John Tarleton’s dream to create an institution of higher education for students of modest means today is reality. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would make its founder proud.

This monthly column, by an anonymous university author, looks at the school’s progress, issues of our time, achievements and challenges through the eyes of John Tarleton—a dreamer’s point of view.

A century is a long time for a dream to survive. A dream that wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Stephenville community, Erath and surrounding counties and The Texas A&M University System.

As Tarleton wraps up its yearlong centennial celebration as founding member of the A&M System, it’s a good time to reflect on our partnership, show appreciation and look forward to the next 100 years.

We’ll thank A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and Board of Regents personally this week when they conduct their fall meeting on the Stephenville campus. They’ll be here for our grand finale—dedication of a new pedestrian walkway and public unveiling of a life-size bronze that honor a Tarleton Distinguished Alumnus who later became president of A&M University and chancellor of the A&M System.

Joining A&M in 1917 made it possible for Tarleton, a tiny, struggling private school, to establish its nationally renowned agricultural programs and research centers—the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research (TIAER), the Center for Agribusiness Excellence and the Southwest Regional Dairy Center.

Even though Tarleton President James Cox and Texas A&M’s W.B. Bizzell came up with the original idea to unite the two schools, the dream to provide a quality, affordable university education would have died without the support of the Texas Legislature and the folks who chipped in to purchase the 500-acre Fred Chandler property northeast of town and restore my endowment to its initial amount.

Thanks to their generosity, my dream continues.

Money to buy land for a college farm and reestablish my gift were imperative to garnering legislative approval. The land, money and existing buildings on campus were donated to the state in exchange for Tarleton’s alignment with A&M.

Hundreds have shared my dream through the century. People like Tarleton President J. Thomas Davis, responsible for the stone gates at the university’s entrance, Mary Wilkerson, Coach W.J. Wisdom, A&M Regent Clyde W. Wells, Lamar Johanson and wife Marilyn, and American military hero James Earl Rudder, to name only a few.  

Rudder started college at Tarleton in 1927 and graduated from Texas A&M. He returned in 1938 as a teacher and head football coach, serving as the university’s athletic director for a single season before being called into active military duty in 1941.

We’ll unveil a statue of the Army major general at 4 p.m. this Thursday and name a new walkway after him. Created by Tarleton Distinguished Alumnus Mike Tabor and funded by Regent Anthony “Tony” Buzbee, the bronze portrays Rudder as a true solider leader.

We’ll recall Rudder’s historic assault up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc in World II,

innovations as president of Texas A&M and advancements in higher education as chancellor of the A&M System.

Most of all, we’ll recount his passion for Tarleton. The place where he discovered who he was and what he wanted to be. The place he loved.

We’ll celebrate the Rudder Way of doing things in the grandest of finales.

See you at the corner of North Rome Avenue and West Vanderbilt Street to honor the past and celebrate the future.