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Class Gifts Help Shape The Landscape of Aggieland

Holland "Holly" Wuthrich '16 February 19, 2018 8:34 AM updated: March 1, 2018 11:00 AM

Did you know that each graduating Class has the opportunity to give a Class gift to Texas A&M University? Since the early 1910s, graduating Aggies have elected to leave a parting gift for their university and the Aggies who will succeed them.

Class gifts are funded with money raised by the Class throughout their four years on campus. Class Councils plans Class-specific events like Elephant Walk and Ring Dance that serve as major fundraisers for each Class, allowing profits made at the event to be contributed to Class gift funds. Then, during student body elections, all members of the Class have the opportunity to vote for a gift that will represent their class.

These gifts can range from scholarships, endowments and memorial funds, to physical symbols of the Aggie Spirit, memorials, statues and campus landmarks.

Throughout the long and rich tradition of Class gifts, many have become etched into the campus landscape. In an effort to highlight the impact these Classes and their gifts have had on Texas A&M University, this week we are going to be taking a "virtual tour" across campus, visiting some of the most visible gifts left by graduating Aggies. While some of the locations on this tour are very well known places on campus, the Class gifts found in those places might not be. Follow along with us each day as we journey from west campus across main campus, visiting 13 various Class gifts scattered throughout Aggieland. 

Thank you for joining us this week on our Class gift virtual tour! Today as we wrap up the tour, we'll visit our last two stops, gifts from the Classes of 1988 and 1987.

 “Home of 12th Man” Letters at Kyle Field - Class of 1988

As the goal of this tour was to highlight some of the most visible Class gifts on A&M’s campus, we would be remiss to end the tour without mention of the “Home of the 12th Man” letters proudly displayed on the east decks of Kyle Field. Seen by hundreds of thousands of people on game day, both those in Kyle Field and those watching on television, the Class of 1988 gift serves as a visible reminder of the spirit and tradition that makes Texas A&M unique.

“For me, it is a sense of pride knowing our Class gifted one of the most iconic items seen on game day for home games at Kyle Field,” said David Mendoza '88. “Every time "Home of the 12th Man" appears on TV, regardless of sports venue, it is a reminder of how long-lasting and far-reaching our a Class gift has been.”

The Class of 1988 elected as their Class gift, to add lettering at Kyle Field that read, “Welcome to Aggieland” and “Home of the 12th Man.” The letters were installed on the student side of the stadium with “Home of the 12th Man” displayed on the front of the second deck and “Welcome to Aggieland” on the front of the third.

With stadium renovations prior to the 2006 season, the letters were painted white, "Home of the 12th Man" was relocated to third deck, and “Welcome to Aggieland” was moved to the west side third deck to allow for a video board to be installed between first and second decks. The “Welcome to Aggieland” lettering was ultimately removed from the stadium with the recent renovations of the west side seating.

"This fall, the Class of 1988 will celebrate our 30 year reunion," said Tara Yancy '88. "I am so proud that our Class gift is still there in Kyle Field for all to see. I guess you can say we left our mark -- literally in large letters!"

“I am proud that the Class of ’88 gift to Texas A&M – the "Home of the 12th Man" lettering at Kyle Field – is seen across the world during every Aggie football broadcast.  It’s a simple, yet iconic gift that has stood the test of time.” – Kathryn Greenwade ’88 


 Spirit of Bonfire Sculpture - Class of 1987

A gift from the Class of 1987, The Spirit of Bonfire is a 3-piece bronze sculpture depicting the various stages involved in building Aggie Bonfire. The sculpture, dedicated in 1997, is found in Spence Park, just off Throckmorton Street, next to University Center Garage.

“Cut,” “stack,” and “burn,” words colloquially used to describe the process of building Bonfire, are all represented in this sculpture. A unique element of this sculpture is the great attention paid to its small details. There are tiny Aggies depicted completing the various Bonfire tasks, like carrying a log, wiring a log into place and then cutting it, and stabilizing the outhouse at the top of the stack.


But beyond the physical elements of the sculpture, the symbolism of the Aggie Spirit is much greater. “[I'm] so grateful that this Class gift can still help communicate those Aggie traits so apparent during and after Bonfire - hard work, camaraderie, and the undying spirit and love we have for our school and each other,” said Beth Lopez '87.

