Alumni Stories: Chance Encounters
by Bryan Kirk
LBJ memories still stir for ’69 alumnus
A visit to Texas State’s lush campus and sparkling San Marcos River lured Bob Covey away from his arid West Texas roots in 1964, but it was two up-close encounters with President Lyndon Baines Johnson that made his student experience truly memorable.
As a freshman music education major, Covey joined the Bobcat Marching Band, made friends quickly, and pledged a fraternity. Outside of the typical college life, it would prove to be one of the most interesting times in history to be a student at the university.
After LBJ won the 1964 election, marching bands from Texas were invited to the Inauguration Day parade in January 1965. “He specifically asked that the Bobcat band and Strutters come to Washington and be part of the inaugural parade,” says Covey. On Inauguration Day, The University of Texas Longhorn Band arrived early and formed at the head of the line, Covey recalls. Arriving later, the Bobcat band was farther back.
“Lyndon (Johnson) got out of his car, walked through their band and told us to line up behind his car,” Covey says. “We walked through the UT band — and we got behind his car.”
Later during Johnson’s administration, the president was visiting his alma mater and was near the music building, from which Covey was racing — late for his next class. “I burst through the door, and ran straight into LBJ,” Covey recalls. The president grabbed Covey by the shoulders while Secret Service agents surrounded them. LBJ and Covey talked briefly about the campus, and then the president asked if Covey was late for a class. When he said yes, the president replied, “Well, you tell them LBJ said it’s OK.”
While the periodic visits and chance encounters of a sitting president made university life eventful in those days, so did learning and the relationships Covey formed with his professors. “The instructors were very interested in helping all of us succeed, and I see that even now,” he says.
“Lyndon (Johnson) got out of his car, walked through their band and told us to line up behind his car. We walked through the UT band – and we got behind his car.”
— Bob Covey
Covey, who earned a bachelor’s degree in 1969, would teach school for three years before joining American Alloy Steel, where he served as vice president of sales until his retirement in 2011. Since 2005, he has served on the Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees, and along the way he’s encouraged many to attend Texas State University. So far, 17 family members have gone on to earn degrees from Texas State, including all three of his sons.
Covey says it was the San Marcos River that first drew him to the Hill Country and Texas State, but it’s the people and the university he loves that still bring him back. He derives great pleasure in visiting with students, and recognizing in them the same enthusiasm for university life that helped shape him decades earlier. “The ones I’ve met are very similar in personality to the students who were there when I was there,” he says.
Covey has remained active at Texas State and has served as president of the Texas State Alumni Association, president of Lambda Chi Alpha Alumni Association, and on the College of Education Alumni Advisory Committee. He is also a recipient of the Texas State Alumni Star Award and the Key of Excellence Award.
Nearly 50 years after his graduation, Covey continues to share his love for the university. “I don’t think that in all my years I ever lost the luster for being there,” he says. “I was just so happy there, and the relationships I formed during my college years have remained with me all my life.” ✪