It’s impossible to know exactly what John Tarleton had in mind for the university bearing his name. His dream was to create an institution of higher education for students of modest means.

Today, that dream is a reality. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, high-quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would leave its founder filled with pride.

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

I’m impressed with how Tarleton State University students, faculty and staff display such an uncommon spirit and pride. I would say it’s a Tarleton hallmark.

At the heart of that spirit, I think, are Tarleton’s Core Values. Those Core Values allow the university to make decisions with a sense of purpose and direction—even tough decisions. Especially if those values already reflect the heart of the people who live them day in, day out.

Tarleton’s Core Values are six simple words, encompassing the attributes and attitudes of the university. These values shape the campus culture and elevate the entire Tarleton community. They celebrate the school’s commitment to be the premier student-focused university in Texas and beyond. They challenge Tarleton Texans to set a path for others to follow.

Let’s look at each one:

Integrity. Character matters. For the way Texans approach every decision, every conversation, every task.

Honesty and trust are important. Students, faculty and staff work out their views and practice their convictions. Listening to new ideas, insights and facts clarifies principles, even changes them. Working through these changes, holding onto what’s important and consistently following through—that is the hard work of building character.

Leadership. Become legendary. For the conviction and the courage to step up, to advance an issue, a community.

Leaders don’t always have titles or hold office. The true “leader” earns the accolade through action. Leaders show the way. They perform small acts that set an example and, sometimes, acts of great courage and conviction that right a wrong.

Tradition. Learn it. Live it. Shape it. For the spirit and loyalty inspired by the generations who have come before and united Texans in uncommon bonds.

From the candlelit “T” formed by each freshman class to the candles of Silver Taps honoring alumni who’ve passed away, tradition bridges past to present. There’s the Purple Poo, the Plowboys, Yell Contest, Texan Riders, the Bonfire. Even Tarleton legend Oscar P. Traditions are powerful. They define who we are.

Excellence. Never settle. For the aspirations Texans have and the expectations to meet them.

Members of the Tarleton family are encouraged to aspire to the heights, to choose greatness. The Tarleton standard of excellence is not to do just enough to get by, but to dream big, aim high and expect more.

Civility. Respect in word and deed. For the friendliness, the family atmosphere that fills this university’s buildings and grounds, and the respect for others Texans take with them wherever they go.

Civility in words and actions is more than good manners. Tarleton Texans take pride in a culture of kindness and inclusion, not because they agree on everything, but because they respect others and expect better of themselves.

Service. Be the difference. For the civic caring to make a difference, to improve the world for current and future generations.

Tarleton was founded on service. Today, Texans embrace their responsibility to make a difference. They give time and talent volunteering in schools, churches, shelters and hospitals near our campuses in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco and Midlothian and in their communities. Through service, each of us can leave behind a better world for future generations.

Tarleton’s Core Values are the bedrocks of everything I dreamed and more. More than mere words, they’re the heart of Tarleton.