Renovations to the Quad reflect a changing and growing Corps of Cadets.
Joining the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M was a life-changing experience for me. It taught me many lessons, allowed me to develop lifelong friendships and gave me a foundation in leadership that served me well as an officer in the United States Army upon graduation. I came to Texas A&M to become a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, not knowing much about the university’s traditions, the Corps’ military structure or the band. But during my four years, I learned just how special being an Aggie truly is and began to understand how much my experience in the Corps would impact the rest of my life.
When I returned to Texas A&M as Commandant in 2010, I was struck by how much had changed since I last walked on campus as a cadet in 1979. Unfortunately, walking onto the Quad had the opposite effect: I was struck by how much had stayed the same. There were minor upgrades to the dorms and the landscaping, but the sidewalks had the same undulations and cracks, the grounds were more dirt than grass and the E.V. Adams Band Hall looked exactly the same as 40 years prior.
It became obvious to me and my staff that we needed a “strategic plan”—a blueprint for turning the Quad into a state-of-the-art, 21st century, living-learning environment to grow the Corps and attract high-caliber cadets to our ranks. In 2011, after working with Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects and gaining the support of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents and Chancellor John Sharp ’72, we embarked on the largest renovation to the Quad since its construction in 1939.
We completed Phase 1 in August 2016, which included a complete overhaul of dorms 1 through 8; new landscaping, benches, trees and lighting on the north end of the Quad; and the opening of the Susan & Michael J. Plank ’83 and Stephen C. Ash ’87 Leadership Learning Centers (LLCs). This brought the total number of LLCs on the Quad to four, following the opening of the Tony Buzbee ’90 LLC in 2012 and the H. Grady Ash Jr. ’58 LLC in 2014. Funded through private donations to the Texas A&M Foundation of more than $20 million, these centers offer open-access computer labs, study group rooms, and comfortable lounges and couches for cadets to utilize as they focus on their academic success.
Our Phase 2 renovations, to be completed before the fall semester begins, consist of revamping dorms 9 through 12 and completing landscaping and paving on the south end of the Quad. In addition to creating a safer, more efficient space for cadets to live, these upgrades improve our recruiting efforts by showing prospective students and parents that we are committed to fostering a positive living and learning environment for our cadets.
In some instances, we have extended our Corps-related upgrades well past the Quad. With the grand opening of the Dorothy and Arthur McFerrin ’65 Parsons Mounted Cavalry Headquarters at Fiddler’s Green in 2016, our cavalry unit gained its own dedicated facility. The new headquarters boast 4,000 square feet that includes a training and instruction area, a storage area for tack and equipment, a tack repair room, exterior tie racks for saddling horses and office space. This improvement was made possible by the McFerrins and Malcolm Stewart ’73, who provided a generous gift to enhance the original design of the new headquarters.
On the other end of the spectrum, the groundbreaking of the new John D. White ’70-Robert L. Walker ’58 Music Activities Center is scheduled this fall, with completion of the facility set for fall 2019. The new center will replace the E.V. Adams Band Hall, which can no longer safely accommodate Texas A&M’s 13 orchestras, ensembles and choirs. As a former saxophone player in the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, this project is especially close to my heart.
The new building will include a 100-yard artificial turf practice field for the Aggie Band that will eliminate uneven and unsafe rehearsal conditions. It will also house multiple rehearsal spaces to ensure that ensembles can practice in areas appropriate to their size and scope. Finally, the new facility will provide adequate, secure storage for both personal and university equipment.
Creating an environment for our cadets that is conducive to their development as leaders is a must. To continue the tradition of a strong and respectable Corps of Cadets, we must offer facilities that promote a productive living and learning community. This massive undertaking is still in progress, but I continue to be excited about what the future holds, both on and off the Quad.
The next time you’re on campus, I invite you to visit the newly renovated Quad and experience our world-class facilities. I hope you’ll find that we’ve “stepped off” into a new era.
As our Corps continues to grow, so must the number of scholarships specifically granted to our cadets. It is our goal to have every academically eligible cadet on a Corps scholarship, especially those with financial need and those who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities.