The Texas Panhandle appreciates hard work, persistence and commitment to family and community. This value system should never be taken for granted. It oozes from the ground and sprinkles from the sky. Those who inhabit the space between live it.
As we complete our plan, WT 125 – From the Panhandle to the World, I have reflected on how a regional university serves its home. WT does not wish to be like any institution in Texas or anywhere else. We are the Panhandle.
WT is the only general academic institution in the Panhandle, and it provides over 70% of the schoolteachers and administrators in the top 26 counties (the Panhandle) with at least one degree. There are 23,635 WT alumni, representing 40% of the Panhandle population, who live in the Panhandle and earned at least a bachelor’s degree. These graduates serve families, communities and various enterprises. We serve most who educate many.
In the last two-and-one-half years, WT, through The Texas A&M University System, has invested over $200 million in new facilities in Randall and Potter counties. Most of those resources leave Canyon, Texas, every day headed to Amarillo and other Panhandle communities—paychecks and property taxes in tow. The WT payroll, student spending and visitors contribute nearly half-a-billion dollars to the Panhandle economy annually. WT serves through economic prosperity and will grow if correctly nurtured.
In January WT initiated a doctor of education degree tailored to the needs of smaller rural school systems like those of the Panhandle. The inaugural class of 29 students is twice what was expected. WT serves through locally responsive education.
WT’s nursing program posts a pass rate 96% on the RN exam—among Texas’ best. Recently, WT’s RN to BSN program ranked number one in the nation by Great Value Colleges. WT serves through nationally-acknowledged educational experiences.
The TAMU System and WT’s Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences have a commitment to large-animal agriculture evidenced, in part, by $50 million in funding for a new building ($10 million of which was privately raised). Moreover, another $20 million in funding will provide a modern Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory located adjacent to the new agriculture facilities and a new Veterinary Education Research and Outreach Center. In addition, five new faculty join a committed corps of faculty who work and serve locally with Panhandle students, ranchers and businesses in the large-animal agriculture industry, the Panhandle’s economic backbone.
WT’s engineering programs encourage students to utilize their education at companies in the Texas Panhandle such as Bell Helicopter, Golden Spread Electric and Pantex. There are over 600 employees working at the Pantex plant who are WT graduates. WT alumni outnumber graduates from any other university in or out of Texas. We serve through commitment to the America’s security.
WT’s Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, widely recognized for excellence, enrolls over 2,700 students. Two of three students are online, but all faculty must teach at least one course on campus and live in our region. Serving locally through excellent business programs produces worldwide impact.
WT’s Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities provides a cultural foundation for the entire Texas Panhandle by training performers and artists for the Amarillo Symphony, the Lone Star Ballet and the TEXAS outdoor musical. The college enables other organizations and communities in the Panhandle to transmit culture and values. Over half the professionals who preserve and enhance Panhandle community culture are WT graduates. This is the highest public service a university can provide. It is learning’s purpose.
The Harrington Academic Hall WTAMU Amarillo Center houses communication disorders, special education, licensed professional counseling, graduate social work, school psychology and instructional technology programs for upper-level and graduate classes. The WT Amarillo Center is also home to the Speech and Hearing Clinic, the Center for Learning Disabilities, the Small Business Development Center and the Panhandle Area Health Education Center. WT’s nursing program plans to move its home to the WT Amarillo Center filling the facility to capacity to better serve our region.
Lastly, a $200 million capital campaign that will easily be the largest such effort in the history of the Texas Panhandle is in the early planning stages.
WT is a great university that for 110 years has called the Panhandle, and nowhere else, home. The next century will be no different. We will unapologetically serve the Panhandle with first-rate, locally-driven educational opportunities. No metropolitan consultants drive WT—just Panhandle pragmatism and a Panhandle heart of service.
This reflection is taken, in part, from a February 22, 2019 letter sent to the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce.