Home of the Free, Because of the Brave
By Becky Stogner
When visiting with alumnus John Pace, Major US Army (Ret), two things are clear: retirement hasn’t meant slowing down, and he is as dedicated as ever to serving his country.
A glimpse of why he is still so busy in retirement emerges as Pace tells the story of Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait in 1989, halfway through his tour of Saudi Arabia. He brags on his wife Sharon, who along with the other wives and children being evacuated, loaded their three children on to a C-5 military aircraft unsure of what was to come. As the plane rose in the air, sixteen F-16’s surrounded the C-5, escorting it to safe airspace. “They took care of our families so we could take care of business. We take care of each other in the military – it’s what we do.”
Major Pace graduated from West Texas State University in 1973 with a BBA in Finance and spent two decades in the Army before returning to Amarillo in 1993 where he worked as an internal auditor for Potter County.
Now retired, Pace found another way to serve his fellow soldiers when a few years ago he joined a dedicated coalition known as Volleys for Veterans. This Amarillo-based organization was formed about a dozen years ago and provides uniformed volunteers from all branches of the US military to present honors at memorial services for our Nation’s Veterans. They are certified by the Air Force and Army to bestow military honors at funerals.
Present at over 400 funerals per year, Volleys for Veterans serves primarily in Amarillo and Canyon, but also throughout the Texas Panhandle. Their name stems from the Three Volley Salute – the shots fired at the end of a funeral or memorial service. The number in an Honor Guard varies based on availability but whether there is one gun or seven, three shots are fired, stemming from an old battlefield custom. Personnel killed in action, honorably discharged, or retired from the military are entitled to the honor. The three individual bullets fired from the rifle stand for duty, honor and country.
“We don’t do a lot of fundraising,” says Pace. “We prefer to use our time where we are needed – honoring the service and lives of our fellow soldiers.” That being said, they do have expenses, primarily flags and another set of rifles so they can be present at multiple services when needed. A gift of $35 provides a flag for a family. Other gifts are used to purchase and maintain the rifles which are $1,400-$1,600. If you would like to make a gift or learn more, visit VolleysforVeterans.com.
To Major Pace, the volunteers at Volleys for Veterans – and to all of the men and women who have served and continue to proudly serve, Thank You.
The Next Chapter in Alumni Engagement
By Becky Stogner
Buff Pride abounds and momentum continues as we strengthen our West Texas A&M University presence in the Texas Panhandle and beyond. In addition to multiple new alumni chapters in the Panhandle, we have renewed interest in Lubbock and New Mexico, as well as enthusiastic support from Chicago, Los Angeles and numerous points in between.
What is an alumni chapter? An alumni chapter serves as a link between the University and WT alumni in a community. They work to encourage support and communication, provide professional and casual networking opportunities for alumni, and work towards a common goal of supporting the university.
In Wellington, the alumni community has endowed a scholarship to benefit students from Wellington High School who will be attending WTAMU. Last week the Top of Texas Chapter, which incorporates Sherman, Dallam, Hansford, Hartley, Moore and Hutchinson counties, held its launch event in Dumas with 50 people in attendance. In Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Denver and other cities WT alumni get together to network, celebrate their time at WT and work together towards supporting their community. Amarillo has established Buffs Give Back, a group of WT alumni interested in volunteering as a group to serve the community.
Check out the Chapter map at buffalum.com under Alumni Groups to see if there is a chapter in your area. If there isn’t, contact us at email@example.com and let’s see if we can start one. Local leadership makes it happen and we’d love to support your efforts in sharing your pride in West Texas A&M University.
By Becky Stogner
For alumni Brandon Biggers and Chris Anderson, gaming is not just a pastime, it’s big business. As board members for Yellow City Comic Con (YC3), they work tirelessly to make each year’s YC3 event a family-friendly weekend filled with costume play (cosplay), celebrity panels, guests authors, artists and of course, plenty of gaming.
Self-proclaimed nerds, Biggers and Anderson are enjoying the mainstream appeal of the fantasy and superhero games that got them picked on as kids. “The guys producing the movies these days, they’re from our generation. They were the beat up, picked on and bullied nerds, but now, they’re creating these incredible stories. It’s brought that comic book realm out in the public and made it acceptable and awesome,” Anderson said.
Biggers echoed, “We could have introduced you to Marvel Comics thirty years ago. But now it’s something everyone is enjoying. Our generation struggled with that. That’s the beautiful thing we’re experiencing now: comic conventions aren’t just for nerds any more. They’re for everyone.”
Cosplay is a huge part of the event, bringing in the biggest crowds all weekend. Anderson explained, “Everyone wants to see the new and cool costumes that someone has spent the past year, and God only knows how much money, creating. These are kids in their workshop or garage creating screen quality work. They’re doing hair, makeup, props, costuming – and doing it all by themselves – and creating masterpieces that are spectacular.”
“Even more than that,” Biggers said, “It’s watching them step in to these characters and adopting a persona. It’s seeing them walk around and strike poses and have people asking them if they can take a picture and explain how they created it. One of my favorite things is seeing little kids follow these cosplayers around and getting so excited saying, ‘That’s Wolverine! That’s Spider Man!’ We’re taking all these things like comic books, anime, science fiction - and you’ve got people taking those things and making costumes and creating characters - it’s become an art form.”
While it is a full-time job to produce such an event, it’s not the one paying the bills. By day, Biggers, a 2008 graduate of the College of Education and Social Sciences, teaches eighth grade English at Fannin Middle School. By night, he spends hours editing copy, scheduling, building relationships in the gaming community, and speaking to potential sponsors about YC3.
Anderson, one of the co-founders of the YC3 event, is a 2016 graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. He works as a drafting and support engineer for Confluence Security Group, an international security consulting firm focusing on 3D modeling, threat assessment, camera analytics and more. His role with YC3 focuses on the logistics, like set up design and vendor assignment.
When you consider their jobs with YC3, the impact of their WT education is apparent. “WT definitely played in to our ability to create and grow YC3,” Biggers said. “When you look at the specific roles we have – as an English teacher, I am writing, editing and speaking. Chris as an engineer is dealing with logistics and design. It all ties back to the education and training we got in college. And applying it to our passion is great.”
