasting nights, the three men make sure to greet every guest personally before pouring them a glass of their bestseller, a Texas-grown tempranillo, and sitting down with them to talk. Meadows remarked that he and his business partners relish the opportunity to meet people and ignite their Aggie spirit with 12 Fires wine. “We embrace them, get to know them and tell them our story.” Just as Meadows’ father uncorked the Aggie spirit for his son, the spirit of Aggieland for other Aggies can be uncorked by funding scholarships. Learn how to fund a scholarship in the College of Liberal Arts by contacting Andrew Millar at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (979) 845-5192.
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MORE MORE THAN THAN WORDS WORDS
It all began with words. “When I was in the first grade, my teacher asked me to spell ‘antidisestablishmentarianism,’ and I did,” Pamela R. Matthews, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said. “And I remember thinking, ‘I will never again be this happy in life. This is amazing.’ So it started with a total fascination with words.” This fascination with words took Matthews on an academic journey through Texas A&M University and the College of Liberal Arts, from a student and staff member, to faculty member, to dean and donor of the college. And the journey began in Texas A&M’s backyard. “Some of my earliest and strongest memories are attached to College Station,” Matthews said. “My grandparents took care of me while my parents worked and they were right across from the band’s practice field and I would hear the band play every day. It’s still pretty incredible to me how concrete the memories are.” Matthews’ history with the university runs deep. Her father attended Texas A&M as a student, and her mother worked on campus, as did her grandfather. When she was young, she lived with her parents in married student housing until her father graduated. “My family’s history with the university has shaped my own history with the university,” she said. “I think of Texas A&M as a family member.” Matthews received her undergraduate degree from the University of Houston, and initially came back to Texas A&M to work on campus. As a staff member, she decided to pursue her Master’s degree, which she did from the Department of English. It was during this time that she met her husband, Dennis Berthold, who also worked for the university. And while she left to pursue her Ph.D. from Duke University in North Carolina,
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something pulled her back.
of the world.’ It changed me to teach them.”
“This just feels like home. This is clearly where I’m supposed to be,” she said. “I think I’m done going away now.”
The experience motivated Matthews to become involved in yet another way: as dean, she created the Pamela R. Matthews First in Family Scholarship, which benefits first-generation college students. She hopes her scholarship will go a long way in creating new, empathetic, and innovative leaders — particularly at a time of disconnect in our country.
Once she returned from North Carolina, she started working at Texas A&M again, but this time she was a lecturer with the Department of English. She became a tenure-track assistant professor the following year, and later was promoted to full professor. “I loved teaching right from the start,” Matthews said. “I miss teaching sometimes because I love the students...I was always happiest in the classroom.” She ultimately served in many positions: associate head of the Department of English, director of women’s and gender studies, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Liberal Arts, associate provost for undergraduate studies, and vice provost for academic affairs. In 2014, Matthews was appointed interim dean of liberal arts and, following a national search, was named dean by the Board of Regents in 2015. “Along the way, someone probably figured out that I say ‘yes’ too often for committees, and began to choose me for leadership roles,” Matthews joked. “But I do like to get involved, and I believe if you want to see change, you need to be part of that change. You have to be willing to do your part.” Matthews said she believes the spirit of making positive changes lives in the faculty, staff, and students in the College of Liberal Arts. “Our faculty are used to thinking through things and looking at them from every angle and considering all the possibilities, and that’s just kind of who we are,” she said. “There’s also something about liberal arts students...they tend to care about other people. It’s all about the people and that’s what we’re all about as a college.” While Matthews said all of her students resonated with her, she’s particularly fond of her memories with first-generation college students. As associate dean, she taught students in the Regents’ Scholars Program, a university-wide initiative designed to assist first-in-family college students in achieving their educational goals through needs-based scholarships and dedicated skills-building classes. She said the four years she spent with them made an impact. “I watched students go from a little intimidated by this very large place to becoming new leaders on campus, and it was just incredible,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Here’s the future of the rest
“I think the College of Liberal Arts is so important in bringing people back together. It’s important to remember that the country has been divided before, but I do think that no one is listening to each other,” Matthews said. “You have to have people willing to speak each other's language, and understand each other’s view of the world. You have to be able to think critically, and that’s what we teach.” In addition to enriching the university and the college, Matthews also helped Bryan-College Station in 2005 by co-founding Brazos Valley Reads — an initiative in the Department of English that brings internationally-recognized authors to B-CS for public readings and interactions with the community. It’s designed to give everyone a shared reading experience and the opportunity to come together and discuss relevant issues. It’s also her way of giving what she loves to the town she calls “home.” “I think that reading literature helps you become other people. It can help you understand what it’s like to be someone else,” she said. “That’s partly why reading is the thing I love to do most in the world.” While she is retiring in August 2021, she still plans to stay involved and active in the college’s Liberal Arts Development Council, a philanthropic organization that builds relationships and fosters impactful gifts to benefit the college’s faculty and students. “I hope that my legacy is an appreciation of human accomplishment, that we all remember that it is the basis for everything,” Matthews said. “As a donor, I just want to see the college thrive. I’m excited to see the new ideas.” It also ends with words. Before she leaves, Matthews offers this advice to all Aggies: “Remember the core values, and don’t just recite them; act on them,” she said. “They’re not just words. They’re supposed to help us understand how we behave, how we treat people. It’s one of the best things about us. And we should really think about that.”
