In my nearly 30 years in the Memorial Student Center, I have had the opportunity to work with some very talented staff and to interact with hundreds of incredible students. I have the honor of seeing our students grow into wonderful and successful citizens who have made an impact on the world. The Texas A&M experience is one of creating a seamless environment between the curricular and co-curricular. The MSC does this through the production of programs and services to the campus community that in turn helps prepare students to work in a global environment.
I remember when I started at Texas A&M in the fall of 1987, we would roll around the one Apple Macintosh computer to the offices for a scheduled allotted time if you knew how to use it. I lived in the same apartment complex with a student I worked with, and she periodically took care of our infant son. I remember seeing her fall in love, get married, and have a daughter. Now days, her career relates directly to what she did in the MSC and next fall we will welcome her daughter to campus as member of the Class of 2021. This is just one of the many stories I could tell about former students who have done so well.
The former students I interact with care so deeply about Texas A&M and have committed their time, talents, and treasures to giving back. We have a student union building that is first class and is endowed with programs envied by our peers. When I tell my colleagues about the legacy of Mr. Stark, I talk about how he could see potential in people before they saw it in themselves. He could get the student to stretch themselves and try things such as exploring the visual and performing arts, learning other languages, traveling internationally, and staying current on world events. He assisted many students in getting into graduate school; most of them are known today as Starkies. He also talked about giving back. Mr. Stark would use the former student network he had developed to open doors for students and later ask these same student he helped to open doors for the next generation of students. Paying it forward was an expectation. I tell my colleagues there is an expectation at Texas A&M that the University will give to students for 4-5 years and it is your job to give back the rest of your life, and they do!
One former student summed it up by saying, you spend the first third of your life learning, the second third earning and the third returning. I get to be part of the learning and returning and am very appreciative.
A couple of years ago, there was an international student who needed an emergency root canal and didn’t have the insurance or funds to make it happen. After a few phone calls to our MSC network, several former students stepped in to take care of the financial concerns. Former students have also provided a scholarship for an MSC officer who, because of their duties, didn’t have much time to work. Another time, this same network was able to help a student in need of a suit for an interview, but didn’t have the financial means. These are just a few of the many examples I could share about the impact our former students have on the MSC. I am humbled and very grateful.
Right now our nation is on edge about our future. After an uncivil election and national tension of race relations, we all have some work to do. The foundation of a student union is based on debating issues of the day to become educated on all sides of an issue before taking a stance on your own. There is no better place to have these dialogues than the MSC. We strive to produce programs to help students understand the world around them and equip them to have difficult dialogues with people who may think differently than they do. When students enter the university they are dualistic in thinking, with views being right and wrong and black and white. It is our hope by graduation they have a more pluralistic view of the world – an appreciation of the many perspectives and an understanding that nothing is absolute.
Our former student network helps us create avenues for building a seamless educational environment. As I reflect on the year and the year to come, I’d like to express my appreciation for all you have done and the impact you have made. Now is a very important time for preparing our students to become the next leaders in the world. Your assistance helps.
Thank you. I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful holiday and have the opportunity to reflect on the meaning behind the celebration.