pillars issue 3 | 2017/18
texas a&m university college of liberal arts
Aggie Agora Battles Misinformation
THE UNSPOKEN TRADITION Scholarship recipient and donor give their perspectives on Aggies helping Aggies
Letter from the Dean
pillars MANAGER OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS & DEVELOPMENT
Dear Friends, In our first two editions of pillars magazine, we highlighted some generous supporters of the college and the impact of their gifts on students, faculty, and programs. We’ve continued that approach in this edition but have also decided to feature a relatively new program in our college that is not currently supported by an endowment: Aggie Agora. The Aggie Agora aims to promote civic engagement and literacy both on campus and in the community, and faculty leader Jennifer Mercieca has done an outstanding job of bringing people together to talk about difficult or controversial issues in a respectful and productive manner. With the help of private funding, the Aggie Agora could play an important part in shaping the future of our nation by researching the best ways to facilitate open dialogue, battle deception, and foster trust. I hope you enjoy learning about this program and share my excitement for its incredible potential. This edition of pillars also features our new innovation and entrepreneurship minor and certificate, which has already inspired a donation from a former student and will position Aggie Liberal Arts graduates as leaders in accelerating our state and national economies. These recent developments in our college enhance the relevance of the liberal arts in today’s complex and fast-paced world. Our graduates are proving every day with their actions that the liberal arts are more valuable than ever, and I am grateful to those who give back to support our efforts to provide transformational education, encourage groundbreaking research, and serve the community.
Karissa Bayliss ’12
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
Larry J. Walker II ’97
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT Andrew Millar ’14
Heather Rodriguez ’04 Kim White ‘08 Allen M. Junek ’18
Heather Rodriguez ’04
Mary Engelker ’18 Gabe Chmielewski ’06
Angelyn Wiley ’17
COLLEGE LEADERSHIP Pamela R. Matthews ’81 Dean
Violet Johnson Associate Dean, Faculty
Steven M. Oberhelman Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs
Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Programs
Pamela R. Matthews ’81
Associate Dean, Information Technology & Facilities
Leroy G. Dorsey
Associate Dean, Inclusive Excellence, Strategic Initiatives & Graduate Instruction
Cheryl L. Hanks
College of Liberal Arts / 301 Coke Building / 4223 TAMU / College Station, TX 77843
pillars | 2017/18
Assistant Dean, Financial & Operations
IN THIS ISSUE 4 FACING THE FACTS
We live in a time of misinformation. The Aggie Agora hosts workshops and group discussions to educate students on finding the truth.
8 TAKING ROOT
Four young alums discuss why they chose to impact the future of the college through a planned gift.
14 READY TO LAUNCH
18 COVER STORY
THE UNSPOKEN TRADITION
Eddie and Linda Burge helped establish the Woodrow Jones Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund. The college spoke to them, and the 2016 scholarship recipient Gonzalo Fernandez, on the impact of the scholarship on their lives.
Thanks to Debbie and Mike Hilliard, the new entrepreneurship minor is expected to open for registration in the fall.
ROTHROCK OF AGES
A decade of supporting Faculty
With the Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History Elizabeth Cobbs
ON THE COVER
Gonzalo Fernandez ’18 stands in front of the Centennial Eagle statue Photo by Mary Engelker ’18
14 pillars | 2017/18
TERRI BURKE EXPLAINS HER WORK WITH THE ACLU OF TEXAS
MARGOT LEE SHETTERLY DISCUSSES HER BOOK HIDDEN FIGURES
BETSY HALEY TALKS ABOUT FOOD STYLING & DIGITAL INFLUENCING
FACING THE FACTS AGGIE AGORA BATTLES MISINFORMATION THROUGH WORKSHOPS AND DISCUSSIONS ON CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES
by KIM WHITE ’08 photos by MARY ENGELKER ’17 & GABE CHMIELEWSKI ’06 If you were on social media in 2016—and data show nearly 80 percent of Americans were—you probably saw these headlines come across your feed: “BREAKING: ‘Tens of thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse” and “Trump Says He Will ‘Threaten Mexico With Nuclear Weapons’ To Force Them To Pay For The Wall.” They were seen and shared by millions leading up to the 2016 presidential election. The problem is these stories and many others were fabricated and published on unreliable “news” websites, usually in the pursuit of ad revenue generated by clicks. Aggie Agora, a program in the College of Liberal Arts, is working to combat such misinformation by promoting and teaching critical thinking and engaged citizenship. “Our goals are to not only promote skills like fact-checking and critical thinking and understanding the political process, but to also provide opportunities for people to participate in difficult conversations about all kinds of issues and to help citizens feel empowered to be more active in their communities,” said Jennifer Mercieca, associate professor of communication and faculty champion of the Aggie Agora. The term “agora” refers to the Greek concept of a marketplace, both for goods and ideas. Through workshops, lectures, and special events, the non-partisan Aggie Agora helps
pillars | 2017/18
DEAN MATTHEWS, MARGOT LEE SHETTERLY, & JENNIFER MERCIECA
students and community members build civic skills and encourages public discourse. Mercieca’s dream for the Aggie Agora is not just to facilitate conversations and educate citizens, but also to make substantial contributions toward solving our country’s major civic challenges.
