Articles tagged as: former student

March 26, 2012

Aggie Don Walsh Advises Movie Director Cameron’s Dive To Deepest Part of the World

Movie director James Cameron made history over the weekend by becoming the third person ever to reach the deepest place on Earth – the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean – and on hand to help him with the mission was Don Walsh, who made the first trip to the bottom of the world in 1960 and earned two degrees from Texas A&M University.

Cameron, who directed the blockbusters “Titanic” and “Avatar,” descended to the ocean floor of the Mariana Trench on Monday, completing a solo dive that took him 35,756 feet to the bottom of the Pacific. When he surfaced, Walsh, who was asked by Cameron to serve as an adviser on the deep dive, was among the first to congratulate him on the accomplishment, which Walsh first achieved 52 years earlier on Jan. 23, 1960, when he and Jacques Piccard made the journey aboard the bathyscape Trieste.  

Piccard was a Swiss ocean explorer who designed and built the Trieste. He later wrote a book about the dive, titled Seven Miles Down. He died in 2008.

Walsh was a navy lieutenant at the time and attained the rank of captain before retiring from the service. He earned a master’s degree from Texas A&M in 1967 and his doctoral degree in oceanography in 1968.

Cameron, an avid ocean researcher who also made several trips to the actual resting place of the Titanic, had said for several years he wanted to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench and had a specially constructed craft, the Deepsea Challenger, built for the occasion. He has been named by National Geographic magazine as one of its Explorers-in-Residence.

Walsh, now retired and living in Myrtle Point, Ore., also played a role in developing Texas A&M’s renowned Institute for Nautical Archaeology, says its founder, legendary ocean explorer George Bass.

“I met with Don and Robert Ballard, who went on to locate the Titanic, in about 1974 outside of Washington, D.C., and got ideas from both of them on how we should proceed with establishing our program at Texas A&M,” Bass now recalls.

“Don was something of a legend even then. He was also very helpful with our nautical archaeology programs and it goes without saying that he is one of the best oceanographers in the world. He also was extremely helpful in our efforts to get submersible craft built for our nautical archaeology dives. I believe he eventually commanded a nuclear sub before he retired from the Navy,” adds Bass, who was associated with Texas A&M’s Institute for Nautical Archaeology for 35 years before retiring several years ago.

Walsh’s doctoral dissertation at Texas A&M was titled “The Mississippi River Outflow: Its Seasonal Variations and Its Surface Characteristics” which he completed in 1968.

Walsh was named one of the world’s great explorers by Life magazine, and aboard various submersible vehicles, he dived to the Titanic, the famed German battleship The Bismarck and other notable locations. In 2010, the National Geographic Society awarded Walsh with the Hubbard Medal – its highest honor – and the U.S. Navy presented him with its Distinguished Public Service Award.

For photos of Walsh and Cameron, go to


Media contact: Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 945-4644


March 9, 2012

Former Student Gene Wolfe To Receive Literary Hall Of Fame Award

Gene Wolfe

Award-winning science fiction writer Gene Wolfe, who attended Texas A&M University, will be recognized by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame with the first Henry Blake Fuller Award.

While attending Texas A&M more than 60 years ago, Wolfe published his first speculative fiction in The Commentator, a student literary journal. He dropped out of school during his junior year in 1952 to serve in the military during the Korean War.

According to Donald G. Evans, executive director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, the Henry Blake Fuller Award is a “lifetime achievement award honoring great living writings in the Chicago area.” Wolfe was chosen because of his “critically acclaimed collection of work in various genres, such as science fiction and fantasy.” Wolfe will be presented the award March 17.

Wolfe is known as a prolific short story writer and novelist, as well as for his dense, allusive prose and the strong influence of his Catholic faith. He is best known for his The Book of the New Sun series and has written more than 100 books and short stories spanning a career that began in the 1970s. At 80 years of age, he is still writing and is currently on his third draft of his newest novel The Land Across.

Among his many other awards, Wolfe has won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, Best World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award (or “Skylark”) and is a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

When Wolfe returned to Texas after his military service, he settled in Houston and completed his college education at the University of Houston. He now lives in a suburb of Chicago.


Media contact: Tura King, Division of Marketing & Communications, at (979) 845-4670

January 12, 2012

‘Top Global Thinker’ Terry Engelder To Speak Jan. 20

Terry Engelder

Terry Engelder

Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences at Penn State University who earned his doctorate at Texas A&M University and recently was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” will speak at Texas A&M Jan. 20 during a special lecture presentation.