“As you can imagine, this particular project is very special to us and our class, given the tragic events of the Bonfire collapse in 1999,” said Franklin Byrd '87. He mentioned the role played by this sculpture in the days that followed the tragic event. “Bonfire has always been near and dear to our Class but probably one of the coolest things that this project gave to Texas A&M was a place of gather after the 1999 tragic Bonfire collapse. Following the tragic collapse that killed twelve Aggies, the student body held an impromptu vigil march that began at the Bonfire site on the polo field and ended at our Bonfire statue in Spence Park. Students proceeded to lay their burning candles all over the bonfire statues and our gift provided a small method of healing to a much [in need] student body. When we arrived in town the next day for the t.u. game, we witnessed the remains of their vigil. There were many candles strategically placed all over the statues. Some candles were even still burning. It was quite humbling to see these results. These Bonfire statues provided a way to connect many hurting Aggies," explained Byrd. "These statues represent a very important piece of our school's history. We are proud to have completed this Class project.” 


Want to take a look back at some of the previous tour stops from earlier in the week? Read on below for our posts from Monday-Thursday.

On the fourth day of our tour we visited Rudder Plaza, Simpson Drill Field and the Memorial Student Center, places that are home to Class gifts from the Classes of 1980, 1999 and 2010.

 12th Man Statue - Class of 1980

We begin today’s portion of our Class gift tour in Rudder Plaza, the new home of the 12th Man Statue. As their Class gift, the Class of 1980 funded a statue of E. King Gill '24, the original 12th Man. The statue, originally located outside The Zone at Kyle Field, depicts Gill in his football uniform, standing ready to support his Aggie team.

The tradition of the 12th Man began at the Dixie Classic football game on January 2, 1922. With the Aggie team plagued with injuries, coach Dana Bible called Gill, who was in the press box helping identify players, down to the sidelines and had him suit up in the uniform of an injured teammate. Gill then stood on the sideline for the remainder of the game. The Aggies managed to pull off an upset, beating the top-ranked Praying Colonels of Centre College 22-14. And though Gill was never needed on the playing field, his willingness to stand ready to help his team sparked the start of a tradition that has been passed down through generations of Aggies.

A plaque at the base of the statue describes Gill's efforts saying, “A symbol of selfless service for all Aggies.” Plaques on either side of the base include the lyrics of "The Twelfth Man" song and a brief history of the 12th Man tradition.

Like the Centennial Eagle sculpture we highlighted on Monday, this statue was also designed by G. Pat Foley.

In 2014, in conjunction with the redevelopment of Kyle Field, a new 12th Man state was unveiled at the corner of Joe Routt Boulevard and Houston Street. The original statue was relocated to Rudder Plaza and was rededicated at the Class of ’80 35-year Reunion on Oct. 24, 2015. 


 Restoration of Simpson Drill Field Plaques - Class of 1999

Visitors to Aggieland will notice that there are 55 trees that line the perimeter of Simpson Drill Field. Each tree is marked with a plaque in memory of an Aggie who died in service during World War I. Though not originally installed as a Class gift, the Class of 1999 chose to use their Class gift funds for the restoration of the plaques.

Each plaque includes the name, Class, and site and date of death of those who were killed in World War I. According to a marker on the east side of the field, the trees were planted and plaques installed on Feb. 23, 1920 and the memorial was dedicated April 9, 1988. 

Another noticeable feature of Simpson Drill Field is the reviewing stand located on the south side of the field across from the Memorial Student Center. The reviewing stand was named in honor of James B. Kelly ’52, who along with '52 Classmates, raised the funds to have the permanent reviewing stand installed. The reviewing stand is used regularly in Corps of Cadets exercises, including Final Review.

Simpson Drill Field, located between Old Main Drive and the MSC, is named for Lieutenant General O.R. Simpson ’36. Said Arty Brieden '99, “Simpson Drill Field is the site of many great memories. In addition to being a beautiful space in the center of our campus, we participated in fun events, including Fish Olympics and the inaugural First Yell festivities. Simpson Drill Field is the traditional site where many Aggie careers begin with Fish Review and end with Final Review.”


 Refurbishment of Grand Piano in MSC Flag Room - Class of 2010

The Flag Room is quaintly known as the living room of campus, and for good reason. It seems easy to feel at home while studying, relaxing or catching up with friends in the Flag Room. The atmosphere is only further enhanced as someone begins to play the grand piano tucked away in the cozy front corner of the room.

The Class of 2010 elected to restore the Flag Room’s 1987 Steinway Grand Piano in conjunction with the Memorial Student Center renovations that concluded in April 2012. Restorations to the piano were handled by Forshey Gallery in Houston.

The Class of 2010 newsletter from April 2011 mentioned the project stating, “The piano is being completely refinished to restore it to its former shiny glory, and being restrung and having a complete action rebuild.” Now that the piano has returned to its home in the Flag Room, it warmly welcomes students and visitors alike to sit down, if just for a moment, and play a tune for those in the room to enjoy.

"Music has a special way of bringing people together, and can even make every day moments into memories that will be looked back on for years to come. The gift of music is one that can be appreciated by all - young or old, student or faculty, visitor or distinguished guest. This appreciation creates a welcoming atmosphere that makes Texas A&M University feel less like an institution and more like a place every Aggie calls "home". Unlike other items that are located in department-specific buildings that some students may never see, the piano is centrally located for the enjoyment of all individuals throughout campus. We hope that future Aggies can escape the hustle of classes to enjoy, if even for a moment, the tunes that echo down the halls of the MSC."  - Morgan Oliver ’10

A 2012 article from Texas A&M Today describes the joy that is brought by the piano. Read the full article here.

On Wednesday the tour stopped at Fish Pond, the Academic Building and Academic Plaza. Take a look back at the gifts from a variety of Classes from 1938 to 2007.

 Fish Pond Endowments and Maintenance - Classes of 1977 and 2007

As a gift originally from the Class of 1938, Fish Pond quickly became an iconic campus landmark. It was given in memory of those members of the Class of 1938 who, “made the supreme sacrifice in World War II.”


Since its creation, it has become tradition for the yell leaders to be thrown into Fish Pond by Corps of Cadets freshmen following Aggie football victories at Kyle Field.

Through the pond’s long history it has naturally required routine maintenance and renovations. As a result, the Classes of 1977 and 2007 elected to endow Class gift funds toward the necessary renovations and upkeep of the campus landmark.

The Class of 1977 initially refurbished the fountain in 1975, during their junior year. Then for the Class’ 15th reunion in 1992, with the addition of an endowment, they ensured the upkeep of the fountain for years to come. “This is one of the important landmarks and we are privileged to help maintain it,” said Polly Marek ’77.

 In 2011, the fountain was moved from its original location at the intersections of Ross and Houston streets to its current location in front of Sbisa Dining Hall.

“The Class of '07 was honored to allocate a portion of our Class gift to the Fish Pond Operations & Landscaping Endowment. In addition to benefiting an iconic campus landmark we were able to link our Class to the Class of '77, knowing that decades of future Aggies will enjoy and appreciate the efforts.  – Kristen (West) Michael '07 


 Mosaic Tile Seal - Class of 1978

Walking through the front doors of the Academic Building, the Class of 1978 Class gift is perhaps the first thing you will see. The mosaic tile Texas A&M University seal is located in the center of the rotunda, cordoned off as to not be disturbed by the daily foot traffic in and out of the building.

"Our Class of '78 Class gift was intentionally located in the floor of the Academic Building, which stands on the original site of Old Main, where the A&M College of Texas first began its mission in October 1876,” explained Class Agent Andy Duffie ’78. “Our mosaic tile artwork was perhaps the first-ever colorized version of the university seal. Now that a new version of the university seal has been created, our Class of '78 Class gift embodies the rich spirit and history of Texas A&M's "Old Army" years. We are very proud to be a major part of the Academic Building's grand history - and we are honored that our Class gift has remained such a visible campus landmark over the past 40 years!"

The gift was initially built off-campus before being installed in the floor of the Academic Building. It was dedicated at a small ceremony in October 1977.

The Class of 1978 was able to fund this Class gift in a unique way, through an impromptu closed-circuit television broadcast of the Texas A&M vs. Texas Tech football game in Lubbock in the fall of 1977. The idea was conceived on a Monday afternoon, and by Saturday the Class had arranged for the microwave transmission of the game from the press box at Jones Stadium in Lubbock to the KAMU satellite dish on campus. Stretching a long cable from the KAMU studio to G. Rollie White Coliseum, constructing a “flat screen” of four sheets of sheetrock, and incorporating live audio play-by-play coverage from WTAW Radio, the Class successfully created the first, and only, live closed-circuit TV telecast of a Texas A&M football game broadcast from an away game. They sold out G. Rollie White at $5 per ticket and the junior yell leaders even joined to help lead yells simultaneously with the senior yell leaders in Lubbock. After sharing half of the event’s profits with Texas Tech, the Class had raised enough money to cover their Class gift. Duffie recalled, “The #15 Aggies prevailed over the #7 Red Raiders in a hard fought contest. It was awesome!!”