KIRBY GOIDEL DISCUSSES POLITICAL ADVERTISING
“Distrust, polarization, lack of fact-checking, and circulating information that’s untrue—these are serious political problems. We don’t know how to talk to each other anymore,” she said. “What we’re not yet able to do is research ways to solve these problems.”
The Aggie Agora began as a broad idea among Mercieca and some colleagues to promote engaged citizenship and civic dialogue. In 2015, Mercieca and Joe Ura, associate professor of political science and associate department head, were charged with leading the academic programs segment of Texas A&M’s bid to host a presidential debate. Mercieca and Ura felt this was the perfect opportunity to launch the program and incorporated it into the debate bid after receiving support for the idea from Liberal Arts Dean Pamela R. Matthews ‘81.
Receiving an endowment from a generous donor, Mercieca said, would make it possible to hire additional distinguished scholars, provide fellowships for students and participating faculty, and update or build new facilities to enable interdisciplinary research on the issues plaguing our democracy.
While A&M did not end up hosting a presidential debate, Mercieca and the College of Liberal Arts forged ahead with Aggie Agora. Most of the initial funding for the program came from a two-year grant Mercieca won, and the college provided some additional funding and staff support as well.
pillars | 2017/18
ROBERT JENSEN TALKS ABOUT THE PATHOLOGY OF PATRIARCHY
In February 2015, the Aggie Agora hosted its inaugural lecture by award-winning longtime journalist Tom DeFrank, who gave attendees an inside look at the American presidency based on his experience reporting on eight presidents. In its first two years, the Aggie Agora program held more than 100 events focused on everything from political advertising and campaign finance to race relations on campus and freedom of speech. In addition to a robust schedule of events on campus, Mercieca and her colleagues are also working to develop community programming to raise awareness of economic inequality in Bryan-College Station with the goal of finding solutions. “We bring people together to talk about things that are political and affect their lives but aren’t always discussed or easy to talk about,” she said. “It’s so easy
to be isolated and not expose yourself to people who think differently. But when you do that you act not as a citizen, but as a partisan of a certain idea or party, and you don’t think of the common good.” Mercieca uses real examples of media that went viral, including the fake Hillary Clinton voting fraud story, in her fact-checking workshops to teach participants to be critical of everything they see and hear online. While it can be difficult to determine if information on the internet is accurate, Mercieca said it’s not impossible. “What happened in 2016 is that we were just naive about content; that there were people who were, for no ideological reason but for financial reasons, making up news stories and posting them to get clicks and make ad revenue,” Mercieca said. “Hopefully with more training and fact-checking and awareness, we won’t be as naive.”
pillars | 2017/18
TA K I N G RO OT YOUNG ALUMNI ARE FOUNDING A LEGACY OF GIVING BACK
by ALLEN JUNEK ’18 & HEATHER RODRIGUEZ ’04
In 1876, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas became the state’s first public institute of higher learning. The College of Liberal Arts was established in 1965—almost 90 years later. It would make sense, then, that our college’s former students and donors are younger than most; but while they are are still building careers, they want to start making a difference. Young alumni like Clayton Huber ’12, Dallas Shipp ’03, Hal Denbar ’05, and Carly Evans ’11 prove that the Aggie spirit of giving doesn’t demand an immediate donation; every bit makes an impact. Through planned giving, these donors are helping fund scholarships, groundbreaking research, and innovation. These donors are funding the future, starting now.
pillars | 2017/18
ance policy, establishing a planned gift to the university and becoming a legacy donor. He said he was inspired to give after spending time as a Maroon Coat, the Foundation’s student ambassador group.