Engelder’s topic will be “George Mitchell and Me: The Confluence of Geopolitics and Science of Texas-Style Gas Production in the State of Pennsylvania” and will be held at 3 p.m. in Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium in the George and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Physics and Astronomy. His lecture is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Center for Tectonophysics and Department of Geology and Geophysics.

George P. Mitchell, a 1940 Texas A&M petroleum engineering graduate who went on to have a legendary career in the energy business, also was named along with Engelder as one of the magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.” They share the No. 36 spot.

Engelder earned his Ph.D. in geology from Texas A&M in 1973.

Both Mitchell and Engelder are considered experts on fracking, the process of breaking up shale containing natural gas deposits, “a development that led to releasing vast reserves of natural gas and reordered the global balance of energy and the political power that comes with it,” according to the magazine.

They were joined in sharing the 36th place with Gary Lash, a professor of geosciences at State University of New York-Fredonia.

Mitchell was a pioneer of horizontal drilling, and it took him 17 years of experimentation to demonstrate his approach to extracting gas from shale formations was economically feasible. His newfound technology has opened up immense gas reserves, among them the Marcellus Shale formation in the Northeast that Engelder estimated in 2009 to be the world’s largest at more than 500 trillion cubic feet.

In 1983, inspired by Mitchell’s groundbreaking work, Engelder received a National Science Foundation grant to investigate fracking further, and he and Lash began mapping the Marcellus Shale and other formations in the Appalachian basin.

Their work helped to recover gas more economically and efficiently, leading to the production of more than 4.8 trillion cubic feet between 2006 and 2010, almost quintupling previous U.S. shale gas production and accounting for almost one-fourth of U.S. natural gas production for that period.

“Terry Engelder is one of several distinguished scientists  who conducted graduate student research during the early years of the Center for Tectonophysics and who completed their doctorates in the Departments of Geology and Geophysics,” says Fred Chester, Texas A&M geology professor who has known Engelder for many years

“After leaving A&M, in the early 1970s, Terry began a career of basic research of the tectonic stresses and fluid pressures that cause natural fracturing in shale and other rock formations. Of his many contributions, his pioneering work using mechanics principles and sound geological field studies to understand natural fracturing set the stage for his later outstanding contributions towards application of fracking technology.”

Mitchell, a longtime benefactor of Texas A&M, has contributed millions of dollars to the school and has committed $35.5 million toward construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope in his personal quest to see his alma mater become an international leader in physics and astronomy.

Currently on the faculty of Penn State, Engelder has previously served on the staffs of Texaco, the U.S. Geological Survey and Columbia University. He has also served as a visiting professor at Graz University in Austria and the University of Perugia in Italy. He has written more than 150 research papers, many of them focused on Appalachia.


Contact: Karen Riedel, College of Geosciences, at (979) 845-0910 or Keith Randall, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4644

December 15, 2011

Brenham Aggie Creates Educational Legacy In Texas And Florida

Future high school students in Washington County have good reason to study hard and develop leadership skills — they may be eligible for Texas A&M University scholarships to be funded through a bequest by a Brenham-born Aggie and true believer in higher education.

Dr. Seeker at the campus of Florida Keys Community CollegeBill Seeker, who earned two degrees from Texas A&M, had announced his intention to fund at least five President’s Endowed Scholarships (PES) after his lifetime through a planned gift created through the Texas A&M Foundation. Seeker said he also plans to add an endowment for Florida Keys Community College, where he served as president for 28 years.

“In the past 50 years I’ve either been a student, professor, dean, vice president or president, which illustrates my passion for higher education,” he said. “But I’ve also picked cotton, swept floors, worked on a road crew and commanded an Army platoon. I know firsthand what a college education can do for young people. I’m proud that I will help students from my hometown of Brenham attend Texas A&M University.”

Seeker structured his planned gift to fund President’s Endowed Scholarships by designating a percentage of his individual retirement account (IRA) to the Texas A&M Foundation. After his lifetime, these assets will transfer free from income tax to the Foundation. Such IRA assets are ideal to fund scholarships and other charitable gifts after a lifetime because no estate or income tax is levied on gifts to nonprofits. The Foundation will invest the assets, which will generate interest to fund scholarships forever.

Funded with a minimum contribution of $100,000, President’s Endowed Scholarships are awarded to students with strong academic and leadership potential. Financial need is not considered, and the scholarship includes a one-time grant for a study-abroad experience.