 Academic Plaza Flagpole - Classes of 1912 and 1939

The iconic flagpole in Academic Plaza is a combination of Class gifts from the Classes of 1912 and 1939. The flagpole was initially installed as a gift from the Class of 1912 and has been a landmark at Texas A&M since. As the Class gift from the Class of 1939, the base and bronze shield were later added. The base is dedicated as a memorial to the members of the Class of 1939 who died in service to our country in World War II.


Another feature of the bronze base of the flagpole is the pocket created to hold the Silver Taps notice each month. Silver Taps is held in Academic Plaza the first Tuesday of each month during the school year in which a current undergraduate or graduate student passes away.

“Silver Taps embodies the Aggie Spirit and expresses what it means to be a part of the Aggie family. The Silver Taps notice at the Academic Plaza flag pole plays an integral role in the tradition. It allows students to observe who we are honoring and standing for that night at Silver Taps. It provides a connection between students and the ceremony.” – Katie Cornell ’18, Silver Taps Committee Chair, Traditions Council.


On Tuesday we visited gifts from the Classes of 1986, 1989 and 1990 and 2008. 

 Evans Library Endowments - Classes of 1986, 1989 and 1990

Today’s leg of our tour begins in the heart of main campus at Sterling C. Evans Library as we highlight Class gifts given by the Classes of 1986, 1989 and 1990. These Classes elected to use their Class gifts to make an impact on Aggies for years to come through their support of the library.

The contributions of these Classes are recognized in the library’s first-floor reading room by plaques located on the prominent wooden donor obelisk.

“The obelisk honors individuals who have significantly supported the Evans Library through their monetary gifts,” explained Winona Murphy, administrative coordinator for development for University Libraries. “The donors’ names are added to the face of the obelisk’s pedestal on one of the four sides which corresponds to their giving level.  Each level is named for stalwart individuals who, in the early years, laid the foundation for the library’s accomplishments enjoyed today.” 

The obelisk, designed and built by Rodney C. Hill, associate dean of the College of Architecture, “stands as a historical tribute to contributors who were the library’s first Legacy of Learning members.”

Class gift funds were raised by these Classes throughout their time as students on campus. Through various Class events, these three Classes were able to establish healthy gift funds that were then contributed to the library.

Through the generosity of donors such as the Classes of 1986, 1989 and 1990, Evans Library has been able to continue acquiring books, manuscripts and various materials that will be for the benefit of students and faculty for generations to come. 


 H2O Fountain Endowment - Class of 2008

Next we travel just north of Evans Library to visit H2O Fountain. Located outside of the Chemistry Building, H2O Fountain, with its glistening blue water and multi-level features, greets thousands of Aggies and campus visitors each day. The fountain is a neat addition to the landscape of Texas A&M because of its location and unique shape, the shape of a water molecule. 

While the fountain was not initially installed as a Class gift, the Class of 2008 elected to establish an endowment to provide for necessary renovations and upkeep of the fountain for years to come.

Though there isn’t a physical marker denoting the Class of 2008’s contribution to the lasting legacy of H2O Fountain, Student Activities ensures that the Class is recognized when discussing the fountain.

 "As not just an Aggie but a local Aggie - one who gets to call Aggieland home - I get the pleasure to drive through campus and bring my young children up to campus on a regular basis,” said Jordan Kleckley ’08. “Our Class gift, renovations to the H2O Fountain, provide an opportunity for me to share and preserve the wonderful and iconic features that make Texas A&M the special place that it is to me and so many others, and one day for my children."


On Monday, the first day of our Virtual Class Gift Tour, we visited gifts from the Classes of 2013, 1976 and 1968 and 2003.

 "There’s a Spirit Can Ne'er Be Told" - Class of 2013

Traveling from west campus to main campus through the Billy Pickard ’56 Pedestrian Passageway, or Pickard Pass, students, faculty and visitors alike are greeted with a simple, yet impactful reminder of the presence of the Aggie Spirit.

A gift given by the Class of 2013, large letters are prominently displayed above the west-facing passageway entrance that spell out “There’s a spirit can ne’er be told…”, the famous line from "The Spirit of Aggieland," originally written as a poem by Marvin H. Mimms '26.

The gift includes the letters above the entrance to the tunnel and a small dedication plaque to the right of the entrance.

The pedestrian tunnel under Wellborn Road was completed in the early 2000s and in 2010 was renamed “Pickard Pass” in honor of Junction Boy and long-time employee of Texas A&M University, Billy Pickard.