Huber said. “Communication skills are crucial to being successful at what I do. The word ‘humanities’ has the word ‘human’ in it for a reason. Anyone who works with people will benefit from a degree in the liberal arts.”
“I got to see behind the scenes of the university, and see how much donors help keep the school going,” he said. “How many people are going to A&M right now who wouldn’t be able to if not for endowed scholarships? Why wouldn’t I want to give back so others could experience what I did?”
As part of his planned gift, the Department of Communication, College of Liberal Arts, and the philanthropic organization Old Army Gentlemen’s Society will receive funding through a bequest. Life insurance gifts are ideal for young donors who want to donate now while building their estate. These gifts may also receive a charitable tax deduction.
Whether a maroon coat or a Navy uniform, Clayton Huber ’12 is used to wearing his pride on his sleeve. Now, the communication graduate and pilot is proud to give back to the school he loves.
After enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 2004, Huber attended A&M as part of the Seaman to Admiral-21 program, where active-duty sailors attend college for three years and return to the Navy as an officer upon graduation. He said he uses his communication degree every day.
Huber recently declared the Texas A&M Foundation as a beneficiary in his life insur-
“As a pilot I fly, yes. But I spend so much time working with other people to solve problems,”
CLAYTON HUBER ’12
it’s about being prepared.”
DALLAS SHIPP ’03 When opportunity comes knocking, sometimes communication is all one needs to unlock the door. “I always tell students to be prepared for the moment that opportunity knocks on your door,” Dallas Shipp ’03 said. “There’s no such thing as being ‘lucky’ in your career;
Shipp’s liberal arts education proved to be valuable preparation for a successful career, including owning his own business, so he generously added the College of Liberal Arts as a beneficiary of his estate. Through this designation, he established the Dallas W. Shipp ‘03 Scholars Endowment and the Dallas W. Shipp ‘03 Visiting Journalist Endowment, which will provide scholarships for Aggies studying journalism and help bring journalists to campus to interact with students. Shipp graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism and started working as a sports writer for the 12th Man Foundation and 12th Man Magazine. Shipp has since shifted his career away from sports writing and now owns his own marketing firm in Bryan-College Station. Studying journalism taught him a great deal about writing and storytelling,
But that’s not the only reason Huber chose this method of giving. “Do it while the memory is fresh in your mind, when you can look at where you are now as a young alum and remember how A&M got you here,” Huber said. “Then ask yourself if you want to keep it going. If you do, then make the commitment.”
Shipp said, which are essential skills in the world of marketing today. “If you can’t tell your company’s story and tell it authentically and passionately, then the vehicles you choose to share that message won’t really matter,” Shipp said. He has also put those skills to use speaking at several student leadership organizations and at Aggie Musters across the nation. Shipp is passionate about giving back to help those who can’t afford to go to college. Although he is a recent former student, he is already preparing his legacy of philanthropy in the College of Liberal Arts through his endowments. “I paid for my own education and have always felt that if I had the opportunity, I’d like to help another hard-working student the best I could,” he said. “Aggies help Aggies, and this is just one of the ways that I choose to do that.”
pillars | 2017/18
which carries a small donation. “One of the reasons I joined the LADC is I know the college is focusing on entrepreneurship,” he said. “That’s really exciting to me, because I feel like the liberal arts is a perfect breeding ground for young entrepreneurs. By our nature, we think outside the box.” Even as an undergraduate, he knew he wanted to start his own business after graduation. Between classes and studying, he researched various service industries.
HAL DENBAR ’05 Creating a new business is often a sink-orswim endeavor. Luckily, history graduate Hal Denbar ’05 can swim—or at least make sure the water is properly treated. Denbar is the owner of Patriot Pool and Spa in Austin. He is also a new member of the Liberal Arts Development Council (LADC),
CARLY EVANS ’11 The College of Liberal Arts boasts one of the youngest former student populations at Texas A&M University. Many of these alumni are interested in giving back to the college but are still working to build their careers and aren’t sure how. In response, Liberal Arts graduate Carly Evans ’11 and a group
pillars | 2017/18
“I came across an article that said there were more pools built in Austin that year than in the whole state of California, so to me it seemed like the perfect opportunity,” he said.
has been named one of the fastest-growing companies in Austin by the Austin Business Journal. His business has also been named to the Aggie 100 list—which recognizes the 100 fastest-growing Aggie-owned or Aggie-led businesses in the world—four years in a row. Denbar attributes his success to his time with Liberal Arts. “The liberal arts helps people fine-tune critical thinking and communication skills, which are crucial to creating entrepreneurs,” he said. “I think it’s a skill set that is often overlooked. A huge part of starting and running a business is being able to think on your feet and communicate effectively.”
While finishing his degree, Denbar began working for pool-cleaning companies, learning the job from the ground up. Immediately after graduation, he started Patriot Pool and Spa. Five years later, his highly-rated company consists of almost 30 employees and
And while he is new to the LADC, he is excited to see where the college goes long into the future.
of fellow Aggies came together to form the Liberal Arts Advisory Council (LAAC), a group of young alumni who collaborate to provide unique learning opportunities for current students and help the college compete for the best prospective students and faculty.
ates. The council is a diverse group of young professionals, from investment bankers to educators to oil and gas professionals, all of whom have found a place in the LAAC united by their passion for the value and impact of a liberal arts education.
“Staying up to date with the new things going on in the college is exciting to me,” Denbar said. “It’s compelled me to give back.”
Having studied sociology and psychology as an undergrad, Evans is now employed as a management consultant specializing in organizational change. Fundamentally, Evans helps organizations solve their biggest organizational problems, enabling them to reach their full potential.
Each equipped with unique skill sets, members participate in college recruitment efforts, networking events, and opportunities to connect former students with current students. At this stage in their careers, Evans said, young former students are less likely to have the financial capacity to support the College—but what they do have is time.
“I consider myself lucky to be one of the founding students that watched the LAAC grow from only an idea to a robust group of former students excited to serve,” Evans said.
“One of the best things about the LAAC is that we are cultivating the act of giving in our young former students, and as we all know, Aggies are great at giving back,” Evans said.
The LAAC provides a unique connection between the college and its recent gradu-
A will is something many of us avoid thinking about. The thought of creating an estate plan can sound intimidating. The good news is it can be about as simple as writing a letter. An eloquent will tells the world what is important to you, affirming your hopes and protecting loved ones and cherished causes. Creating an estate and gift plan can achieve a lasting impact in the College of Liberal Arts. A wide range of planned gift options are available, allowing you to customize a gift to your unique needs and interests. The simplest and most common after-lifetime gift is a bequest (a gift left in your will). Other gifts, such as retirement assets and being named the beneficiary on a life insurance policy, can also benefit the College of Liberal Arts without affecting your current assets or income. Another option is funding a dual-benefit gift, such as a charitable gift annuity or charitable trust, which provides you and your family with payments during your lifetime while also supporting the College of Liberal Arts. Join the growing number of Aggies establishing their legacy at Texas A&M through planned giving. You can provide for loved ones, receive tax benefits, generate potential retirement income, and help the College of Liberal Arts all at the same time.
pillars | 2017/18
ROTHROCK OF AGES A DECADE OF SUPPORTING RISING STARS AMONG FACULTY by HEATHER RODRIGUEZ ’04
The world looked vastly different in 2007. The first iPhone was brand new; so was Twitter. We hadn’t yet had our first African American president. There was a writer’s strike in Hollywood, putting most of our favorite shows on hold and causing a surge in reality television. For the College of Liberal Arts, yet another significant event that year was the launch of the Ray A. Rothrock ‘77 Fellows, a grant that recognizes newlypromoted and highly-recommended associate professors every year. Rothrock Fellows receive $15,000 over three years to encourage and support the completion of exceptional postpromotion projects and transforma-
pillars | 2017/18
tional teaching. To date, more than 30 Liberal Arts faculty members have been named a fellow, and countless others have benefited in the form of world-changing research and innovative instruction. “You just never know where the research is going to lead, so I believe it’s important to enable people to try new things. I provide ‘seed capital’ for smart ambitious people to pursue new ideas. That’s how the world advances,” Rothrock said. “I feel good that I could help do that, and the results speak for themselves.” It may be surprising that Rothrock, a venture capitalist in California with degrees in engineering and business,
is a dedicated supporter of the arts and humanities. But he and his wife, Meredith, deeply believe in a wellrounded education. “The current trend to devalue the liberal arts is shortsighted and tragic,” he said. “One gets through life with lessons that come from all places, such as a great work of art or a piece of literature. Liberal arts accelerates the ability of humans to learn and evolves us as people.” It’s anyone’s guess what the next 10 years will look like, but one thing is certain: We can only continue to improve thanks to the generosity of the Rothrock family.