These proud Buffs and their fellow board members, Travis Tidmore and Cody Seaton, have stayed true to their intention of creating a community-minded event and donate a portion of their proceeds to Children’s Miracle Network (CMN). They also host a fall gaming marathon, Extra Life, in support of CMN’s national fundraising campaign.
What started as a small event in a comic book shop a few years ago has grown to more than 5,000 attendees. This year’s celebrity guests include Nicholas Brendon, Dante Gasco, Sam J. Jones, Denise Crosby and Sean Gunn.
Yellow City Comic Con is coming to Amarillo this weekend for their fifth full scale convention.
Visit yellowcitycon.com for tickets and information.
5 – 10 p.m. Friday, May 10
10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, May 11
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday, May 12
WT to Honor 2019 Distinguished Alumni
It is our privilege to honor outstanding alumni whose personal accomplishments and professional achievements are a source of great pride for WT. This year's distinguished alumni honorees include four individuals who show endless possibilities to succeed. Surrounded by family and friends, the 2019 awardees will toast to each other’s accomplishments, shared philanthropy and fond college memories at the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Awards and 56th Annual Phoenix Banquet. Join us as we celebrate their successes and commend their long careers as ambassadors of WT.
6 p.m. l Saturday, May 4. l Jack B. Kelley Student Center, Legacy Hall, West Texas A&M University
Cocktail and dessert reception follows dinner and presentation l $50 per person l cocktail attire
R.S.V.P. by April 20 to the WT Alumni Association at (806) 651-2311
Mike Bain’90, earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences. He began working in book-keeping at First United Bank and later as a bank teller before becoming president, board member and shareholder - overseeing operations such as lending functions, personnel development, trade boards as well as community and customer relations. As a strong proponent of sports and devoted alumnus, Bain naturally became a longtime supporter of WT athletics. He insisted the teams have first-class training facilities and became a leading fundraiser for many Buff teams. Bain’s generosity is responsible for helping to create the Bain Event Center of the Agricultural Sciences Complex. He is involved with a variety of charitable organizations and a board member for the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences and the WTAMU Foundation Board.
Angelo McClain, ’79, earned a bachelor’s degree from WT in social work. Later, he earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas and a doctorate from Boston College, both in social work. Prior to WT, McClain attended Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch (CFBR) lettering as a tight end all four years and graduating as salutatorian of his senior class. He pursued a career in social work and was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick as commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, where he oversaw a budget of $850 million and workforce of 3,500 employees. In 2013, he was appointed as CEO of the National Association of Social Workers, which supports the social work profession in the U.S. with about 140,000 members worldwide. Ever loyal and committed to his associations, McClain was named a distinguished alumnus of CFBR in 2010 and the elected speaker for the college of education and social sciences at WT in 2017. He is a Phoenix Club Member of the WT Alumni Association.
Gail Powell’76, ’82, earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in education administration. She began her career as a principal in Amarillo before going to Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tenn. In 2007, she became executive director of High Hopes Development Center, a non-profit organization that serves children and youth with special needs. Powell led the organization from a small, underfunded operation to what today serves more than 900 children in 22 middle Tennessee counties with more than 80 employees. In addition to giving the organization financial stability, building new state of the art facilities and attaining regionally unparalleled status in its education and therapy, Powell is highly active in her community and was named the 2018 Darrel Waltrip Hometown Hero.
Dyke Rogers’70, earned a bachelor’s degree in business and economics. While at WT, he fulfilled a leadership role in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity that transformed his career trajectory by amplifying his business pursuits. Rogers is an entrepreneur and businessman involved in real estate, dental offices, security operations, travel centers, restaurants, and he is the owner of Frontier Fuel Co. A resident of Dalhart, he was instrumental in recruiting the Hilmar Cheese Factory to the area helping create many jobs and an economic boost in the Texas Panhandle. Ever a WT supporter, Rogers and his wife Terry made a $1 million endowment to the Rogers Leadership and Development (LEAD) program, and they are involved in philanthropic projects as well as business. He served on the Harrington Regional Medical Center, Amarillo Area Foundation, the WTAMU Foundation and currently, the Harrington Foundation Board.
Class Ring Columbo
By Lisa Insall Holcomb '93, '01
Your class ring is a financial investment and tangible recognition of hard work, perseverance and success. But what happens when a WT class ring is lost, then found?
An unexpected benefit of my job as the Alumni Relations Coordinator at the West Texas A&M University Alumni Association is indulging the part of me that always wanted to be a Private Eye. While our Director might frown on my wearing a trench coat to work, putting my feet on the desk, and keeping a flask in the drawer, I DO get to investigate cases on occasion.
Lost class ring cases, that is…
A West Texas State University class ring was sent to the office one morning. A child had found it on a Nebraska elementary school playground about twenty years ago. The ring was tossed in a box and forgotten about - until it was recently discovered again and mailed to us.
I accepted the case.
Clearly, it was a woman’s ring and showed she graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing. However, so did a lot of other women. Everyone in the office was enlisted to stare at the tiny initials engraved in script on the inside of the ring. Tiny script writing is the bane of my existence—the initials could have been LGN. It could have been LRN, or maybe LRW. The possibilities seemed almost endless and nothing matched what we had in our database, or for any graduates in that era… After numerous attempts at guessing initials, frustration began to set in until Amber, our Regional Coordinator, looked at the ring one final time, squinting through the magnifying glass we keep around for just such times. It was about 4:15, on a Friday afternoon, and Amber exclaimed, “Hey, what about L J N? Is there anything in the database under those initials?”
There was! Even better, the alumna had a Nebraska address in the history on her record. I Googled the name and got a hit on a medical clinic in Wichita Falls, Texas. I called the number, explained why I was calling and who I was looking for, and braced myself for “she used to work here but she moved to Neptune twelve years ago.”
Instead, the operator cheerfully put me through to our person of interest, who stated not only had she lost a WT class ring, but was able to describe it and identify the school where it was found at—because it had been her children’s elementary school.
The class ring and a Buffalum t-shirt are now making their way through the United States Postal Service back to Lenora Nepper!
Case Closed. More than twenty years in the making.
Cold Case #2…
Another case began about a year ago, when a gentleman who worked for the City of Canyon asked for assistance with a 1974 class ring he’d found in the sewer. It had been found tangled in a mass of brush, debris and gunk, but the engraving on this ring was clear and in simple block letters: G A H. The degree was a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, and the owner was a member of the Alpha Chi honor society. It seemed easy enough.
We quickly found a likely candidate in our database and the finder of the ring spent a year trying to contact him. When the possible owner finally realized that the repeated calls about a West Texas State University class ring were not a scam, he advised that not only did he still have his WT class ring, he was currently wearing it. Foiled again.
The City of Canyon employee left the ring at the Alumni Association on a Wednesday morning in February, having decided he was tired of dealing with it. And so it began: we went through the database. We looked at yearbooks. We stared at the ring. I messaged the National Honor Society, and was told that they did not keep records of inductees.
The Cornette Library Archives department suggested that the WT Registrar had commencement programs from past years. I looked through ten years of graduates with a BBA and found only one other possibility: G Hodges. A database check revealed that Mr. Hodges had passed away a few years ago, but an online obituary listed a wife and children. Fate intervened and with the help of a little harmless Facebook ‘stalking’ I realized we had a mutual friend who I quickly messaged. But even before I got an answer, I reread the obituary and realized that Mr. Hodges’ service was held at the First Baptist Church of Amarillo.
I called the church and shared my problem with the secretary, named who I was seeking and explained why. The beauty of the Texas Panhandle was encapsulated into one statement for me when the secretary responded, “That’s my friend!” She provided contact information and within 15 minutes I received a return call, got confirmation that this was Mr. Hodges’ ring, and was filling out an address to return the item to his family.
Stay tuned for more stories – there’s another ring in my desk I’m working on right now!
If you would like to purchase a class ring for West Texas A&M University OR West Texas State University, visit the Alumni Association on campus at Buffalo Courts Alumni Center or online at wtamu.edu/classring.
Music as Artistic Medicine
WT alumnus Tambuwan provides own therapy at Johns Hopkins
By Jon Mark Beilue
When Miseal Tambuwan brings his keyboard into a patient’s room or sits down for a few songs for a staff of nurses and doctors at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, it can take him back to a time some 1,600 miles away at West Texas A&M University.
It was there the music composition student from Indonesia played for senior living adults at the Craig in Amarillo and at two or three other assisted living centers.
“That’s one of the reasons I applied for this job,” Tambuwan said. “What I found is playing this music is soothing for me too. And from the audience feedback I got then and get now, it’s hard to get that kind anywhere else.”
Tambuwan’s musical journey has taken him to places he may never imagined when growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia’s largest city with a population of three million. But the pursuit and love of music has taken him halfway around the world to Canyon, Texas, and from there to the East Coast and even into hospital patient rooms.
It is not a straight line from Indonesia to West Texas A&M University, but for Tambuwan, it wasn’t all that crooked either. WTAMU had an education fair in Jakarta, where the University promoted a scholarship program for international music students.
That piqued Tambuwan’s interest, and he auditioned for the piano scholarship in Kenya. When he got word that the scholarship was his, Tambuwan headed 15,650 miles to Canyon.
“It just wasn’t culture shock,” he said, “but an incredible shock.”
But Tambuwan persevered. He graduated in May 2017 with a degree in music composition and a minor in piano performance. His junior year he studied abroad in the Georgia Republic and in Italy.
But at WTAMU, he immersed himself into his music and American/Texas culture. Tambuwan learned the finer qualities of Whataburger dining. Fluent now in English, he described his grasp of the language at “5 percent” when he arrived in the fall of 2012.
But he also took advantage of almost any music opportunity that came his way. In class, he was guided by professors Dr. Benjamin Brooks and Dr. Choong-la Nam.
“WT has a very well maintained syllabus and curriculum. The teachers are very helpful and professional and the opportunities are always there,” Tambuwan said.
He played with the WTAMU jazz band and pop ensemble. He entertained at senior living centers in Amarillo and Canyon. Workshops, concerts and recitals, Tambuwan was seemingly everywhere. He was appointed Amarillo College’s music director for their musicals in the spring of 2017.
“A fantastic experience,” he said.
With that undergraduate background, he was accepted into the Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he will get his masters in music composition in May 2019.
Like at WTAMU, Tambuwan was looking for opportunities and ways to stretch himself and his music. He found it when, out of 10 who applied, Tambuwan was one of two selected for a pilot program, Musicians on Call.
It is one of several initiatives at the Center for Music and Medicine at Johns Hopkins, a collaboration between the Peabody Institute and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Tambuwan and oboist Sophia Lou play separately for patients in their rooms. It’s music therapy where studies have shown music can aid emotionally and even physically in recovery.
“We have received very positive response,” said Dr. Sarah Hoover, co-director of the Center for Music and Medicine. “We’ve seen a number of different ways in which people express their appreciation. In feedback, we get comments like, ‘Thank you!’ ‘Please Come Back!’ and ‘My Favorite Time Of The Week Is When You Are Here!’”
Tambuwan plays for patients and occasionally for staff in the comprehensive transplant and in-patient maternity units. He moves his keyboard to rooms of patients who request his music. He does this two to three times a week, and three to four hours at a time.
He will bring his keyboard into rooms for as few as eight to 10 on a shift and as many as 30 to 35. Tambuwan will play three to four songs, often requests.
Though trained as a classical musician, he must play genres that include jazz, pop, blues, Christian and gospel. This time of the year, he better be ready for Christmas and holiday music.
“My range is from Bach to Lady Gaga,” he said. “Only one or two times can I not fill a request, and that’s usually something super old from the 1950s and 1960s.”
Tambuwan knows when he enters a room that his time there is to spread a brief respite of happiness in what can sometimes be a gloomy time.
“I like to clear their mind from their anxiety and nerves,” he said. “If I can get them to relax, enjoy the moment and the music, then I have succeeded.”
One woman in the maternity unit began to grill Tambuwan on his musical background. She said she was a former conservatory student, too, in New York. Tambuwan engaged her about her talents, when she sang and if she sang professionally.
“I have to go to another patient’s room,” Tambuwan told her, “but when I come back, tell me what you want me to sing and I’ll play it for you.”
