Postwar Reconstruction: A Time of Change

More teachers, more space, more books. Cadets returning after the war, veterans taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, and a new generation of young A&M students flooding the campus. Enrollment swelled to 8,651 for the 1946–47 academic year. Dormitories were converted, and temporary family dwelling units were built to house the ever-increasing number of students. Freshmen and veterans resided and took classes at the Bryan Air Base (now the Riverside Campus).

The post–World War II years were a time of change and confusion across America and at Texas A&M. Cadets, faculty, and students proud of the college’s war record wanted to preserve the all-male military tradition and saw little need for change. Elected in 1944, President Gibb Gilchrist launched an all-out reorganization of the academic and administrative structures, retired some of the old customs and traditions, and created new policies and regulations that better reflected a more civilian student body. During his tenure, he established the A&M Research Foundation to allow industrial and private grants for specific types of research projects.

During the war, many departments and academic programs were in a holding pattern as work essential to the war effort continued. But the years between 1944 and 1948 saw substantive changes to the School of Agriculture. During that time, more than one-third of the academic departments acquired new heads.

Under Gilchrist, older divisions and departments were combined or reorganized, including Entomology and Poultry Husbandry, and new departments were created, including the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition (now Biochemistry and Biophysics). In 1946, the Board of Directors ordered the unification and coordination of the School of Agriculture, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. Linking these separate entities created opportunities for graduate students and researchers to produce work with worldwide impact. Important changes included the following:

  • 1944. E. J. Kyle retired as dean of agriculture, ending a 33-year tenure in the position; he was succeeded by Charles Noah Shepardson.
  • 1946. Coordination of the Department of Poultry Husbandry was accomplished, followed by other departments in 1947. The Department of Range and Forestry was created (now Ecosystem Science and Management), and the Department of Plant Physiology and Pathology was formed, with scientists from the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station as faculty. A five-year undergraduate degree program in Food Technology was initiated.
  • 1947. The Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition was organized, with Paul Pearson as head. Faculty came from the Department of Animal Husbandry and the Chemistry and Swine Divisions of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. The Department of Agricultural Engineering came to be jointly administered by the Schools of Agriculture and Engineering.
  • 1947–50. Department heads combined the tenets of the land-grant mission to coordinate teaching, research, and extension.
  • 1948. Two interdepartmental curricula, Animal Science and Plant and Soil Science, were established to prepare undergraduates for graduate work.

The effects of changes that occurred during the four years of the Gilchrist administration would last for decades. While A&M was still an agricultural and mechanical college with an all-male, predominantly military orientation, the new directions created new capabilities and the potential for future generations of students and faculty to make major contributions to agriculture.

Today, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers nearly 40 undergraduate majors and options and more than 70 master’s and doctoral degrees, including interdisciplinary programs more than any other college at Texas A&M.

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