10 YEARS THE GIFT HAS RECOGNIZED 16 WOMEN & 15 MEN WORKING IN 12 DEPARTMENTS & 3 PROGRAMS OVER THE COURSE OF
THE ROTHROCK FELLOWS HAVE GONE ON TO CREATE
IN GRANT FUNDING
AWARDS, GRANTS, OR FELLOWSHIPS
649 $7,829,496 551
pillars | 2017/18
Dr. Patricia Thornton
Professor of Sociology & Entrepreneurship
LIBERAL ARTS TO FUEL FRESH IDEAS THROUGH INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP MINOR by ALLEN JUNEK ’18 | photos MARY ENGELKER ’18 Excellence. Integrity. Leadership. Loyalty. Respect. Selfless Service. These core values are not merely words to an Aggie but are the guiding principles in everything they do. They are also the makings of a successful entrepreneur. “It’s just a short step from the Aggie spirit to the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Patricia Thornton, who joined the College of Liberal Arts faculty in 2015 to establish an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in innovation and entrepreneurship. The new minor will be available to all undergraduate students and is expected to open for registration in the fall of 2018. The core of the curriculum is two required courses all students in the minor must complete—one that addresses the more abstract elements of entrepreneurship such as market strategy, societal impact, and organization building; and a second that covers specific business practices such as accounting and management. The innovation and entrepreneurship minor will also require two elective
courses and a final capstone course to help students ultimately launch a startup, product, or even a nonprofit. “ In these courses, students are expected to come up with ideas and develop them into a concrete part of entrepreneurship in some way— it’s about getting their hands dirty,” Thornton said. The 2008 recession and the years that followed have had an enduring impact on the business world and made it more challenging to create a successful startup. Financial assistance can be harder to acquire as many lenders have tightened their policies to minimize their risk. For Debbie and Mike Hilliard ‘73, this was an important factor in their choice to support the new entrepreneurship curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts. The couple created the Debbie and Mike Hilliard ‘73 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Endowment, which will provide scholarships and faculty support to develop curriculum that produces the business leaders of tomorrow.
“We live in a different world from when I wanted to start my business, when you could still go to a bank and have a chance to receive funding,” Mike Hilliard said. “It’s our hope that future A&M students can have the same chances my generation had.” Texas A&M is well positioned to be one of the nation’s leading universities for entrepreneurial studies, as noted in a recent edition of the Princeton Review. While extracurricular opportunities and programs are widely available across the university, there currently exists no curriculum on entrepreneurship and innovation available to Liberal Arts students. That’s where Thornton comes in, bridging the gap between disciplines and connecting the existing programs to an academic component to maximize entrepreneurial resources and education. “Think of Liberal Arts students as part of a three-legged stool—they study how to identify problems, engineering students learn to solve problems, and business students learn to commercialize solutions. To have the ability to
pillars | 2017/18
think across all of those disciplines is part of the goal,” Thornton said. “We want to coordinate with other colleges to maximize our resources and to allow students to work in interdisciplinary teams, because innovation comes from a diversity of ideas.” The College of Liberal Arts is a natural fit for an entrepreneurship minor because liberal arts majors develop strong critical thinking skills that are needed to fuel innovation. In fact, billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban said in a recent interview that automation is changing the nature of the workforce and eliminating many jobs in areas like finance and programming, making the analytical skills provided by a liberal arts education especially valuable. “I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data,” he said. Entrepreneurs can make a significant impact with the potential to stimulate the economy, improve quality of life with new discoveries, and enact social change. Today’s college students in particular feel businesses have a responsibility to help address major social challenges such as inequality, unemployment, and health care. By developing curriculum in innovation and entrepreneurship at Texas A&M, the College of Liberal Arts is putting Aggies on the front lines of driving our economy and improving our communities. With a broad liberal arts education steeped in Texas A&M’s core values and strengthened by the Aggie network, Liberal Arts students stand ready for the challenge.