She mentioned some music by Puccini. She was skeptical that Tambuwan could play it, but when he returned, play it he did. The woman, on extended bed rest, got on her feet, and stepped into the hallway to sing. Patients in the hallway clapped loudly.
“Now that’s an extreme example,” Hoover said, “but a patient was so engaged and motivated by music that she reconnected with a part of who she is. We’re really finding on anecdotal and small levels that this offers folks the opportunity to connect with something beyond what happened to them or reconnect them to an important part of their lives.”
For Tambuwan, whose skills were sharpened at WTAMU, he brings to the Musicians on Call program performance experience and a composer’s mind. He has high artistic standards that are not sacrificed because of the environment. And he brings a personality that combines with a passion.
“Misael is communicative and warm,” Hoover said. “He’s funny, personable and very disarming. That quality of disarming really helps. He comes into an environment that’s maybe fearful and distrustful, maybe lonely, and he comes in like a big ball of sunshine and that really really helps.”
WTAMU students and alumnus take on 12-day documentary production in Israel
By Jon Mark Beilue
If Randy Ray could wave some kind of magical educational wand, the associate lecturer and director of broadcast engineering at West Texas A&M University would have every WTAMU student travel abroad, and if possible, study abroad.
A couple of years ago, he took some students to England following a course he taught on the Beatles, and the effect the legendary musicians had on our culture. Now, beginning Sunday, he, four students, two other faculty members and a small entourage will spend 12 days in Israel.
“A lot of kids raised in the bubble of the Texas Panhandle think this kind of environment is everywhere, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s a unique culture here, and sometimes you have to get away to see that.
“There’s a great quote from Mark Twain – and I’m paraphrasing – but ‘travel is the death of close-mindedness.’ And that’s kind of cool.”
Some minds and eyes are likely to be opened as Ray and his students will be on a working vacation through Nov. 29, or certainly a different work environment in their continued collaboration with the non-profit organization, Texans for Israel.
“We’re going there to work,” he said. “Yes, it’s great to be in Israel, and it’s a fantastic opportunity, but we’ll be working all the time. Shooting a film is not easy work. We’ll be lugging gear and taking it to unfriendly places.
“While everyone else is having fun, we’ll be editing and dumping footage and other stuff. Yes, it’s a blessing to go and a great opportunity for the students and me, but it’s still work.”
What communication graduate students Dane Glenn and Keith Augustine, agriculture graduate student Mandy Boychuck and undergraduate student Kaycee Timm will be charged with is producing a travel journey video for Texans for Israel.
To put it another way, it’s a documentary on what 12 days in Israel is like for some first-time travelers – which includes WTAMU President Walter Wendler and wife Mary -- to a country that is both the Holy Land and one in the vice grip of security because of its warring Arab neighbors.
“Aside from this, which is really a trip of a lifetime,” Glenn said, “this is really helping me in the whole production phase of video making. There is a documentary portion to it. This has helped me plan a whole lot better and taught me the ins-and-outs. It’s opened my eyes to how involved and how much more complex video making is.”
The 25-to-30-minute video, which will be available for public viewing Dec. 13 at Bar Z Winery, will be used by Texans for Israel in their educational and promotional events. While there, the students will work with Nashville producer David Kern, who has his own well-received movie on the country, “I Am Israel.”
“I have friends who I’ve loved dearly for 20 years that say I’d sure like to go to Israel, but they’re either scared or think it’s too expensive,” said Mike Isley, founder of Texans for Israel and a former WT Foundation board member. “We want to make a beautiful documentary of what it’s like from the time you leave Amarillo to the time you set foot in Tel Aviv and all the things you do for 12 days.
“We’re going to meet some cool people and do some cool things, and so these students are going to document this, and we’ll use it to show that this is how a trip to Israel works, this is how much fun we had. It will be kind of a mini-movie to help people get over being afraid to go to Israel, and get it off your bucket list.”
Isley is from Amarillo, and from the time he was a boy, said he always had Jewish friends. He felt a connection. While in college in the 1970s, some friends of his went to Israel after the Six-Day War. When they returned, they told Isley that he had to one day go.
He did, in 1980, as part of Trinity Fellowship Church’s first trip to the Holy Land. That only fueled his desire to support that country which was endangered on all sides in the volatile Middle East.
“I have this thing about loving Israel,” Isley said.
Through what may be now 25 trips to Israel, Isley developed a network of influential friends in the country. He joined a national organization, Christians United For Israel, but other things in his life limited his time.
Then about 10 years ago, he and some others began work to start a non-profit, Texans for Israel. It has clicked for Isley.
“What I found out is there are many people who feel like I do,” he said. “I’m a Texan, and Israelis love Texans.”
The purpose of the organization is to support Israel and its people, take an active role in building Jewish communities, invest in the expansion of Israeli agriculture and connect Christians to the Holy Land.
Isley and Ray met a couple of years ago through Ray’s cousin, a friend of Isley’s. Based on what each did, they thought there could be a mutual professional relationship. Isley needed some media and marketing help, and Ray’s graduate communications class was looking for a client.
This fall semester, Ray’s students have assisted in building Texans for Israel’s social media presence, podcasts, event planning and marketing.
“Every Monday night, we’ve done a podcast, and I never thought I’d be doing a podcast,” Isley said. “They have some students who are brilliant with social media. We did a little, but they ratcheted it up so we weren’t an embarrassment.”
While there is work, there will also be time to take advantage of where they are beyond the Holy Land sites. They will ride horses on the beach along the Sea of Galilee, have dinner with Holocaust survivors, and spend time with the head of the Israeli Defense Forces, sort of the country’s Homeland Security.
But they won’t be taking their eye off the ball – which is the production of the documentary.
“We absolutely love what they’re doing in the school of communication,” Isley said. “They’ve made us better and I’d like to think we’ve made them better. It’s been a win-win.”
Do you know of a student, faculty member, project, an alumnus or any other story idea for “WT: The Heart and Soul of the Texas Panhandle?” If so, email Jon Mark Beilue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WTAMU Student Turns Shipping Containers Into Apartments
By Jon Mark Beilue
Enrique Munoz got to know Remmington Holt last year in a Spanish class at West Texas A&M University. Holt is in his 30s. With age often comes wisdom, but also some risk-taking.
“One day in class, he said, ‘Man, I got this wild idea,’” said Munoz. “And I said, ‘What’s that?’ And he said, ‘People are going to think I’m crazy.’”
In Spanish class, that would be loco. When Holt told him his wild idea, Munoz was not one of those people. In fact, he loved it.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Munoz said. “I said, ‘How can I help you?’”
A year later, Holt is the owner, and Munoz the manager of Buffs Boarding Bungalows and RV Park. Located off Farm to Market Road 2219 on Ute Trail about halfway between Canyon and Amarillo, this isn’t your traditional RV park.
On the 10 acres Holt bought last December, of which five acres are currently developed, are three shipping containers. These shipping containers have been converted into 320-square feet of apartment living. It’s catered to WT students, particularly those who are ag students and may have horses.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around it until you see it,” Holt said.
That it is. Then you step inside of one of Holt’s shipping-containers-turned-apartments, and, well, it’s an amazing transformation.
“You tell someone it’s shipping container living, and they say, ‘That sounds terrible,’” Holt said. “Then they see it and there’s not one negative thing to say.”
At Buff Bungalows, things are just now getting going. Holt had 10 available spots – seven for RVs, and three for converted containers. There are three RV tenants, and as of Thursday, all three containers will have renters with two expected to move in and sign a lease by the first of November.
“There’s way more room in one than any camper,” said Munoz, an ag education major from San Angelo, who lives in a camper on site. “It’s pretty cool. I’d live in one definitely.”
Holt purchases the containers, which are 8 feet by 40 feet, from Xcalibur Containers out of Graham, Texas, 60 miles south of Wichita Falls. Xcalibur adds a door and windows to Holt’s specification, and then, he takes it from there.
Step through the door and to the left, behind a sliding rustic barn-style door, is a bathroom with vanity and glassed-in shower. It’s not compact.
“I’m a big guy,” Holt said, “and there’s nothing worse than being in an RV and not being able to turn around in the bathroom.”
Outside the bathroom is the kitchen portion with a refrigerator, stove/oven, sink, nice countertops and ample cabinets. On the opposite wall is a narrow wooden built-in table and two stools.
A few feet beyond is a built-in couch with a smart TV on the wall with free Wi-Fi and Netflix. Then in the far end is the bedroom with a full-sized bed frame with baskets and hanging rods for clothes.
The flooring is the original, similar to an outside deck, but painted. As for heating/cooling, there’s a unit just above the couch, a multi-split variable speed heating/cooling unit that Holt said is big in Europe. It’s operated by a remote and quiet.
“Everything is furnished except for a mattress,” Holt said. “We try to accommodate everybody. The biggest thing we keep hearing is how roomy it is.”
The units are $650 a month, plus electricity, which Holt said should be modest. There’s a free laundromat. The park is gated with security cameras.
Where does someone get the idea to turn shipping containers into living quarters? Offices, yes, they’ve been turned into offices, but apartments?
“Everybody laughs,” Holt said, “but Pinterest.”
But Holt has a vision – based on two major developments at WT that he believes will make for more ag students and demand for rural accommodations. The first was the announcement in November 2017 of the largest gift in WT’s 107-year history—$1 million annually for at least the next 80 years from the Paul F. and Virginia J. Engler Foundation earmarked for the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, and Business, which both now bear the Engler name.
The second was the opening this past September of the $48 million Agricultural Sciences Complex, more than 150,000 square feet of classrooms and research areas that should be a draw to ag students across a multi-state region as well as Texas.
“I thought, ‘Man, I think the equine program is really going to grow at WT,’” Holt said. “There should be a demand for a place to keep your horses and then be right next to them as well.”
So, in addition to Buff Bungalows, on the same property will be 16 stalls for horses. Four of them are completed.
Holt, a native of Plainview, is not a typical third-year student in plant, soil and environmental sciences. He is full of life experiences. He was in the Navy for five years and was an inspector at Bell Helicopter for eight.
Currently, he’s a licensed irrigator and owns a landscaping company, Amarillo Land Services. Wife Haley, a WT graduate, is an Amarillo elementary school teacher. They have known the pain of losing a son, but have two daughters, Quiersten, 7, and Saylor, 14 months.
Taking 13 semester hours, owning a landscaping business and keeping an eye on Buff Bungalows, he’d like to have more than 24 hours in a day.
“It’s been a lot of work because we’re trying to do this the right way,” Holt said, “but so far, I’m tickled.”
As Munoz said, “It will change the way you look at living accommodations. It’s quiet, and it’s in the country. But it’s halfway between Amarillo and Canyon. We’re eight minutes from campus and eight minutes from Whataburger. You can’t beat that.”
Do you know of a student, faculty member, project, an alumnus or any other story idea for “WT: The Heart and Soul of the Texas Panhandle?” If so, email Jon Mark Beilue at email@example.com.
To see more Jon Mark Beilue's columns, visit wtamu.edu/beilue.
From WT to the NFL - Q&A with alumnus Seth Gillitzer '17
By Brittany Castillo '14
Far left: Alumnus Seth Gillitzer; Middle top: Seth Gillitzer, Mick Gillitzer (dad), Ben Gillitzer (brother); Middle bottom: Adrian Peterson (Former NFL MVP) and Seth Gillitzer; Far right: Seth Gillitzer, Catherine Chan-Smith, (Coordinating Senior Producer), Willie McGinest (3-Time Super Bowl Champion), Rose Garcia (Senior Talent Producer) and Amanda Carey (Associate Producer).
Football is in full swing for WTAMU -- and for Gillitzer, who is going into his third year working for the National Football League.
What do you do for the NFL?
So my main responsibility at the NFL is social media broadcast integration. Which is a fancy way of saying I help curate relevant social media content and help tell a social media story on a broadcast platform. Last season I was very involved as the lead social producer on our #NFLBlitz Twitter livestream show which was broadcasted live directed from our @NFL twitter handle. This year I'm even more involved with our marquee digital show which is another Twitter livestream show broadcasted live from the @NFL twitter account every Thursday and Sunday during the season 7:45-8:15 ET. From starting as an intern back in April of 2016 to present day, working for the NFL has been such a blessing in so many ways.
