Former student body presidents reunite to discuss university

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    Homecoming brought back many alumni to a much-changed campus. Among those who returned was a group who helped make some of those changes happen–former student body presidents.

    Twenty men and five women representing eight decades all remembered their time leading the student body as president of the Student Government Association. Together they met for the first Presidential Summit on Friday in the chancellor’s dining room.

    Brent Folan, the current SGA president, said the idea for the summit had been around since his first year at the university. He decided to put it into action after hearing about the success of presidential reunions at other Big 12 schools.

    Some of the attending leaders had helped change the physical layout while others initiated traditions and programs that continued on.

    Robert E. Young, the oldest attending president from 1948-1948, recalled seven buildings on campus and fewer faces to greet during Howdy Week.  While in office, his council brought the tradition of the Iron Skillet trophy to the SMU rivalry game.

    Young played on the basketball team in the late ‘40s and stayed involved as the pastor of the University Methodist Church in the ‘80s. Since he retired, he has returned to campus for football and basketball games.  

    “The friendliness of the campus is still the same I feel every time I come back,” Young said.

    When Scott Wheatley sees the landscape of campus, he said he saw the work started while he was in office in 1996 as almost complete. During his time, students opted to live off campus because of the outdated residence halls.

    “We persuaded the administration that in order to target top talent students that they basically had to upgrade to the ‘90s, and be competitive with housing,” he said. Aside from Colby Hall, the majority of dorms have received an update, he said. 

    Charlie Thompson said he took pride in the coffee house and student art gallery built during his term in 1971. Laura Miller also said she remembers the “Reed-Sadler mall project” taking shape during her term in 1979.

    Folan said he learned about some similar issues students have faced through the years.

    One current issue, drinking and driving, led to a program to treat alcohol abuse in the health center in 1980, former president Gary Teal said. The shut-down of the food service on the first day of school and an unexpected military draft were some unexpected challenges in his term, Teal said. 

    Folan said he plans on recording accounts from each president in a yearbook type format.  

    Teal supported this idea and said, “I think the unique thing about this group is that it’s a perfect distribution over time.”

    Along with capturing their shared history, the group also discussed finding ways to support current students including providing a full-time scholarship.

    As a recent graduate from 2011, Marlon Figueroa said he hopes to offer students the same opportunity to attend the university as he had through scholarships. He said he was able to increase scholarships and financial aid while in office in 2010.

    The money for the scholarship would be provided by a variety of donations from the council, Folan said, which carries a variety of professions and other presidential titles. Several, including Laura Miller, Pam Thomas and Jack Larson had their chance to renew their title as president of the TCU Alumni Association. 

    Miller also holds a president title at Liberty bank and said the leadership skills she developed as SGA president have helped her in working with people. David Watson, president from 2006, agreed and said the opportunity to work with different personalities has helped him as he manages several residential businesses.

    The council’s involvement varies from university board of trustee members, to lawyers, entrepreneurs, executives and teachers.

    As they continued to lead in their communities, the newly formed council expressed their hope to aid in the support of the student body. 

    Folan said he planned to have the council meet again in April or next fall.