1964 – 1965
While the Department began its official existence in the Spring semester of 1966, planning for its development began several years earlier when individuals in the College of Agriculture decided that a natural-resource based recreation program would be an excellent complement to existing programs. There was a proposal made as early as 1938 “to establish a course in park appreciation, park administration…”
Under the leadership of Dr. R. C. Potts, Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture, a curriculum was developed, approved through the University and the Texas State Coordinating Board, and the announcement was made in the spring of 1965 that a new curriculum in outdoor recreation would now be offered through Texas A&M. The announcements circulated primarily through rural news outlets, word-of-mouth and radio announcements by county extension agents.
This publicity resulted in one graduate student being admitted in the fall of 1965. Since there was no faculty or staff, he was placed in the Department of Range and Forestry.
During the Fall semester, Dr. Leslie M. Reid, a faculty member at Michigan State, was brought in to interview for the position as Department Head. To the best of my knowledge, he was the only one interviewed.
Les Reid was impressed with the potential he saw at Texas A&M. The school had a good reputation as an all-male military school, but military training had just become non-compulsory, and the school was poised to begin an era of growth. At the time, there were fewer than 9,000 students enrolled.
Les was very well received, in part, he confided to me a few years later, by one of those serendipitious actions that sometimes guide our fate. His resume listed the fact that he had served as a Corporal in the armed forces, but the descender on the leter “p” was imperfect. The “Cpl.” on his resume was easily mistaken for “Col.” As you might guess, this promotion was well received at a military school which had originally offered its first presidency to Jefferson Davis.
Much of the information on these pages is from first-hand experience since I was that first student to enter the program. My father would listen to the “Ag Morning Report” by Dewey Compton, the Ag Extension Agent in Harris County. Each morning I would awaken to the strains of the “Aggie War Hymn” which was played at the start of the report. It was from this talk show that I first learned of the new program. Since I was a graduating senior at Rice University at the time, I decided to write to obtain more information on the new program. My mistake was hand-writing the request. Soon thereafter I received a response–a letter from the Animal Science Department giving me information on their swine-management programs. Obviously, I was a confused country bumpkin who didn’t know swine (the animal) from pork (the product). Fortunately, a month or two later I sent a second (typed) letter which caught the attention of Dr. Potts who convinced me to come to A&M.
written by Louis Hodges, 1-19-2006, subsequently modified