What are some highlights of the job?
Being on the sidelines during the last two Super Bowls, as well as producing Pro Football Hall of Famers and A-list celebrity guests on a consistent basis are only a couple of the many reasons why I'm so grateful for this opportunity and what drives me to stay hungry for more opportunities in the future. One thing I love more than anything are the people I get to work with on a day to day basis. Yes, that might include names like Michael Irvin, Kurt Warner, etc. but there are so many people like me behind the scenes that help make the NFL Media Group so successful and they deserve all the recognition in the world.
How did you score an opportunity like this?
As crazy as it sounds, I actually found out about that internship by just googling "NFL internships" in the spring of my junior year. I just blindly applied to a job that sounded way too good to be true without knowing anyone, and after an extensive interview process I got the gig! To me, this just proves that nothing's ever completely out of reach, and if you're thinking about doing something or applying to your dream job, do it. I've found that having your mind set on an end-goal in this industry isn't always the best strategy. Instead, I strive to do the best, and to be the best on a daily basis and let that take me wherever it does.
Final season to Celebrate Kimbrough.
Buffalo Bowl and Kimbrough Memorial Stadium
This will be the final year WT competes in Kimbrough Memorial Stadium, as we will be moving to the new Buffalo Stadium in Fall 2019. As part of a season-long celebration of our 60-year history in Kimbrough, we will honor and recognize the teams and coaches who competed for the Buffs and created lasting memories for fans.
A different era of teams will be recognized each game, as outlined below. We will start with the most recent era for Game 1 and move backwards, so that the last group honored will be the teams that played the first decade in the old Buffalo Bowl:
SEPTEMBER 8, 2018: WT VS. OKLAHOMA PANHANDLE STATE, 6 PM
Coaching staff and players of Head Coaches Hughes, Nesbitt, & Carthel
SEPTEMBER 15, 2018: WT VS. TARLETON STATE, 6 PM
Coaching staff and players of Head Coaches Jones, McGarvey, Stone, & Steele
OCTOBER 6, 2018: WT VS. UT-PERMIAN BASIN, 6 PM (HOMECOMING)
Coaching staff and players of Head Coaches Graf & Kelly
OCTOBER 20, 2018: WT VS. EASTERN NEW MEXICO, 6 PM (WAGON WHEEL GAME)
Coaching staff and players of Head Coaches Davis, Yung, & Mayfield
NOVEMBER 3, 2018: WT VS. TEXAS A&M-KINGSVILLE, 6 PM
Coaching staff and players of Head Coaches Kerbel & Jarnagin
We invite you to come make a final walk up Kimbrough's infamous hill to watch the Buffs, and join in celebrating the rich history and memories you made in Kimbrough Memorial Stadium.
Were you one of the brave who slid down the hill on a cafeteria tray? Did you entertain the masses as part of the WT band? We'd love to hear and encourage you to share your favorite Kimbrough memories with an update at maroonconnect.com.
Delivery! One of DFW's top startups is coming to Amarillo
By Brittany Castillo '14
In a time of modern conveniences, shipping services have transformed the shopping industry. Widely used companies like Grubhub and Amazon have become household names, and WT’s very own Doneric Norwood ‘01, ’03, co-founder of MenuRunners, has paced alongside the best of them and even ranked No. 14 in The 20 Hottest Startups in DFW.
Launched in 2016, MenuRunners is an on-demand online ordering service specializing in food and item delivery to 12 mid-size markets for urban communities. The innovative company employs more than 300 drivers, dispatchers, managers and sales representatives and is quickly growing to reach other communities.
“People in business focus on big cities and dump money into that area, and Dallas is a huge melting pot of relocated people so everyone’s looking for the best deal. The key to our success is to focus on the communities like Amarillo and Abilene – those with mom and pop shops outside the cities,” Norwood said. “With a company, a community can buy-in together or push them out. It’s important to focus on the local groups.”
Norwood was working in medical sales when he realized that nearly half his work time was spent delivering medical supplies, and he needed more time for selling and pitching. He and his business partner Max Whitemyer met to strategize the first development team, seek potential investors and establish key partnerships. With a $10,000 initial investment, they finished two years of business with over $5 million in sales and serving 25 communities.
“We’re very excited to be expanding to Amarillo next month,” Norwood said. “I’m originally from Fort Worth, but Amarillo takes me back to my time at WT, where I really grew up. I’d met my mentor, Dr. Leigh Browning, who helped me overcome my testing anxiety and a small voice that told me I was best suited for trade school. I learned to be open-minded, and my confidence grew when I realized nothing could hold me back. WT plays a huge part in who I am and where I am today. I love what I get to do.”
To learn more about MenuRunners services and promotions with the Amarillo launch in August 20, 2018, download the mobile application or go to menurunnrs.com.
Work from the PPHM collection is displayed at NATO Ambassador's residence
By Brittany Castillo '14
PPHM's Michael Grauer with Kay Bailey Hutchison and Prickly Pear
A painting from the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is the first thing visitors to Truman Hall, the residence of the United States Ambassador to NATO, see when they walk in the door.
Prickly Pear, by Dawson Dawson-Watson and three other pieces of art from the PPHM collection were recently sent to Belgium at the request of Kay Bailey Hutchison, former congresswoman and senator, and now the 22nd United States Permanent Representative to NATO. Other pieces requested by Hutchison include Harold Dow Bugbee’s Moving the Wagon, L.O. Griffith’s Cows in the Milkweed, and Verbena (Morning) by Jose Arpa y Perea.
Michael R. Grauer, associate director for curatorial affairs, curator of art and western heritage and instructor of art history at West Texas A&M University, was on hand at Truman Hall, at the behest of Ambassador Hutchison, to discuss the paintings with her fellow ambassadors.
“I wore my Texas flag tie and cowboy boots – Tony Lamas – and people practically lined up to take pictures with me,” Grauer said. “Texas holds a special place in the European imagination. There was a real receptivity to art and culture from our part of the world.”
“I am proud I could bring a little bit of Texas to Brussels and introduce our European allies and friends to the beauty of Texas and America,” the Ambassador said. “This State Department’s Art in Embassies program has gained accolades for sharing American culture and art throughout the world.”