More than 900 Aggies attending Texas A&M benefit from the PES program. To qualify, these students must have a minimum SAT score of 1300, minimum ACT score of 30, or be a finalist, semifinalist or commended National Merit Scholar. They must have demonstrated strong leadership in high school and in their communities. Each recipient of the PES may keep it for four years, and then another student will receive it for up to four years. The process continues in perpetuity.

Seeker is the grandson of German immigrants and the first in his family to attend college.

“I’m just a country bumpkin who lived on a dirt road in rural Washington County,” he said. “My father Albert was a highly decorated WWII veteran who worked as laborer and my mother Sue was a nurse’s attendant. I didn’t even know I was poor until my first year at Texas A&M — until then I thought I was a big shot. I figured out right away that not only was I poor, but I didn’t know a lot about society.

“If they can meet the stringent requirements of a PES, I want to give students from Brenham and Burton high schools the same experience I had at Texas A&M. These kids have strong family values. They believe in studying and making something of themselves. I know they have the ability and I know they can use the help.”

Once established, the William A. Seeker President’s Endowed Scholarships will give preference to members of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets who are graduates of Washington County high schools, including his alma mater, Brenham High School.

Dr. Seeker as an undergraduate, wearing his Corps of Cadets uniform“I am a former executive officer of the sometimes infamous Animal A Infantry at Texas A&M,” he said. “My experience as a cadet and later as a professional soldier shaped me into the man I am today. It’s part of the reason I can give back, and it’s the reason I want my scholarships to benefit future cadets.”

In 1960, after earning an A&M education degree with an emphasis in biology, Seeker was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He served as a paratrooper and later reached  the rank of captain, commanding a platoon in the 22nd Battle Group, Strategic Army Command.

“We were the soldiers sent in to do dirty jobs,” he said. “I spent time in Germany during the 1961 Berlin Crisis and was involved in many other military operations, most of which I can’t talk about.”

After two years of active duty, he worked as a research technician for M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and then completed a master’s degree in biology on the GI Bill at Sam Houston State University. He taught biology at New Mexico Military Institute and later earned a Ph.D. at Texas A&M in educational administration.

For several years, Seeker was vice president at Florida’s Hillsborough Community College and in 1979 became president of Florida Keys Community College (FKCC).

Affectionately known as “Doc” at FKCC, Seeker oversaw the development and expansion of many academic programs, student services and college facilities. During his tenure, he garnered legislative support and $40 million to fund the 1997 rebuilding of the Key West Campus, which now bears his name. Upon his retirement in 2007, he was bestowed the title of president emeritus by the FKCC board of trustees. He still resides on Florida’s Cudjoe Key, where he enjoys snorkeling with barracudas and sharks near the reef adjacent to his backyard beach.

This year he shared formal plans with FKCC to substantially increase his bequest, directing the majority of his estate toward the creation of three endowments to provide scholarships, library funds and instructional equipment.

Seeker’s gift to Texas A&M qualifies him for Heritage membership in the A&M Legacy Society, which honors those who have created planned gifts (such as bequests, trust or charitable gift annuities) to benefit A&M.

“When the Texas A&M Foundation representatives sat down with me on my back deck, and we got down to the business of structuring this gift, I was easily convinced that my money is in good hands at the Texas A&M Foundation. I’ve worked in higher education for more than 40 years, so I know that charitable gifts are often misspent. I have no doubt that Texas A&M will do it the right way,” he said.

The Texas A&M Foundation is a private nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in Texas A&M academics and student leadership programs. For more information about after-lifetime gifts, contact Glenn Pittsford ’72 at the Texas A&M Foundation at (800) 392-3310, (979) 845-8161.


Media contact: Sondra White, Marketing Communications Manager, Texas A&M Foundation, ( or (800) 392-3310, Ext. 191

December 7, 2011

Texas A&M Former Student Selected As Finalist For Marshall, Rhodes Scholarships


Bianca Manago

Bianca Manago, a Texas A&M University former student, was selected as an alternate for the Marshall Scholarship and a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, two of the most prestigious and highly-coveted academic scholarships available to students in the United States. Manago, a native of Lansing, Kan., graduated from Texas A&M in May 2011 with degrees in sociology and philosophy.

Because of the fierce competition for these scholarships, the preliminary process to be selected as an official university nominee is rigorous, said Texas A&M Honors and Undergraduate Research officials. Student applicants like Manago begin the process in late spring, even though the official deadline for the scholarships is in October. Applicants interview for the scholarships in November, if they are granted an interview.

