Tag Archives: WTAMU

Institute shouldn’t ignore diversity

Alex and Cheryl Fairly are paying it forward in a big way at the university from which they both graduated.

The Fairlys are contributing $20 million to West Texas A&M University, creating an institute they say will promote West Texas values.

“The mission of The Hill Institute is to encourage reflection upon the importance of ten West Texas, Texas, and American values and, through study and scholarship, promulgate the values among students within the diverse disciplines of the University and the extended community,” according to a flier distributed by WT.  The institute is named after Joseph Hill, the second president of WT.

I hope they’ll allow this word of caution about the way of life the institute hopes to promote. Do not neglect or give short shrift to the immense diversity that is occurring throughout West Texas. I refer to ethnic, religious and racial diversity among the population that is growing throughout Amarillo and, indeed, in many of the surrounding communities.

The gift is the largest ever given to WT and for their generosity, the Fairlys deserve high praise.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick attended the announcement ceremony of the Fairlys’ gift. He said, according to the Texas Tribune, “This is the America that all America used to be, it should be again,” Patrick said of the sprawling, pastoral region whose rural counties and smaller outposts have long been a Republican stronghold. “These are American values here.”

West Texas A&M gets $20 million gift for new institute | The Texas Tribune

Let’s understand, though, that the Panhandle is now home to an increasing number of non-Anglo, non-Christian families. Let’s not deny them their place in the shaping of the Panhandle’s future. Nor let us not forget that even the Texas Panhandle is drifting toward a more “urban” society than it has known.

These changes are inevitable and likely cannot be reversed.

WTAMU boss suffers big wound

Let’s see now … normally docile Canyon, Texas, which is home to West Texas A&M University is now in the midst of a potentially tumultuous time.

The WT faculty senate has voted significantly to post a no-confidence statement against the WT president, Walter Wendler.

The senate sent out 368 ballots to all full-time faculty and librarians. According to the Texas Tribune: Faculty senate leaders announced the results of the weeklong no-confidence vote Tuesday evening. According to faculty senate president Ashley Pinkham, there were 179 votes to condemn Wendler and 82 against it.

Faculty condemn West Texas A&M president after he canceled drag show | The Texas Tribune

I consider that a fairly clear statement that Wendler’s handling of a planned drag show on the campus didn’t go over well. As the Tribune reported: Wendler drew fire from students and free speech advocates last month when he canceled a student drag show last month arguing that the performances are “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny.”

I believe he made a mistake in canceling the drag show.

I also believe, based on the results of the no-confidence vote, that the WT president should consider retiring … again! I mean, when a significant majority of the men and women over whom you have authority cannot endorse your policy implementation, then well … maybe it’s time to hit the road.


WT boss awaits no-confidence vote

Walter Wendler and I are strangers. We’ve never met. I mention that only because I worked for 18 years at a newspaper in the Texas Panhandle where West Texas A&M University is located, which means Wendler got there after I left my job.

But the WT president has stepped on some sensitive toes by canceling a drag show that had been planned at the campus. Faculty senate leaders are preparing a vote of no confidence against Wendler and plan to submit their results to Texas A&M System regents and Chancellor John Sharp, demanding they take action against Wendler.

I believe the WT boss made a mistake by injecting his personal religious beliefs into his decision to cancel the show. The Texas Tribune reports: In a letter to the campus community last month, Wendler canceled a student drag show fundraiser and drew criticism from students when he argued that the performances are “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny.”

The “demoralizing misogyny” statement, to my eyes, is most troubling. Oh, brother.

Let’s just stipulate that WT is a public university. It is funded by the state, which is a secular government, no matter how hard those on the right wing seek to inject religion into government functions. Wendler, therefore, is an agent of the state. Thus, he should have exercised more discretion than to make such a bold declaration against an activity being conducted by students of the public institution.

West Texas A&M University president faces no-confidence vote after canceling drag show | The Texas Tribune

The Tribune reports further: “We do not take this step lightly,” Ashley Pinkham, faculty senate president, wrote in a letter to all professors Monday announcing the vote. “However, we believe that the mission to provide intellectually challenging, critically reflective, and inclusive academic programs at a well-respected, high-quality institution of higher education is at jeopardy. We believe we must act now to restore the reputation of West Texas A&M University.”

I hate seeing this fine university being dragged through the social commentary mud … only because its president has overstepped his boundaries as the leader of a publicly funded educational institution.


No football this fall

If you live in places like, oh, Commerce or Canyon or Kingsville or Wichita Falls in Texas, and you planned to attend a college football game on a Saturday afternoon or evening … I have some bad news.

You’ll have to wait. You might be able to attend a game in the spring. Or perhaps later in 2021.

The Lone Star Conference, with 18 colleges in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, has declared that most outdoor sports this fall have been delayed. Yep, it’s the pandemic doing its dirty work here.

The LSC has made the decision to allow football teams to practice, but just not play games for real.