PPHM’s contribution to the Truman Hall exhibition is the latest example of a partnership between the museum and Art in Embassies that dates from the administration of President Bill Clinton.
Paintings from PPHM have been displayed in the US Embassy to the Holy See in Rome, as well as embassies in Canada, Sweden, Japan, Kyrgyzstan. Botswana and many others,” Grauer said.
Additionally, PPHM loaned Frank Reaugh’s The Approaching Herd to hang in President George W. Bush’s private office in The White House. Ralph A. Blakelock’s Autumn Landscape, Jasper Cropsey’s The Susquehanna River, and George Inness’s Autumn Oaks hung in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s office and the office of his successor, Condoleeza Rice.
Pieces from the Dallas Museum of Art, the El Paso Museum of Art and the Witte Museum are also included in the current impressionist exhibit at Truman Hall, which was named in honor of President Harry S. Truman, one of the creators of NATO.
Located on the campus of West Texas A&M University, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is the largest history museum in Texas, with more than 285,000 square feet—and over two million artifacts—dedicated to preserving this area’s past. PPHM offers visitors a chance to step into panhandle history with special exhibits, a permanent collection, Pioneer Town, cell phone tours, educational tours and special events. For more information about PPHM please visit www.panhandleplains.org.
WT Alumnus leads fast-growing marketing agency in Lubbock
By Brittany Castillo '14
WT Alumnus Kade Wilcox
In less than seven years, they turned a “hobby” into a full-blown business. One that raked in millions of dollars in revenue last year.
Primitive Social is drawing big attention to downtown Lubbock. In 2011, the inbound marketing agency began as a way for WT Alumnus Kade Wilcox ’07 and his wife Lacey to supplement their income with social media projects. Now, the agency has more than 35 full-time employees specializing in branding, website design and development social media and inbound marketing.
“It began when my wife started an online mom-blog that developed quite a readership,” Wilcox said. “We noticed how some people were able to build a huge online platform by creating content, and we decided to see if businesses would let us manage their social media pages to build their platforms. We picked up a client, work hard to bring them value, and learned as we went.”
For the next two years, the pair accumulated more clients offering social media management. It was not until speaking with a supporter that Wilcox recognized the need to formalize as a marketing agency that offered more online services.
“I was talking with a friend who referred to what we were doing as a hobby, and the light bulb went off,” Wilcox said. “We decided that we wanted to really focus on turning our hobby into a real company, so we started setting sales goals and focusing on building our team and organization. So we began the second phase of our business, and in under three years, we went from two team members to over 30 this year.”
Primitive Social’s clients span different industries including finance, healthcare, real estate and larger service companies. Each client’s need is determined individually.
“Most companies need website design, software development, inbound marketing, social media, SEO support, or management,” Wilcox said. “Some need it all, some only need one, but for all clients, we determine together what they are trying to accomplish. Then, we build a digital solution around achieving that goal. Most our clients are with us long-term so we get to work with them to meet their goals.”
Prior to starting Primitive Social, Wilcox graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and ran a church camp for nearly four years. In that time, he noticed his knack for building teams and discovered his entrepreneurial skill set. He and wife Lacey welcomed their firstborn Selah Rae and began building Primitive Social.
“I feel I’m using the skill set God gave me because I love the challenges, the long hours and collaborating with our team,” Wilcox said. "I work with a remarkable group that is really committed to serving our clients. We love our work and are really excited about the future.”
Former WT Student Body President helps lead businesswomen in Southeast Asia
By Brittany Castillo '14
WT Alumna Brandy Roberts with Timor women.
She was a student body president that led food drives and rallied behind poverty awareness. Now as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she’s empowering a country’s non-profit organizations and increasing awareness of healthy practices.
WT Alumnus Brandy Roberts applied for the Peace Corps hopeful but without expectations. At only a 33% acceptance rate, the Peace Corps is the nation’s leading abroad opportunity for total cultural immersion in a foreign country while addressing global issues alongside local leaders.
For the first three months, volunteers undergo Peace Corps training that includes language, cultural and technical training. Then, volunteers are placed in their permanent sites and spend three months integrating without leaving the site. The following 24 months are spent doing a needs assessment conducted by the volunteers and local community leaders.
Roberts was welcomed as a volunteer in April 2016 and committed to 27 months in Timor, an island in Southeast Asia. She is part of only the second group to enter Timor.
“I help teach English on Fridays and sanitation to kids on Thursdays. I drew snake looking germs to show them why it’s important to wash your hands, and we learned a song to go along with it. The kids are very smart,” Roberts said. “But the reality is that no one would keep teaching about healthy living unless I included a local counterpart in my training. Now, I’m focused on building a system that empowers the community to continue educating about healthy habits and I believe the kids will lead the way.”
Prior to the Peace Corps, Roberts worked in public relations at High Plains Public Radio and served as an intern for Congressman Thornberry. In 2013, she graduated with a B.B.A. in Business Management with aspirations for a career in International Development. Roberts now lives with her host family 30 miles outside the capital city of Dili and attributes their support to enabling her to invest in the evolution of the new country and embrace personal challenges.
“When you’re out of your element, you define yourself by your values, standards, and needs for survival. But my experience has been peeling away the pieces of my own culture to truly learn and adopt the best parts of a new one. This culture is very much about sharing and never wasting a moment on sadness or anger,” Roberts said. “I’ve learned you have to let go of what you think is important to discover what’s even more important.”
You can follow Brandy’s Peace Corps experience on Instagram @blroberts2
WT Alumnus brings Brazil to Texas
By Brittany Castillo '14
Bruno Paoliello WT Alumnus and owner of StiX restaurant.
Bruno Paoliello first visited the states as a high school student from Brazil in 2002. He lived with a host family in Louisiana, who fortunately for him enjoyed rodeo competitions, too. After an impactful experience, he returned home with intention of studying animal science but soon received an opportunity to attend West Texas A&M University.
Two degrees later, he remains in Canyon but now with even more Brazilian flair. He and wife Ranee opened StiX, a restaurant across from campus inspired by Brazilian cuisine, in 2017.
Similar to the Texas Panhandle, the southern region of Brazil is populated with many cattle ranches. Therefore, most of the food options usually include various meats conveniently served on skewers.
