Released in 1964, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s third studio album, The Times They Are a-Changin’, captured the spirit of social and political upheaval characteristic of the era. And at Texas A&M University and the College of Agriculture, the times were also changing.
- In 1961, the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences is formed in the School of Agriculture.
- In 1963, the Department of Animal Husbandry is renamed as the Department of Animal Science to better reflect the broadened scope and focus of the discipline. Today the department is one of the largest of its kind in the nation. That same year, the American Association of Land-Grant Colleges and Universities merges with the National Association of State Universities to form the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC).
- In 1964, the Department of Animal Science organized a basic beef cattle genetics laboratory.
- In 1965, the College of Agriculture organized the Department of Recreation and Parks, later renamed the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences (1989).
At the beginning of the decade, environmental problems and pesticide resistance were the catalyst for reassessing insect control practices. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, heightened public concern about the use of pesticides and their effects on the environment. The issues raised in the book and public debate would lead to restrictions on the use of chlorinated insecticides. Some faculty and staff in the Department of Entomology redirected their research toward exploring alternative insect control methods that were less dependent on insecticides. Their involvement led to the development of what would become integrated pest management (IPM).
The 1960s also signaled the end of discovery and use of active additives in animal diets and began a new focus on improving the nutritional value of feed and factors affecting digestibility. In 1961, W.C. Ellis’ basic nutritional research would continue for decades, leading to the release of five improved varieties of grasses and improving the use of principal feedstuffs, such as corn and sorghum, for producers.
In 1959, James Earl Rudder was named president of Texas A&M, amid the controversies of mandatory military training, lawsuits, and Supreme Court cases for coeducation. Popular with students, former students, faculty, and the Board of Directors, Rudder was formally inaugurated as President on March 26, 1960. Faced with the difficult task of steering A&M into the future, the next few years would be filled with planning and introspection. In 1961, Rudder formed the Committee on Aspirations, challenging participants to develop guidelines and policies for the future direction of A&M.
Many of the committee recommendations would form the basis for major changes: voluntary military training, higher standards for admissions to the College, diversity, and improving the quality of programs and faculty in the schools and divisions. But, it was the relationship between Rudder and Sterling C. Evans that would prove crucial in approving racial integration and finally establishing coeducation.
Evans became president of the Board in 1963. In that year, the Texas Legislature would approve legislation changing the name of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas to Texas A&M University, and the School of Agriculture is renamed the College of Agriculture, reflecting a university-wide name change from schools to colleges. In May, the Board approved racial integration.
In 1960, the Eagle reported the attrition rate among the freshman class at 56 percent—many citing the all-male character of the school as reasons for leaving. By 1962, A&M was ranked as only the fifth largest college in the state. And in 1963, after decades of passionate debate and lawsuits, the Board ruled in favor of admitting women on a limited basis to graduate and undergraduate programs. Women were now free to officially enroll as students at Texas A&M University! Although not generally welcomed, 150 women enrolled during 1963*. And, in 1965, compulsory service in the Corps of Cadets ended. Women would be not be admitted into the Corps until 1974.
As elsewhere in the country, the 1960s were years of tremendous change at A&M. All the previous efforts, planning, sacrifices, and debate led to sweeping changes that broke traditions and would forever affect A&M’s future direction. The times, indeed, were changing.
* This week’s blog is dedicated to Judy Franklin, former employee of AgriLife Communications, and a member of the first class of women admitted to Texas A&M. While at A&M, she was editor of the A&M Review and was named outstanding journalism graduate. Judy graduated in 1968 with a degree in journalism. In addition to her work with Texas A&M, her experiences took her to the University of Tehran, where she taught English. Aggie to the core, she was a past president of the Houston A&M Club. Judy proudly represented A&M in everything she did.