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, 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.

It’s hard to imagine that a university started to help the children of rural farmers get a higher education now boasts an enrollment approaching 13,000 students.

I never thought it possible.

There are a good many reasons for them to choose Tarleton State University.

Students in Erath and surrounding counties find an academically challenging educational experience close to home. Those from distant places enjoy the same. In fact, Tarleton’s reputation for a high-quality education brings students from more than 220 Texas counties and 48 states as well as Australia, Brazil, China and a dozen or so other international locations.

The kind of effective teaching, research, study-abroad programs and service opportunities available at Tarleton enable students to pursue truth, knowledge and skills necessary for successful careers and improved quality of life as responsible community leaders.

I am proud to share that Tarleton offers all the resources available at any major public university, with more than 90 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs, leading-edge academic facilities and faculty at the forefront of their fields. Professors rise to the top because they focus first on our students, while teaching, researching and providing service.

As one of only 44 universities nationally chosen by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to take part in the Re-Imagining the First-Year Experience project, Tarleton demonstrates its strong commitment to giving entering freshmen the greatest chance to succeed. Participating universities are working together to ensure that first-year students receive the support they need to finish their degree program.

Students from near and far are quick to fall in love with Tarleton’s rich traditions and the warm, personal attention from the entire campus community. The university’s student-to-faculty ratio—19:1—means scholars receive individual attention and the kinds of hands-on learning and research opportunities not normally available at other universities until their senior year or graduate study.

Tarleton Texans study math in Greece, nursing in London and sociology in Belize as well as at universities in places I only imagined seeing—France, Guatemala, Thailand and more. From faculty-led excursions to exchange programs, the options are endless.

Tarleton has been recognized nationally for its commitment to service, named to the 2009 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Faculty, staff and students give time and talent volunteering in schools, churches, shelters and hospitals.

University leaders understand that service is a form of learning, broadening perspectives and creating an awareness of issues and lives in neighborhoods and around the world.

Of course, Tarleton remains committed to my original goal—keep the cost of a university education as affordable as possible—offering more than $5 million in institutional and private scholarships annually. That makes me happy, and makes higher education possible for a whole lot of students who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

The Tarleton experience doesn’t end after graduation. There’s a bond between Texans near and far that’s unexplainable. It’s a family I’m proud to say bears my name.

Texans are employed by NASA, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, the USDA and Disney—almost everywhere and anywhere you can imagine. They’re Academy Award winners, NFL linebackers, nurses, educators, surgeons, astronauts, legislative officials and high-ranking members of the U.S. military.

It’s true that students who choose Tarleton could choose other universities. But, why?

Tarleton has everything needed for the educational experience of a lifetime.