“We serve all our meat on a stick except the Picanha, a popular Brazilian steak, is on a plate. That’s to Brazil what ribeye is to Texas,” Paoliello said. “Most people hear ‘meat on a stick’ and think of fair food, but this is much different and healthier. We cook everything on a grill outside, which gives it incredible flavor and adds minimal fat.”
Previously, Paoliello was working in the animal science industry when Ranee first opened the StiX food truck in Amarillo in September. But after a particularly rainy season, they decided to move operations to a permanent location in Canyon, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business in 2007 and master’s degree in business in 2009 from WTAMU.
“We thought near the University would be a great location because students would be able to grab a meal on the go. It’s very convenient,” Paoliello said. “We kept WTAMU in mind in our operations. We buy meat from their meat lab and offer specials like $1 off combo meals for students, staff and faculty.”
Offering steak, chicken, sausage, and sides like corn, potato, fruit and salad, StiX is open 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday thru Saturday.
“It’s doing really well,” Paoliello said. “More students are coming in and it seems like every week we see new faces. It’s exciting to see it grow and people enjoying trying something new.”
WT Alumna leads survey research at foundation in NYC
By Brittany Castillo '14
Natalie Jackson (second from right) serving on an election panel at Rutgers University in October 2016.
Natalie Jackson sat in her social science class at West Texas A&M University reveling in the subject but unsure of where her interests in statistics and human behavior might lead. Ten years later, she’d long left Canyon and was a data scientist in the biggest city in the country.
“My current position is not political at all, we’re working for everybody. When I studied political science at WT, politics was an interest I had but I didn’t know what I was going to do with that degree. That’s what led me to grad school. I saw all the interesting things you can do with data, numbers, in trying to solve puzzles about human behavior,” Jackson said.
She graduated from WT in 2005 and pursued graduate studies before earning a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Oklahoma, where she became an instructor and specialist for survey methodology. She was a postdoctoral associate at Duke University and then a senior analyst and instructor at Marist College. In 2014, she was hired by the Huffington Post as the senior polling editor for the 2016 election cycle, and last year, she was hired as the managing director of polling for JUST Capital in New York.
Founded in 2014, JUST is a nonprofit organization created to change the relationship between the public and corporate America by researching consumer and business interests. The group is driven by advanced polling and market research to track how companies perform on things that matter most to them and mainly, to direct capital toward advancing a more just future.
“We want to put data in people’s hands so they can make educated decisions about companies they want to associate with either through buying products or applying for employment. Whether it’s paying workers fairly or being good citizens by protecting the environment, JUST Capital exists to figure out what Americans think are the most important contributions that companies can make to society,” Jackson said.
The research team has surveyed over 70,000 members of the American public to participate in polls and interviews. Each December, JUST releases its annual rankings of the 1,000 largest companies in Forbes Magazine, rating companies on how they compare to the public’s definition of just business behavior.
“We work with really well-known survey providers, and we do random samples of the entire American population including different types of people with different incomes, in rural and urban. We’re trying to give people a voice by making sure everybody is represented,” Jackson said.
Similar to her previous experiences, Jackson is communicating research conducted through poll taking. However, unlike at the Huffington Post, she is executing the research herself in a nonpartisan environment.
“My career so far has been driven by where I think the interesting questions are. I like challenges, and as you can imagine trying to get opinions from people about corporate America can be difficult but a fascinating puzzle,” Jackson said. “I always really enjoyed the idea of creating new knowledge, and I think that’s the direction I’ll keep going.”
You can learn more about JUST Capital and review rankings at justcapital.com
WT Alumnus begins third year as MLB trainer
with the New York Yankees
By Brittany Castillo '14
AJ and a classmate tending to sports injuries in an athletic training course at WTAMU in April 2011.
As a college student, A.J. Cano could not believe athletic training was a profession, let alone an accredited program at West Texas A&M University. He became an active student leader and after graduating, seized an opportunity to work in Minor League Baseball.
He soon found himself on a field with the New York Yankees and was even named the 2017 Athletic Trainer of the Year of the Gulf Coast League by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. Cano is now beginning his third year with the rookie affiliate team.
“After graduation, I pursued a graduate assistantship with a football team and then received an opportunity to intern with the Boston Red Sox. I’ve always wanted to work with baseball, but it never fit into with my academic schedule. I couldn’t pass up the chance to work with my favorite sport, and it turned out to be the best step,” Cano said.
Initially, Cano intended to earn his state licensure and national certification to qualify him as a trainer in San Antonio someday. Those aspirations developed after a football injury in high school, where there was not an athletic trainer to assess the damage. He gained a deeper appreciation for preventative care that led to huge opportunities in professional baseball.
Each of the 30 professional baseball teams can have up to nine affiliate teams in various locations. Cano was placed in the Dominican Republic for the Golf Coast League, where he worked with rookie teams including the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2016, he was offered a job to work with the New York Yankees and relocated to Tampa, Fla.
“My first year with the Yankees was learning everybody. The second year was using that knowledge to care for them. I primarily support the Yankees, but as an athletic trainer, my heart is to be a servant to both teams and the coaches. When teams come to the Yankees, they’re going to get the best treatment possible,” Cano said.
At WT, Cano was awarded Best Newcomer Athletic Training Student, Most Outstanding AT Student, Tracy Grand Memorial Athletic Training Student of the Year and recipient of several scholarships including the first-ever Ryan Strong Memorial Scholarship in 2012. He was president of the Athletic Training Student Association and graduated with a B.S. in both athletic training and sports and exercise sciences in 2013.
“I grew up in Perryton, population 8,000. Spent my whole life in the Texas Panhandle and now, I’m getting to live and work in a different countries all thanks to Lorna S. Strong and the WT Athletic Training Program,” Cano said.
Strong is director of the athletic training program and department head of sports and exercise sciences at WT. She was also Cano’s academic adviser and remains one of his biggest supporters.
“A trainer is behind the scenes and has a servant’s heart, A.J. optimizes that,” Strong said. “He was a quality student, who applied what he learned in clinical training and became a leader on campus. He is a perfect example of how a student’s life can be enriched by the people who pour into him, and our lives were enriched having the affirmation that we’re really able to reach one student at a time. You never know how those interactions will transpire.”