pillars | 2017/18
HISTORY : THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT by ALLEN JUNEK ’18 | photo MARY ENGELKER ’18 Ever wonder what it would be like to walk in the footsteps of Aggie giants like E. King Gill and James Earl Rudder? That’s what junior English major Jordan Sales ‘19 and her teammates thought when they came up with the idea of their future smartphone app, HistoryGo. “We thought it’d be really fascinating for people to be able to stand somewhere and have all of this information available to them that would connect them with the people who have stood there before,” Sales said. It all started when one of Sales’ classes required her and a group of peers to enter two national competitions with innovative ideas that would create a new way for local media to reach the next generation. Sales and her team thought the best way to reach people would be through what most people share in common: their cellphones. Their mission was to come up with a fun, engaging app to better inform people on their surroundings. The result was HistoryGo, an app that connects the user with their environment through interactive content, including historical information and local news. “For example, if you were walking to Kyle Field for midnight yell and you wanted to know a little bit more about the history of Kyle Field, then you could pull out your phone and see the renovations and the clips from the glory days of Johnny Manziel,” Sales said. When Sales and her team submitted their proposal to the PILOT Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), HistoryGo was merely an idea and they never expected to hear back about it. Sales remembers sitting in the Memorial Student Center when she received a call from the director of the contest telling her that, out of 153 teams, they were in the top three. It was surreal, she said. When Sales and her teammate learned they were being flown to California to be recognized, she was initially unsure about having to miss class for the presentation. Fortunately, Sales had built a relationship with Liberal Arts Dean Pamela Matthews through a Freshman Critical Thinking Seminar, and Matthews was supportive and encouraging. “I don’t know if I can think of any other college at Texas A&M where the dean is so personally invested in their students,” Sales said. Matthews was excited to have Sales represent Liberal Arts in front of some of the nation’s leading entrepreneurs. “Students like Jordan Sales come to us eager to cross boundaries, think innovatively, and act responsibly, and I want to help enhance those predilections with
the knowledge and skills that strengthen them,” Matthews said. The skills gained by studying the liberal arts were the tools Sales used to bridge the gap between her life of literature and one of entrepreneurial opportunity. Thanks to having an environment where creativity and innovation is celebrated, Sales and other liberal arts students are able to identify needs and come up with creative, practical solutions. “The kind of thinking the College of Liberal Arts tries to foster is really special in the way we’re taught to think critically about society and the world,” Sales said. “We have been given the ability, the time, and the resources to study some of the greatest minds in history.” With Sales’ help, maybe we can find a way to walk in their footsteps too.
THE UNSPOKEN TRADITION
by HEATHER RODRIGUEZ ’04 | photos MARY ENGELKER ’18
WE HAVE THE
OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE
POSITIVE CHANGES ON THE
WORLD As Aggies, we are known for our traditions. We stand for football games as the 12th Man; we “uncover” inside the Memorial Student Center; we say “Howdy!” and “Gig ‘em!” But one of our most sacred traditions is the one that goes unspoken: We honor our Aggie family by giving back. That’s why Charles E. “Eddie” Burge ’65 and his wife, Linda, became involved in the Liberal Arts Development Council from the very beginning, and why they were instrumental in establishing the Woodrow Jones Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund. “This school has given me so much,” Eddie said. “It’s like in a friendship: If this guy’s your friend, you’re going to help him out; and when you need help, he’s going to help you out. A&M works that way...we really stick together.” The scholarship honors Woodrow “Woody” Jones Jr., who was a professor of political science and served as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1994-2001. He was also the first African American dean in the history of the University. After he passed in 2005, the Liberal Arts Development Council—led by then-chair Eddie Burge— wanted to commemorate Jones’ legacy by establishing a scholarship in his name that would help generations of
students. Along with 13 other donors, the Burges, who were the largest contributors, endowed a scholarship to support at least one Liberal Arts student per year. “I wanted to establish a scholarship for Woody for one simple reason: he deserved it,” Eddie said. “He was good for the college, good for the university...and I wanted his legacy to live on through this scholarship.” Because of this tradition of giving back and the generosity of donors like the Burges, over a dozen Aggies have used the funds to overcome financial hardships and receive a transformational liberal arts education. For the 2016-2017 recipient, Gonzalo Fernandez, the scholarship came at the exact right moment. Until that time, he had been taking out as many loans as possible in addition to working as a security officer for the A&M police department, and the stress was taking a toll on his grades. That quickly changed thanks to the scholarship. “Because of it, I was able to focus on school, and in fact this was my best semester,” he said. “I just got one of my grades back from one of my tough classes and I got an A, and it was because I was able to actually focus on my course instead of having to worry about making ends meet.”
pillars | 2017/18
Though he was born in El Monte, California, due to rising crime and gang violence Fernandez and his family moved to a ranch in a small town in northeast Texas called Lone Oak when he was 11. His high school’s graduating class consisted of 114 people. After high school, Fernandez said he felt compelled to join the military to serve his country. “My father always talked about selfless service,” he said. “He once gave his jacket to a freezing homeless man in the middle of winter. The things he did have stuck with me.” Inspired by his stepfather, who he calls “Dad” and has had a long career in aviation, Fernandez decided to join the United States Army Reserves as a Blackhawk mechanic. After two years as a reservist, he decided to go back to school for a degree. While the Corps of Cadets is what initially drew him, it’s the people that kept him. “It’s like a family here. It’s home. We all have different experiences but we’re connected by being Aggies,” he said. “We share a lot of the same values here, like giving forward. And that’s something I want to be able to do myself one day—give back.” Fernandez is nearly finished with his undergraduate degree despite many challenges. He is the first in his family to attend college; he is a nontraditional student who enlisted rather than enrolling right out of high school; and after his sophomore year, he deployed to Kuwait for one year. However, after receiving the scholarship, finances were no longer a challenge.
pillars | 2017/18
“To the Burge family…I definitely owe them more than words can provide. They were able to help me when I didn’t have anyone else to turn to, and I owe them a lot of thanks,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any act greater than being able to help students achieve their goals.” Fernandez has an exciting future ahead of him, including a contract with the Air Force Space Command. After graduation in May, he plans to marry his fiancée, train in California over the summer, and then make his new home in Massachusetts. He believes that his liberal arts degree will come in handy for the road ahead. “The college has given me a broader perspective and taught me how to work with different people,” Fernandez said. “Everyone’s going to have different ideas and visions, and you can’t be narrow-minded. If you are, you won’t be successful in this world.” Fernandez has a lot in common with Eddie Burge. Eddie is a military man himself having served active duty in Vietnam, and is also a graduate of what is now called political science. Both men embody the selfless service that drives the university by serving their country, and both have a strong desire to give back to the college that helped shape them. “I believe Fernandez’s experiences in the military and in the College of Liberal Arts at A&M are going to meld together, and he’s going to be able to use that experience for the rest of his life,” Eddie said. “Texas A&M has
FERNANDEZ'S FIRST MEETING WITH LINDA AND EDDIE BURGE
impacted every part of my life, period.” And, according Linda, the college continues to give to the Burges. “With the development council, we’ve worked hard and given a lot of time,” Linda said. “But what we’ve gotten back has been oh so much more.” Fernandez believes the college has helped make him the man he is today, and he looks forward to representing Liberal Arts, Texas A&M, and his peers well into the future. “Right now I just want to make things better. I don’t want my generation to be known as the lazy generation or the generation who did nothing when something needed to be done,” he said. “We have an opportunity to make positive changes on the world.”
