John Tarleton’s dream to create a higher education institution for students of modest means 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, achievements and challenges through the eyes of John Tarleton - a dreamer’s point of view.

2017 has been a year of historic firsts and groundbreaking successes. A year to remember–our Centennial in The Texas A&M University System.

We opened the doors to a new Agricultural Field Machinery and Fabrication Laboratory in January, broke ground for a state-of-the-art engineering building in spring, started renovation of Memorial Stadium this summer, and finalized plans for the first building on our Fort Worth campus this fall.

We also opened a portrait gallery of Tarleton’s past presidents and unveiled a life-size bronze of Maj. Gen. James Earl Rudder—American hero and Distinguished Alumnus, who later became Texas A&M University president and system chancellor.

The yearlong slate of activities celebrating our 100th anniversary as founding System member honored the people and programs responsible for creating one of the fastest growing universities in Texas.

Our $3.8 agricultural laboratory—part of the Agricultural Center on land purchased in 1917 by area residents to pave the way for Tarleton to join A&M —includes laboratories, classrooms, a computer lab, faculty offices and meeting spaces. With new funding approved by the legislature, Tarleton now plans to add a $10 million building at the Agricultural Center to replace those destroyed by tornado. The new facilities directly tie to our time-honored success in teaching agriculture.

Work on our $54.6 million engineering building, scheduled for completion next fall, will help us meet the need for highly skilled engineering professionals. The 97,800-square-foot building will provide space for programs now housed in several facilities and enable innovative teaching capabilities for engineering, computer science and engineering technology.

The $26.4 million renovation and expansion of Memorial Stadium will bring reoriented home stands, 2,000 added seats and improved amenities. Important to the university and the Stephenville community, the stadium honors the 179 Tarleton faculty, staff and students who died in World War II.

We witnessed a watershed moment in October when the Regents approved final construction plans for the first phase of Tarleton’s Fort Worth campus. Groundbreaking is set for February, with classes expected to begin in fall 2019. The future campus will stimulate job growth and improved quality of life in the region.

Thanks to Stephenville artist Mary Waters, pen-and-ink portraits of all 14 past Tarleton presidents are on permanent display on the second floor of the Administration Building. Each of them played a vital role in shaping Tarleton into the top-notch university it is today.

2017 wrapped up when James Earl Rudder returned to his beloved Tarleton this fall. A fitting end to a successful year. The life-size statue, created by Tarleton Distinguished Alumnus Mike Tabor and funded by System Regent Tony Buzbee, is the focal point of Rudder Way—formerly Vanderbilt Street on the university campus—and forever reminds us that those who enter our gates as students leave as leaders prepared to change our world for the better.

The Rudder event was part of the university’s overall utilities and infrastructure project that has reinvented Lillian and Vanderbilt streets on campus, while removing unsightly electric poles and solving drainage issues. While improving basic functions, the project enhances campus beauty.

Looking back over 2017, I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend.

A new year to remember awaits us.