u j t y m p n i v mm e f mh WORD SEARCH!
Find some of Dean Matthews' favorite words listed in the puzzle. The words can go in any direction and share letters as they cross over each other.
o b s t r e p e r o u s q q f l v g y d n l u b z r p l l o q h d g n u v l i p g f u u b a u b l z r d r i l z c u i b
z u s b x i t n c f t p n t u
k z c y m o n f d u l i s p u
f u o x u u t p a l wu h n e
b v x v b s s t a y j b o f g
m s u o i r e p m i z e p u k
F LU C T UAT E
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A COMPTROLLER ROOTED IN SERVICE
BY RACHEL KNIGHT ’18
In March 2021, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar ’93 for a virtual interview. We quickly realized he taps into his Aggie roots to make Texas a better place for all.
In 2019, Texas overtook Brazil as the ninth-largest economy in the world. As Texas Comptroller, the states’ chief financial officer — tax collector, chief accountant, chief revenue estimator, and chief treasurer — Glenn Hegar ‘93 played a key role in this success... though you’d be hard-pressed to hear him say so. Hegar is a humble Aggie who grew up in a rice-farming family in Hockley, Texas. His experiences working in the family’s farming operation from the time he was 6 years old established his strong work ethic. Paired with his degree from the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University, the values Hegar learned as a young boy and continued developing in Aggieland set him up for a successful career in public service. When Hegar left for college, like most Aggies, he found a second home and family in Bryan-College Station. The land-grant university’s agricultural roots and core values matched his own. He enjoyed partaking in the rich traditions that make up the “spirit can ne’er be told,” and he still can’t stand the color orange. “Attending Texas A&M was a pretty clear choice for me,” Hegar said. “I honestly never really considered going anywhere else. The university’s core values, rich history, and dedication to its traditions make it unlike any other university in the world. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to be a part of a university-wide culture that promotes making a positive impact on public policy and humanity.” One of Hegar’s most influential college experiences was afforded to him by the Rudder Normandy Scholarship Program. The program was designed to have students live and study abroad in France after learning about both World Wars. Hegar said the experience was truly transformational. It gave him a desire to travel that he’d not experienced before, but more importantly, it showed him the depth of the United States’ role in the world economy and global policies. “We really are interconnected more than we often realize,” Hegar shared. “The COVID pandemic is a great example. Our COVID vaccine rollout is a much more successful rollout today than it was just 60 days ago. Though we are more successful now in Texas and in the United States, other places like the U.K. and Brazil are having more difficulty in their vaccination efforts. Overall, vaccination efforts won’t truly be successful until the world is successful, because we are so intertwined economically, politically, and even socially.” Hegar refers to his liberal arts classes as “building blocks driven by reading and writing.” As a dual history and political science major, he developed a talent for making decisions informed by
the past. He continues to use this skill in his role as comptroller today. He reads and digests information from parallel situations in the past to solve current issues in a way that builds a better future for all. Though the state comptroller does not make policies, he has the power to influence policymakers by presenting his findings to his colleagues in Austin. This is where his English minor comes into play. “I can make a bigger difference in bettering the state as the comptroller than I could in my 12 years serving in the state legislature,” Hegar explained. “No matter what the policymakers ultimately choose to do, I know the research behind the decisions they make is solid, because my team and I work together to find relevant examples from the past to help inform policies that shape the future. Then we take it a step further by making sure our findings are easy to read and understand, because I’ve been on the receiving end of comptroller reports as well and I know the importance of making sure findings are well written, transparent, and clear. So really I use my dual major in history and political science as well as my minor in English everyday.” After graduating from Texas A&M, Hegar worked in London for an American attorney. For the first time in his life, he was unable
