Caitlin "Cait" Shields '11 April 5, 2020 6:53 PM updated: April 8, 2020 1:00 PM
Texas A&M’s annual Aggie Muster is expected to bring the Aggie Network closer than ever when the tradition moves online this month, allowing for interaction with Aggies across the globe and livestreams from A&M Clubs.
This marks the first time in its history that the university’s most sacred and visible tradition will unfold as a primarily virtual event.
The gathering on April 21 will kick off at 6:51 a.m. CDT with The Association of Former Students’ Worldwide Roll Call for the Absent followed by local Muster events, which will play at various times during the day. The student-run campus Muster will start at 7 p.m. All events will also be replayable after their first showing.
The web hub at MusterLive.AggieNetwork.com will also include maps pinpointing Muster events as well as the locations of Aggies who are visiting the page. Participants will be able to stream Muster ceremonies, say “Here” virtually for their fallen comrades, and contribute memories and even photos to an online Reflections Display in honor of the Aggies lost since the last Muster.
Because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, some local Musters have been postponed, and others have been canceled or converted to online events, but Muster organizers at all levels have been working hard to ensure the tradition continues this year and that the name of every Aggie on the roll will be called and answered with “Here” on April 21.
Forever United In Spirit
A&M President Michael K. Young pointed to an Aggie adage that is especially poignant now: “We believe that when and how you Muster are not as important as that you Muster.”
“Although we are temporarily separated by circumstances, we are forever united in spirit — a spirit of service that connects us all across Texas, around the nation and in hundreds of locations around the world,” Young said. “It’s in times like these that we gain strength from those who have come before us, Aggies whose lives and examples give us faith that we can rise above every obstacle and overcome every challenge.”
The Association continues to encourage Aggies and family members of former students to submit the names of their loved ones so they can be included in the global roll call. To add a name or learn more, go to tx.ag/AddAName.
Association President and CEO Porter S. Garner III ’79 noted that Aggies have Mustered annually despite world wars, natural disasters and other challenges. “The Aggie Spirit prevails in spite of the disruption our world is experiencing,” Garner said. “Thanks to a collaboration between The Association of Former Students, A&M Clubs, the campus Muster committee and Texas A&M University, Aggies around the world can join us from the safety of their homes in answering ‘Here’ for every Aggie on the worldwide Muster roll.”
Organizers of local Musters can still choose to have their events included on the Muster Live site via prerecorded video or as live video streams from YouTube or Facebook; this should be coordinated as quickly as possible by visiting tx.ag/VirtualMusterSignup.
Legacy Lives On
Plans to integrate the varied ceremonies started a few weeks ago after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic, prompting Texas A&M to move its 69,000-plus students online while most state governments — including Texas — asked their residents to stay home to stop the spread.
Without an end in sight to the public health crisis, both The Association of Former Students and the 30-member student Muster Committee began thoughtful conversations about how to still honor the spirit of Muster and create the feeling of togetherness, while remembering the Aggies who passed.
Confronted with the possibility of canceling the largest Muster, the campus committee didn’t take long to make its decision.
They leaned into what they knew and opted to embrace the reality: Muster 2020 will take on a different look, but the spirit of the tradition — Aggies gathering together — remains.
At the same time, The Association was working to convert its Worldwide Roll Call for the Absent — reading and answering “Here” for each one of more than 1,500 names on the annual roll — into an online event, assisted by more than 60 volunteers from around the world.
The student committee and The Association then joined forces with the university to create a digital portal to stream both virtual events and serve as an online community for Aggies around the world to come together. Organizers of local Musters have also been invited to stream their virtual Musters through the site.
Campus Muster Chair Kaley Markos ’19, a senior sport management major who has served on the committee since her freshman year, said her group worked hard to create “small moments” within the campus ceremony that will translate into powerful messages.
“Muster has always provided a platform where every Aggie is valuable and important,” she said, adding that the Muster ceremonies around the world are equal to the campus ceremony, which draws thousands. “Their legacy lives on through memory and in the hearts of all who say ‘Here’ for them.”
Each April, the 50-year anniversary Class is invited back to campus for a reunion and to participate in the campus Muster ceremony, as well as a barbecue and other events. Members of the Class of 1970 are being surveyed to gauge their preferences for rescheduling the on-campus events in light of the restrictions on gatherings, but they will also have a special place in The Association’s Worldwide Roll Call, with the four Class of 1970 agents calling and answering “Here” for 40 of their deceased Classmates using videoconferencing technology.
The Worldwide Roll Call will also include another special moment made possible by technology, as it will conclude with the traditional singing of “The Spirit of Aggieland,” performed by Aggies around the world who recorded themselves on phones or laptops and submitted the video to The Association. Learn more at tx.ag/SingTheSpirit.
Markos said this year’s Muster observances are an opportunity to bring Aggies closer together as they overcome obstacles to uphold a cherished tradition, showing that Aggie Muster is “adaptable and reflective of the needs of the Aggie community to honor the past, present and future.”
For More Information
The Association of Former Students has a bold vision to engage 100,000 donors annually for Texas A&M by the end of 2020. To learn more, visit tx.ag/100Kby2020. To help us help more Aggies, make a gift at tx.ag/Give.