In a press release issued today, the LSC said: Cross country will compete in the fall as scheduled. Additionally, golf and tennis are permitted to compete in their non-championship segments in the fall.  No other outside competition will be allowed.
After extensive discussion, which included a review of the requirements set by the NCAA Board of Governors earlier this week, the council made the difficult decision to postpone due to the challenges of COVID-19.

Football, soccer, volleyball and basketball, which are classified as high contact risk sports by the NCAA resocialization principles, can practice during the fall under all applicable NCAA Division II rules, but not compete until the spring.

Those “challenges,” indeed, are profound and must not be trifled with. Accordingly, I want to applaud the Lone Star Conference for putting the health of its student-athletes, its fans, the family members and friends of all those who would be exposed to potential infection at the top of their priority list.

The next season awaits, no matter when it begins.

Expecting a bright 2020 for former city of residence

I’m looking ahead to the new year and I cannot help but think good thoughts about what lies in store for the city my wife and I called home for more than two decades.

Amarillo, Texas, appears to be on the move. I mean, think about some developments.

  • Downtown Amarillo’s progress continues at full throttle. A couple of new “boutique hotels” might be opening for business in the coming year. One, for sure, will start welcoming guests at what used to be called the Barfield Building. It once was a rathole. It has become something quite different. There might be some movement in the Rule Building nearby. I’ll have to wait before assessing that structure’s future. It looks somewhat promising.
  •  Amarillo’s minor-league baseball team played before a packed Hodgetown house in 2019. The Sod Poodles won the Texas League championship. They’ll be returning in 2020 as the defending champs. Hodgetown has been honored as the nation’s top AA ballpark; the Sod Poodles have been recognized as the top AA baseball organization in the country. They have built a solid foundation in Amarillo.
  •  Construction will proceed on the new Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine near the Tech medical school campus in Amarillo. This will be only the second vet school in Texas and will serve a growing demand for large-animal veterinary care in a region that relies on livestock.
  •  West Texas A&M University’s downtown Amarillo campus will bring even more energy to the center of the city.
  •  City Hall is looking to renovate the Civic Center, re-do the Santa Fe Railroad Depot building and relocate its municipal offices somewhere in downtown Amarillo.  A big caveat remains on the final item: The city must identify a location and reveal it to the public well before it asks for residents’ endorsement of a $300 million bond issue.
  •  Interstate 40 and 27 reconstruction hopefully will draw much nearer to completion in the coming year. I don’t get back to Amarillo all that often these days, but I am hoping to see some tangible progress toward an end date for that massive I-40 project.

The city’s future — to my way of thinking — looks a lot brighter today than it did 10 to 12 years ago. It’s progress, man. A city that isn’t progressing remains stagnant. Keep moving forward, Amarillo.

What does future hold for Amarillo’s daily newspaper?

I chatted this morning over KETR-FM public radio at Texas A&M University-Commerce about the state of journalism in one of the Texas communities where I worked before my career ended in August 2012.

On the weekly broadcast “North by Northeast,” we talked about the decline of daily newspaper circulation and the struggle that many print media are having as they transition to the “digital age” of news and commentary.

Well, we didn’t discuss it on the air today, but I want to broach this subject briefly here.

The Amarillo Globe-News seems infatuated with reporting on issues involving Texas Tech University, which is headquartered about 120 miles south of Amarillo in Lubbock. I see the G-N on my smart phone daily. I am able to read headlines and I look occasionally at stories under those headlines.

I am struck by the preponderance of stories related to Texas Tech. Sports coverage, general news coverages, features, editorials, guest commentary … a whole lot of it relates to Texas Tech.

I’m wondering: Why? What is happening here?

I’ve reported already on this blog about how the newspapers — the Globe-News and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal — are being managed under a “regional” operation. The papers have a regional executive editor, a regional associate editor/director of commentary; they have combined their business operations, their production ops, circulation and some advertising functions.

It’s the news and editorial coverage that piques my interest.

So much of it these days relates to Texas Tech. Back when I worked at the paper, we hardly ever gave Tech any notice. I mean, the university is way down yonder; the Panhandle is served by West Texas A&M University and the newspaper concentrated its higher education coverage on WT and on Amarillo College.

Texas Tech seemingly has supplanted WT and AC in garnering the attention of the Amarillo Globe-News.

I keep feeling the rumble in my gut that is telling me that something is going to happen to the Amarillo Globe-News … and that it won’t be a good thing for the future of print journalism in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

I want in the worst way to be wrong.

City turning into a form of ‘urban eye candy’

AMARILLO, Texas — We were walking this morning to an appointment we had with someone in her office at Seventh Avenue and Taylor Street when my wife spoke up.

“You know, the city certainly is a lot more attractive to the eye than it used to be, when we first moved here” in early 1995, she said.

To which I said, “Absolutely!” As we drove toward our appointment we couldn’t help but notice the appearance of Polk Street, Amarillo’s one-time “main drag,” the place where kids used to hang out, where adults did the bulk of their retail shopping.