To see the full story about Fernandez and his first meeting with the Burges visit tx.ag/UnspokenTradition
THE WOODROW JONES JR. ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP FUND WAS A LSO MA DE PO SSIB L E BY T H E GENER OSI TY O F. . . Meredith & Ray Rothrock ’77 Gayle & Layne Kruse ’73 Carol & Boe Martin ’62 Thetis & Samuel Loyd Neal, Jr. ’59 Sally & Ray Bowen ’58 Helen & Roger Jenswold ’52 Barbara Ann & Hiram Burr ’65 Emma ’00 & John Garnett ’58 Clarissa ’78 & Steve Streetman ’77 Sally & John Cox ’81 Thomas Martinez ’52 G. Philip Huey ’52 Bonnie & Otway Denny, Jr. ’71 pillars | 2017/18
WITH THE GLASSCOCK CHAIR
by HEATHER RODRIGUEZ ’04 | photo MARY ENGELKER ’18
While there are many ways for the College of Liberal Arts to continue recruiting the best minds, donor-funded gifts are often the most effective. Whether offering scholarships to talented students or endowed positions to prestigious faculty members, our donors allow us to continue our commitment to academic excellence. Elizabeth Cobbs, an award-winning historian and novelist, is a prime example. Cobbs holds the Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History—an endowed faculty position donated by the Glasscocks in 1998. The funds she receives as the chairholder have allowed Cobbs to complete myriad projects, such as the PBS documentary American Umpire, based on her book by the same name, and the New York Times best-selling historical novel The Hamilton Affair. Her most recent book, published by Harvard University Press, is The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers. Thanks to faculty endowments such as this one, Liberal Arts can continue to hire scholars that conduct world-changing research and engage in transformational teaching in the classroom and beyond. The College of Liberal Arts sat down with Cobbs to discuss her various undertakings and how the Glasscock chair helps her accomplish them. Tell me about your field. I’m an American historian, but probably one of the best ways to describe my specialty is war and peace. My emphasis is on relations between the U.S. and foreign
pillars | 2017/18
countries, so much of my scholarship concerns policies that have either kept us out of war or sent us to war. So the topics I study are consequential and raise big questions. What sparked your interest in this area? When I was a girl, I loved to read historical fiction. I remember reading about the War of the Roses in medieval England, and the Napoleonic wars. Books where individuals were caught up in the big events of their time have been a fascination of mine. Those stories really got me excited about history and how it affects us today. You can walk through a city and see its entire past laid out in front of you—like Independence Hall in Philadelphia, or the country’s first hospital where the cornerstone was laid by Benjamin Franklin. These books make the inanimate come alive. That’s what inspired me to write both traditional history, which is nonfiction, as well as historical novels. What made you decide to come to Texas A&M University? Aside from the opportunity to be at a wonderful university, it was the Glasscock chair. I knew this was a university that would allow me to pursue large, unusual projects. Academics often get stuck in these narrow ruts of writing scholarly articles for a limited audience, which can be extremely important...but what’s great about the Glasscock chair was the breadth of vision it had.
Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs
Professor of History & Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History
For example, in the documentary American Umpire we use a lot of historical footage, which is called b-roll. The archival footage of Franklin D. Roosevelt giving his “Day of Infamy” speech after Pearl Harbor alone cost us a $3,500 licensing fee. In a movie that’s an hour long, you have to use a lot of b-roll. So the wonderful thing is I was able to use the funds on these sorts of things, which are a little different from traveling to an archive or going to a conference...The Glasscock Center really does an extraordinary job of putting A&M on the map, and in bringing people from across the country to this fine institution for which I have so much respect and fondness.
Why do you think this area of research is particularly relevant now?
Describe the broader impact this funding has had on your body of work.
Do you have plans to use the funds for future projects?
The chair funding has made it possible for me to make my documentary, which was not only broadcast nationally on public television, but is now being used in colleges and high schools. We academics primarily reach college students, but because the chair has allowed me to reach high school students, I have been able to influence the general public. And my book on Alexander Hamilton, which was also made possible by the Glasscock chair, has been able to reach a huge audience—like people who are shopping at Target or in airport bookstores. This chair means I can take my academic work and share it across the country.
As we all know, there’s a lot of political polarization in America. We’d all like to get our country back to a place of better cooperation between people from different backgrounds and belief systems. So I think that any research that reminds us of our commonalities as Americans are the messages we need right now. We need to be reminded of the great causes that we fought for together. And even when we fought against each other, we still managed to come back as one country in the end. These lessons are especially important right now.
My next documentary, which will air on PBS in fall 2018, has a working title of Working in Tomorrowland. It is about the history and future of work in the age of artificial intelligence. With all the dystopian movies right now, this subject can be very disheartening for young people, but I want to remind people that Americans have gotten through economic challenges before. I am also editing my first draft of a novel about Harriet Tubman, to remind us that our heroes are OUR heroes—American heroes that we can all feel proud of instead of feeling divided by race, class, or gender. I hope these projects will help bring us together.
pillars | 2017/18
301 Coke Building 4223 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4223
Last May, the Texas A&M Foundation presented Melbern G. and Susanne M. Glasscock with the Sterling C. Evans Medalâ€”the highest honor the foundation can bestow. The Glasscocks have created a legacy through their philanthropic giving to the College of Liberal Arts, and their generosity will impact generations of future Aggies and reinforce the collegeâ€™s mission of transformative learning.