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to travel back to Hockley and work on the family farm. In addition to diversifying his resume, the experience widened his appreciation of world events. He put the skills to use that he’d begun developing in Aggieland, and prepared to attend law school. While in law school, Hegar met his future wife, Dara Grisbee, who grew up in Katy just 20 miles from Hockley. Though they’re both Aggies with Texas family roots that date back to the 1800s in neighboring towns, their paths didn’t cross until they were at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. During a holiday break, Glenn asked Dara on their first date. He wasn’t sure how to pronounce her first name, so he asked a friend before calling Dara to see if she’d like to grab dinner. His friend guessed wrong, but luckily Glenn simply called her “Grisbee.” The two hit it off and have been together ever since. The Hegars have three kids: Claire, Julia, and Jonah. Like any proud dad, Hegar can’t help smiling when he talks about each of them, and they’ve all given him plenty to be proud of. He shared that his favorite part of being the father of a 16-year-old and 13-yearold twins is watching each of them grow and develop. He spends quality time with all three teenagers, and seems to truly enjoy their unique and strong personalities. As his kids transition into adulthood, Hegar said he’s realized the parent-child bond is his most rewarding life experience. In many ways, Hegar approaches his job as comptroller the same way he approaches fatherhood. Though he could easily take credit for a number of Texas economy boosters that have bettered the state throughout his career in office, Hegar said he considers small achievements that make immediately meaningful impacts on Texans his greatest success. “The little things that you don’t get recognized for mean the most to me,” Hegar explained before sharing an example. After the comptroller delivered a public address one morning, a lady asked Hegar if he was available for a private meeting. Without hesitation, he told her to stop by his office that afternoon. When the lady arrived for their meeting, Hegar allowed her to share her story and troubles. He listened for the root of the problem, and learned that she needed help resolving a clerical error with her child support payments. When she finished talking, he knew exactly what to do, harkened back to his Aggie roots, and selflessly did it. “The fact that I could pick up the phone and help resolve her child support issues in a matter of minutes sent tears streaming down her face,” Hegar said. “It made me proud to be able to help someone improve their life and their family’s life with a simple phone call. Customer service is what drives me. Pairing problem solving with customer service is something I learned to do in my liberal arts classes at Texas A&M.” His passion for customer service helped build a company culture that earned his office the distinction of being ranked in the top 10 large-sized workplaces in Austin by the Austin American Statesman, a rarity in political offices across the country. Hegar said happy employees translates to better customer service for Texas taxpayers. Putting emphasis on his employees results in a more effective and efficient agency, which results in a state that’s economically healthy and attracting people who want to do business to the states’ ever growing population. At the conclusion of this term, Hegar will have served in public office for 20 years. The Comptroller will be up for reelection in two years, and at the time of our interview he seemed eager to continue his service to the state. A quick look through his Facebook page reveals another passion for service Hegar plans to continue: his passion for charitable giving. Hegar said his affinity for giving back began under the guidance of his grandfather who was a Baptist preacher. He
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learned at an early age that giving back promotes a better future for everyone, not just the immediate recipient of a gift. He sees this belief reflected in Texas A&M’s core values, and can easily identify Aggies who share it. “Anywhere you go in the world, you know an Aggie when you see one, because you can see their ring and recognize it in an instant,” he explained. “This is just a visual example of the Aggie bond. The core values that we share will never do you wrong. Integrity and honesty are key in making a difference in society. The Aggie alumni base is truly remarkable. The opportunity to be part of it makes an impact on both you and others, because we are all service-oriented.”