Yes, the city’s physical appearance has leaped way past where it used to stand back when we first laid eyes on Amarillo more than 24 years ago.

The Potter County Courthouse square is all dolled up. They’re tearing the daylights out of the formerly rotting hulk called the Barfield Building. The Paramount Theater building remains full of activity. Polk Street is busy these days with lunchtime crowds deciding where to eat. A bit west of Polk we see that the West Texas A&M University Amarillo campus is all but complete inside what used to be called the Commerce Building.

I am acutely aware of the political turmoil that has accompanied the city’s work toward downtown revival. Some folks like it. Others dislike it. Some of the city’s power elite have been accused of feathering their own bank accounts.

We don’t get the chance any longer to watch the downtown district repurpose itself in real time. We only get to take a gander at where it is in the moment.

At this moment, therefore, we happened to notice that the city’s central business and entertainment district is looking much more appealing than it used to look.

How in the world is that a bad thing?

A glimmer of good news from the government shutdown

I have to share this bit of good news involving the partial government shutdown.

It comes in the form of a mortgage payment from a former pro football player who once fell on hard times himself.

Ryan Leaf was the No. 2 pick in the NFL in the late 1980s out of Washington State University. He didn’t do well as a pro, playing just 25 games before being released. He knocked around here and there.

One of his jobs was as an assistant coach at West Texas A&M University in Canyon. Then he got into trouble with drugs. He was forced to resign as quarterbacks coach at WT.  Leaf was sentenced to 10 years of probation and fined heavily. He is clean now.

Well, he heard about the plight of a Tennessee family caught in the government shutdown. Taylor Futch sent out a tweet explaining that her husband, a park ranger with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was being furloughed. The couple couldn’t pay their January mortgage installment.

Leaf heard about it. He stepped up to pay the couple’s January mortgage. Leaf sent the Futches a tweet of his own, saying that his father was a game warden in Montana. He offered to make the payment and then wished the family a “Merry Xmas.”

Futch said she wasn’t soliciting for help. She sent the Twitter message out merely to explain how the shutdown is having an impact on her family.

However, she got an unexpected — but welcome — hand from a one-time football star.

Well done, Ryan Leaf.

First-class wordsmith gets back in the game

I recently lamented the retirement of a man who has lent his wonderful written “voice” to the Texas Panhandle.

Jon Mark Beilue worked for the Amarillo Globe-News for 37 years before retiring in July from his post as a columnist. I have good news for readers of this blog: Beilue is getting back in the game, this time as a columnist for West Texas A&M University.

I want to share this bit of good news because I have used this blog to bemoan the gutting of the Globe-News — first by Morris Communications and then by the company that purchased the G-N a year ago from Morris, GateHouse Media.

WT announced Beilue’s new writing gig in a press release, which stated in part: “We are excited to welcome Jon Mark to the WTAMU family and to share his many talents with the people of the Panhandle,” Dr. Walter Wendler, University president, said. “West Texas A&M University has many interesting stories to tell, and there is no doubt that Jon Mark will tell them well.”

Read the entire WT statement here.

WT plans to distribute Beilue’s columns weekly to area newspapers. If the folks who run the Globe-News have a brain in their heads, they will make sure this fine journalist’s words are published on the pages of a newspaper in dire need of institutional knowledge of the community.

Beilue provides it. He lived his entire life in the Texas Panhandle, absent his four years as a student at Texas Tech University down the road a bit in Lubbock.

And as WT noted in its release: His talent with words is well known across the region and has been recognized at both the state and national levels as far back as the 1980s until his retirement in 2018.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating: Jon Mark Beilue is a community treasure. I am delighted to know that WT has decided to put him back on display.

Well done.

You go, Mo, into the Hall of Fame

West Texas State University alumnus Maurice Cheeks is headed to the Naismith Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, along with some other great former pro basketball players.

I am so happy to see this development, as I have been a fan of Mo Cheeks for a long time. I watched him play ball for years as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. He also coached my hometown NBA Portland Trail Blazers.

I know that Cheeks has a lot of fans here in the Texas Panhandle, where he lit ’em up while playing college ball for the WT Buffaloes. He went through a serious culture shock, coming here from Chicago and learning about life in the Texas Panhandle.

Cheeks will join Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Grant Hill and WNBA legend Tina Thompson in the Hall of Fame.

But … there’s another reason Mo Cheeks has earned many Americans’ undying love and respect. It occurred during the opening ceremony of an NBA game in Portland, where he was coaching the Blazers. A teenager was selected to sing the National Anthem to open the game. Natalie Gilbert did her best … then something happened.

She froze. Natalie forgot the words. Hey, it happens.

Up stepped Coach Cheeks in an astounding display of presence of mind. He did the following, as shown on the video attached here.

Right there is my all time favorite Maurice Cheeks moment. It might be my favorite NBA moment … of all time!

Congratulations, Maurice Cheeks.