Manago first applied for the scholarships during her senior year, but was not selected for an interview for either program during her first attempt.

“I started working on the applications in May and did some exercises to find out exactly who I was, what I wanted and why those study opportunities could help me reach those goals,” she said. “And the end results were better, so much more polished. I applied again and was more myself, and the result was much better, as I was asked to be interviewed for both.”

Finalist interviews for the Marshall Scholarship took place in Houston in early November; interviews for the Rhodes Scholarship spanned two days in mid-November and included a luncheon and reception in addition to the 30-minute interview.

“It’s a good experience that makes you answer tough questions and understand how you handle pressure,” Manago said about the interviews. “It’s such a great learning opportunity, since the interviewers ask really insightful questions that make you think about things.”

The best part of the experience, Manago added, was getting to meet so many people, many of whom she is certain will become leaders and innovators in their respective fields of study.

Manago said the learning experiences at Texas A&M were critical in helping her prepare for the intensity of the application process, as well as allowing her to explore the possible research and teaching opportunities in the university setting.

“The great thing about A&M is that we have a big community of people who are super supportive,” she said. “We have unique opportunities that aren’t as explicit at other universities. I was involved with student organizations where I learned leadership skills, and we have such a supportive academic community where professors really care about students and want to work with them and know what they’re doing.”

As a student at the university, Manago cofounded the social and environmental justice groups One Love and One Aggieland; she was also a 2011 recipient of the Brown-Rudder Award, the most prestigious recognition given to a student at the university. She has since gone on to be an advisor for One Aggieland and has developed a special topics course on global social justice leadership.

Manago currently works for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture as the program coordinator for the Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative, where she is responsible for project development, finances, communication, marketing, social media and research proposal development and management.

However, Manago said the extensive application and interview processes for both scholarships made her realize that her true passion lies in academia. Beginning in January, she will return to the classroom at Texas A&M to start work on a master’s degree in sociology.

“In the long term, I see myself being a professor and leading a community of academics,” she added. “I enjoy the teaching part of the job. You have a very cool, unique opportunity where people give you their time. I’d also like to study things that can be applied to the material world and influence people in their applied areas. Teaching is the end goal of research, and I see them very much intertwined. I’d like to be involved in both.”

Throughout its history, Texas A&M University has produced seven Rhodes Scholars and five Marshall Scholars, the most recent being biochemistry and genetics major Nick Anthis for the Rhodes in 2005 and environmental design major Faye Hays for the Marshall in 2007. In last year’s competition, biochemistry and genetics major Kristin Carter was selected as a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship, and in 2009, biochemistry and genetics major Ella Doerge was selected as a finalist for the Rhodes. Since 2000, 11 Aggies have been selected as finalists for the Marshall Scholarship and four have been selected as finalists for the Rhodes.

About the Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships

The Marshall Scholarship is tenable for two years of graduate study at any university in the United Kingdom; the well-known Rhodes Scholarships are tenable for two to three years of graduate study at Oxford University. Among the most competitive scholarship competitions in the world, only about 4 percent of the nationwide pool of more than 1,000 university-nominated applicants receive either award.

The Marshall Scholarships began in 1953 as a gesture of thanks from the British Government for  U.S. assistance in rebuilding Europe after World War II. Former Marshall Scholars include Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman. According to the Marshall Scholarship Foundation, as future leaders, Marshall Scholars are “expected to strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions. Marshall Scholars are talented, independent and wide-ranging and their time as Scholars enhances their intellectual and personal growth. Their direct engagement with Britain through its best academic programs contributes to their ultimate personal success.” Only 40 Marshall Scholars are selected each year.

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international fellowships, were initiated after the death of Cecil Rhodes in 1902, and bring outstanding students from many countries around the world to the University of Oxford. The primary qualification for a successful candidate is intellectual distinction, although the selection committees also seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. Through the years, Rhodes Scholars have pursued studies in all of the varied fields available at the University of Oxford, where they are elected for two years of study, with the possibility of renewal for a third year. Notable Rhodes Scholars include former U.S. President Bill Clinton, NBA Hall-of-Fame inductee and Senator Bill Bradley and Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee Kris Kristofferson. Only 32 American Rhodes Scholars are selected each year.


Contact: Kyle Mox, National Scholarships Coordinator in the Honors Programs office, at (979) 845-1957 or Krista Smith, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4645

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