“My hope is that as someone who is less concerned about the title or the office, I can use my core values to make a difference,” Hegar shared. “I just want a good public policy result. I want to put the state of Texas in a better position than when I came into office.”
Hegar also shared his professional belief that service and buy-in play an important role in bettering all public universities. “Charitable donations are a critical leg to the public university stool,” he said. “When we give back to our alma matters, we have an invested interest in the success of our university. Being able to provide success back to students is important, but it’s so much more than that. Whether you’re able to give $50 or $50,000, the bottom line is you’re making a difference. You’re funding education for students and critical research that makes the world a better place and so much more.” True to his farming and Aggie roots, Hegar controls what he can by working hard to prepare for the future and keeps faith in life for the things he can’t control. As comptroller, he works diligently to guide state politicians to make decisions in Texas and taxpayers’ best interests. As a father, he fosters bonds with each of his children to help them grow into responsible young adults. As Aggies, he and his wife invest in the future by giving back to their alma mater.
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FORMER STUDENT WINS 2020 PULITZER PRIZE IN HISTORY B Y RA C HEL KNIGHT ’18
Former student Caleb McDaniel ’00, ’01 (M.A.) won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in History for his book titled Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America. The story McDaniel shares in Sweet Taste of Liberty follows the life of Henrietta Wood, who was born into slavery; taken to Cincinnati in 1848 and legally freed; abducted and sold back into slavery in 1853; remained enslaved in Robertson County near Hearne, Texas, throughout the Civil War; regained her freedom and returned to Cincinnati in 1869; and in 1870 sued the man who abducted her and sold her back into slavery. A federal jury awarded her $2,500, which was the largest known amount ever awarded by an American court in restitution for slavery. The book is full of twists, turns, compelling characters, and unbelievable events that tell Wood’s story. Like Wood, McDaniel has an inspiring story of his own about how he came to write Sweet Taste of Liberty, and it started at Texas A&M University in the College of Liberal Arts.
STARTING A SCHOLASTIC JOURNEY McDaniel chose to study history at Texas A&M because he was offered a President’s Endowed Scholarship. “I wouldn’t have been able to attend Texas A&M without it,” he shared. “Philanthropic support has been crucial for me throughout my career.” Without McDaniel, Wood’s story may not have been written for scholars and the general public alike; and without financial support from donors, McDaniel wouldn’t have been able to begin his scholastic journey that ultimately resulted in Sweet Taste of Liberty. “I got a great education in the College of Liberal Arts,” McDaniel said. “[Mentors in the college] set me on my path towards the
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doctorate. I still think about classes and advice I received from faculty members like David Vaught, Al Broussard, April Hatfield, Steve Daniel, and Craig Kallendorf. When I teach students today at Rice University, I think back to the teaching that I received at Texas A&M and try to pass it on to them.” Mentoring future scholars is a responsibility taken very seriously by Albert S. Broussard, history professor and Cornerstone Faculty Fellow. Broussard taught McDaniel in his upper-level African-American history courses, and says he is very proud of McDaniel’s achievements as a fellow scholar. “A mentor is neither a father-figure nor a mother, but someone who takes an active interest in the learning and inquisitiveness of his students,” Broussard shared. “I think it is important to mentor all your students to the degree they are willing to learn and allow themselves to be challenged instead of simply going through the motions. I learned decades ago to never underestimate the impact that you, as a professor, could potentially have on a young mind.” While McDaniel’s professors left an impression on him, he was also leaving impressions on faculty members. James Rosenheim, emeritus professor of history and former director of the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, judged an undergraduate essay contest that McDaniel participated in his senior year. “After 20 years, I still remember being impressed by Dr. McDaniel’s paper,” Rosenheim explained. “It seemed perfectly capable of having come from the pen of a graduate student. It was far beyond what I had ever encountered from my undergraduates taking an advanced level course and doing primary research.” McDaniel mastered the art of using primary sources, or first-hand accounts of a topic, as a student at Texas A&M, and used those skills to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning book. The importance of piecing together primary sources to tell the truth of society’s past
is easily seen in Sweet Taste of Liberty and in slavery’s lasting affects on our society today. “When a professor like Caleb McDaniel writes a Pulitzer Prize-winning book like Sweet Taste of Liberty, he’s not just answering questions about the African-American past in U.S. history,” said Carlos Kevin Blanton, Texas A&M’s department head of history. “He’s also getting at very real issues that we have today when we talk about reparations, what we owe to the past, and the legacy of slavery. Slavery doesn’t just end. Its legacy lives on through policies and practices. We’re still arguing over the same issues.” Blanton explained that historians don’t just examine the past because they enjoy learning about what happened long ago. Instead, they look to the past to find answers about issues we’re grappling with in the present. This is true of McDaniel’s research that ultimately led him to write his latest book, though how he landed on Wood’s story is a tale of its own. “In 2014, I was doing research about enslaved people who were forcibly brought to Texas during the Civil War,” McDaniel said. “A friend and colleague sent me a newspaper article from the 1870s that featured Wood’s story. When I started learning more about her story and how she had eventually returned to Cincinnati and filed a lawsuit for restitution, it caught my interest and it quickly became clear that it deserved a book all on its own.”
A WELL-ROUNDED EDUCATION EQUALS SUCCESS Wood’s story as told by McDaniel explores the greater human experience, which is what a well-rounded education in liberal arts teaches students to do. McDaniel said his liberal arts education is so versatile partially because of mentors he had in the Texas A&M University Honors Program, who encouraged him to take classes in English, philosophy, and political science in addition to history. This encouragement ultimately led McDaniel to his master’s degree in a different liberal arts field — philosophy.
including looking at archived documents scattered across different states,” McDaniel shared. “There were gaps in her story that couldn’t quite be filled otherwise. It was also challenging to write about this story in a way that recognized her achievement, but not in a way that downplayed the horrors that she endured or the problem that continues for African Americans even after emancipation and after her legal victory. ” McDaniel’s detective work, travel, and time taken to write the story in the most compelling and appropriate way were made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Similar endowments are donated to professors at Texas A&M, and play a similar role in these faculty member’s successes. Blanton said there are many opportunities to help support scholars and future scholars alike. “As the history department continues to expand the way in which we enhance the undergraduate experience, there are lots of opportunities to support new discoveries and explorations of the greater human experience,” Blanton shared. “Who knows how many Pulitzer Prizes we can help shape along the way with a little more giving?”
WINNING A PULITZER PRIZE While McDaniel’s former mentors and colleagues expressed great pride in his achievements as a scholar, McDaniel said the real prize is knowing that Wood’s story is finally getting the recognition it deserves. “To me, the greatest outcome of receiving the Pulitzer Prize is that more people will likely learn about Henrietta Wood’s story,” McDaniel explained. “It’s an honor to her and a credit to her resilience and determination to tell her own story. I’m very happy that the Pulitzer Board recognized a story like hers as a significant chapter of American history.”
Just like faculty in the history department, those in the philosophy department were proud to learn of McDaniel’s most recent success. “It is wonderful to be part of a department that has contributed an education in philosophy to such an accomplished scholar — an education that seeks to deepen one’s sense of the meaning and variety of human experience, to allow one to see others and the world in new ways, and to develop one’s critical, analytical, and interpretive abilities,” said Ted George, department head of philosophy. Seeing others in new ways through the exploration of the human experience is the key to the importance of Sweet Taste of Liberty, according to McDaniel. “There are still a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding the mystery of slavery and the Civil War even today. It’s important for historians to go back to the primary sources and documents and reconstruct the truth as best we can,” McDaniel explained. “We especially need to find ways to talk about the experiences of enslaved people like Wood. The archives that we have don’t always make it easy to find stories like hers, but it’s really an important part of American history to capture the experiences of women, and Black women in particular, in the 19th century.”
OVERCOMING SCHOLARLY CHALLENGES Piecing together the truth about the past is no small task—when McDaniel began researching Wood’s story, he quickly realized uncovering her past would necessitate a lot of travel. “It required a lot of ‘detective’ work to piece together her story,
PILLAR S |
2020 – 2021
301 Coke Building 4223 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4223
The College of Liberal Arts and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences teamed up to build a "location-aware" musical experience for visitors throughout The Gardens. For more information visit tx.ag/MusicAtTheGardens.