For the first time, West Texas A&M brought together on Thursday a number of living regents from before WT became part of the Texas A&M system. "These guys made a significant contribution tot his place," said WT president Dr. Walter Wendler.
There was a time - a time being for 80 years -- that what is now West Texas A&M had its own governing body, a board of regents that set the path for the Canyon university. Perhaps a bit symbolic that what remains of that small group had a reunion of sorts on Thursday that began in a museum.
"Whatever WT is today is due in part to their leadership," said WT president Dr. Walter Wendler. "Over a period of time, it's easy to forget the contributions they made."
WT hasn't had its own board of regents since 1990. That was when the school became one of several across the state under the Texas A&M system.
From that point forward, WT's own regents were no more as those duties went to the Mother Ship in College Station. In 1993, "State" was dropped for "A&M." And so for a generation now of 25 years, there's not much recollection of WT as completely independent.
"There's been such a change at WT from a small teachers college -- a suitcase college -- to really a robust educational institution now with a variety of programs," said former regent Eddie Scott. "And a lot of people were involved with that. Some older, some younger."
Wendler, along with Scott, decided there's no time like now, so the word went out to a select few for a regents reunion in June. It would be a rather short affair -- lunch at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, followed by a tour of the many changes on campus, and then dessert in Old Main.
There are 15 living regents, including the most famous of them, T. Boone Pickens. Pickens, a former chairman, just turned 90, couldn't return to Canyon for health reasons, though much wanted to. Six, however, did.
Hey, any event where A&M Chancellor John Sharp and former Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance -- a former WT regent -- travel together to Canyon for the event has to have something going for it. They can put aside the Vet School Wars at least for the day.
Hance was practicing law in Lubbock when governor Preston Smith called him in the early 1970s. Hance had previously served on Smith's staff.
"He called me up and said, 'You ought to be on the board at West Texas,'" said Hance, who served on the board from 1972-75. "I thought he was joking. I said, "That would be nice.' But he thought I had good contacts in the legislature.
"I wasn't on there all that long, but I was proud of the years I was. I had a lot of friends go there. It was a good school then, and it's a good school now."
Dee Osborne of Houston gets the award for traveling the furthest. The 1952 graduate of WT went on to University of Texas Law School. He followed an early career in law with an impactful business career with an array of projects worldwide.
He formed the holding company of Cullen-Frost Bankers, Inc., was president of Freeport LNG and Gulf LNG, was president of Crest Investment Co., and chairman of Digital and Wireless Communications, LLC. In addition, he's been on the boards of numerous civic and charitable groups as well as other corporations.
Osborne moved a short distance to Ballinger, Texas, so he could graduate from an accredited high school in 1948. With no money after graduation, he moved in with an aunt and uncle in Amarillo. He then was able to put himself through Amarillo College and West Texas State.
"Both of those schools were critically important to me and I didn't realize how important they were until many years later," said Osborne, 87. "Without WT, I never would have got into law school and gone on to accomplish what little I did accomplish. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience, and I was delighted to help WT as a regent or really in any way after what the school did for me."
Most of those who returned were on the board when WT was able to get into the A&M system. Pickens and Osborne led the charge.
It took several years of back-patting and arm-twisting in College Station and some political maneuvering with Governor Bill Clements. Even though joining the system eliminated their regent duties, all believe it was worth it. "A godsend," Osborne called it.
The association with A&M has benefited WT more in subtle ways and in reputation, though the announcement in March of A&M's $22.8 million building for veterinarian education, research and outreach is huge.
This is on the heels of the ongoing construction of the $48 million Agricultural Sciences Complex, the $38.8 million on-campus football stadium, the Amarillo Center on Tyler Street, and the $6 million renovation of the School of Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics.
"We're doing things for each other to benefit each other," said Wendler, at one time the Vice-Chancellor of Planning and System Integration at A&M. "In my mind, that's the way it is in a two-party relationship. Not to sound boisterous or with bravado, but in the next five to six years, things will happen at WT that wouldn't happen if we were on our own.
"But the quality of this university is trans-generational from one group to another, from faculty to faculty. It's nurtured along. It's a matter of tending to the needs of an organization to the best of its abilities and these board members did that."
Jon Mark Beilue is an AGN Media columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com or 806-345-3318. Twitter: @jonmarkbeilue.