Pat Pohl: Memories of TXST Alumni Association
Former leader recalls friendships and opportunities
By Pat Reynolds Pohl
In 2018, Young Alumna Rising Star Maj. Brenda Bustillos, a native of Joshua, began her acceptance speech at the Texas State University Distinguished Alumni Gala with this comment: “I grew up here [Texas State].” That opening was perfect, and I thought, “So did I.” Probably so did we all.
I joined the Alumni Association soon after graduation, though I can’t remember the exact year. In 1976, I was invited to serve on the board of directors, and in 1978 on the executive committee. The organization was so small that we could meet inside the Victorian boarding house where President Lyndon Johnson had lived as a student.
In 1980, I was elected Alumni Association president. The executive committee was composed of alumni highly successful in their careers. In contrast, I was a young wife and mother with only a few years of college-level teaching. That didn’t matter because I was respected, mentored, and encouraged by those established professionals. The point is that my being a member of the Alumni Association has allowed me to develop new skills and interests, and it still enriches my life.
Of importance to me and others I know, the Alumni Association makes a difference by what it contributes to the university. For example, a well-intentioned former president of the university decided that we would benefit from a new alma mater. He even commissioned the dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication to write one. The Alumni Association blocked that move in honor of tradition, and today we still sing the original alma mater composed by Jessie Sayers in 1903.
More recently, the Alumni Association was directly involved in the selection of the current president, Dr. Denise M. Trauth. At the time, Rich Durant was Alumni Association president and served on the Presidential Selection Committee. Durant kept board members apprised of candidates’ credentials and asked for members’ feedback throughout the process.
In 2003, the Alumni Association gave strong support to the student-driven effort to change the name from Southwest Texas State University to Texas State University. Not only did alumni accompany student leaders into the Texas Capitol on the day of the hearings, but alumna Vilma Luna co-sponsored the bill in the Texas House of Representatives to change the name. In addition, alumnus Mike Harrelson agreed to cover all printing costs involved in the name change. The Alumni Association always makes a difference.
I have appreciated the many opportunities the Alumni Association has offered me to make a difference. I have especially enjoyed my work serving on selection committees to determine Distinguished Alumni, Young Alumni Rising Stars, and the Teaching Award of Honor recipients. Most of the nominees for the Teaching Award of Honor I had never met, but their letters of support from colleagues and former students were always stunning. After reading about the charismatic teaching skills of a certain structural engineering professor, a concrete specialist, I wanted to sign up for one of his courses, even though I’m an English major and the closest I’ve ever gotten to the properties of concrete was in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”
In turn, what can the Alumni Association offer you? Flexibility first comes to mind. As a member, you can be as involved as your life allows you. Sometimes job commitments, family situations, and geographic distance come into play, and you simply don’t have the time to make active alumni participation a constant. Your life can change, though, and having even a casual tie to the association will lead to amazing experiences and set you on the path to deep, meaningful involvement later on.
The Alumni Association offers you moments you would not otherwise have. I prize the opportunities I’ve had to visit with old friends and new and to meet our Distinguished Alumni at the annual gala: Powers Boothe, the Emmy Award-winning actor; Charles Barsotti, the celebrated New Yorker cartoonist; Richard Castro, educational philanthropist and the owner and operator of 27 McDonald’s restaurants; Karen Thompson, the chief technologist of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center; Herman Chinery-Hesse, a leading African tech entrepreneur; and Carolyn Seay Vietor, the longtime president of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. There are other Distinguished Alumni I’ve known for years and treasure their friendship.
The Alumni Association brings me sweet memories as, I promise, it will you. “Once a Bobcat, Always a Bobcat.” ✪
Pat Reynold Pohl, (B.A. '64 and M.A. '67) was a senior lecturer in Texas State's Department of English for over 30 years. A lifetime member of the Alumni Association, she served as president and later as the first chair of the Past Presidents' Council.