A plaque commemorating this honor reads, “In honor of Billy Pickard’s dedication and nearly five decades of service to Texas A&M University and Aggie Athletics.”

The letters and plaque were installed in 2014 and have quickly become an iconic campus landmark.

Said Drew Nelson '13, "We are very proud as a class to have a gift that is visible to so many in the heart of campus. For many people on a game day, this is one of the last things they see before entering into Kyle Field for the game, and we like to think it helps people get a little more prepared and ready to be a part of the 12th Man."


 Centennial Eagle Sculpture - Class of 1976

“Dedicated to a century of excellence,” the Centennial Eagle Sculpture, a gift of the Class of 1976, is found proudly displayed on the lawn of the Sanders Corps Center. Facing Joe Routt Boulevard, the sculpture stands as a celebration of Texas A&M’s first 100 years, appropriately given by the centennial graduating class.

The sculpture depicts the university’s 100th anniversary logo and was designed by George E. “Pat” Foley. The logo features an eagle perched atop the block A T M logo, encircled with the words “Texas A&M University Centennial 1876-1976.” The iron piece sits on a stone pillar bearing a plaque that reads, “Dedicated to a century of excellence. Centennial Class of 1976."

Efforts in getting this project executed and funded were led by Class officers Mike Havel '76, Phil Bohlmann '76, Charlie Snyder '76 and the entire Class of '76 Council. The project received funding through various avenues, including the sale of "Centennial Oaks" grown from acorns and donated to the Class, and donations of Classmates' A&M room deposits.

Class Agent Mark Probst '76 added, “This was one of the first, if not the first, Class gifts on campus that was so prominent and has been in just about every video about Texas A&M.” He also commended the efforts in establishing a landmark that will, "live on long after we are all gone!”


 Freedom From Terrorism Memorial - Classes of 1986 and 2003

Located near the corner of Coke and Lubbock streets, adjacent to the Corps Quadrangle, is the Freedom From Terrorism Memorial, given as a joint Class gift by the Classes of 1968 and 2003.

Jim Thompson ’68, Class Agent, said, “The Freedom From Terrorism Memorial is about remembrance and hope. Texas Aggies always work together for good and this memorial is an example of a meaningful partnership between the Classes of ’68 and ’03 who conceived it, and the College of Architecture students who designed it.”

The Freedom from Terrorism Memorial was dedicated Oct. 17, 2008. It was designed by four second-year Master of Architecture students in the Texas A&M College of Architecture, Jorge Martinez '07, Hernan Molina '07, David McMillin '07 and Mariano Ortiz '07. The design/build team consisted of Quad-Tex Construction, Paterson Architects and Brazos Valley Engineering, Inc.

This memorial stands as a tribute to both those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 and those who have lost their lives in service to our country during the War on Terrorism. It also signifies the Aggies yet to come who will serve and protect our country. The memorial contains deep symbolism and meaning, with each unique design element serving a purpose. The symbolism of the memorial is explained on the plaque below that stands at the front of the memorial. 

“The memorial serves as a tribute to all those who died in the 9/11 attacks, including three of our own former students, as well as to all who have died fighting terrorism," said Mike Beggs '68. "Its significance as a memorial continues just as the War on Terrorism continues, being fought by not only our Aggie young men and women who enter military service, but all those who love liberty.”

A unique feature of this memorial is the small plaque located on the back of the large concrete wall portion. It features a quote by Dr. Robert M. Gates from the evening of his departure from Texas A&M to assume his position as Secretary of Defense. It says, “Beat the hell outta terrorism.”

As a member of the Air Force, Spence Pennington '03 says he is reminded of the significance of this memorial anytime he hears this quote during a flag folding ceremony, "Since 1776 no generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending freedom."

“This Memorial honors those Aggies who have given their lives in the fight against terrorism and those who continue to guard and protect our country from terrorism attacks” – Jim Thompson '68

"The Freedom From Terrorism Memorial represents the selfless service and leadership of fellow Aggies and Americans to keep America free and prosperous. Special thanks to Class Agents, Jim Thompson ‘68 and Cliff Williams ‘03 for their leadership in making this honorable dream a reality so Aggies and visitors can visit this special memorial on the Texas A&M University campus to remember those brave Aggies and their sacrifices. – Kelly Coke ’03

Thanks for following along with us on this first leg of our Virtual Class Gift Tour. Join us tomorrow as we visit two more stops. Stay tuned all week and you might even see your Class' gift featured! Interested in learning more about Class Gifts? You can access a complete list of each Class' gifts by visiting that Class' web page, here.

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