West Texas A&M University

West Texas A&M University, also known as WTAMU, WT, and formerly West Texas State, part of the Texas A&M University System, is a public university located in Canyon, Texas, a city of 13,303 about 13 miles south of Amarillo, a city of 190,695. The university is part of the Amarillo metropolitan area with a population of 268,893. West Texas A&M University was established on September 20, 1910, and was originally known as West Texas State Normal College. The university started out as one of the seven state-funded teachers' colleges in Texas.

West Texas A&M University
Former names
West Texas State Normal College (1910-1923)
West Texas State Teachers College (1923-1949)
West Texas State College (1949-1963)
West Texas State University (1963-1990)
MottoVisio Veritas Valor
Motto in English
Vision. Truth. Valor.
TypeState University
Established1910 (1910)
Endowment$71,798,985[1] (2014)
Budget$138,334,782[2] (2016-2017)
PresidentWalter Wendler
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Other students
111 (2nd Bachelor's)[2]
Location, ,
United States

34.984419°N 101.913367°W / 34.984419; -101.913367
CampusSuburban, 176 acres (71 ha)
ColorsMaroon and White
AthleticsNCAA Division IILone Star
NicknameBuffaloes or Buffs
AffiliationsTexas A&M University System


In its first school year, West Texas State Normal College had 152 students and 16 faculty members. Its first president was Robert B. Cousins. A year after the Texas State House of Representatives approved the bill to establish West Texas State Normal College, construction began on the school's Administration Building. It consisted of the school's only classrooms, laboratory, library, and offices. On March 25, 1914, the school burned down; however, classes continued in local churches, courthouses, and vacant buildings. Later, in 1916, a new Administration Building opened. West Texas State Normal College hired famed American artist Georgia O'Keeffe to be the head of the Art Department from the fall of 1916 to February 1918. O'Keeffe has been recognized as the "Mother of American modernism".[3]

The first four-year college degrees were granted in 1919. In the following years, the college was admitted to the American Association of Teachers Colleges in 1922, the Association of Texas Colleges in 1923, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1925. The school changed its name to West Texas State Teachers College in 1923. In the early 1930s, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society built its Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on the campus.

In 1948, a nonconformist leftist sociology professor, Joseph L. Duflot (1881–1957), created a sensation on campus when he told a meeting of the American Federation of Labor in Amarillo that "modern capitalism" is the "No. 1 enemy of the United States economy." A powerful legislator at the time, Sam Hanna of Dallas County, warned that state funding could be jeopardized for any college with "a communist" on the faculty. Though the West Texas regents first dismissed Duflot, he survived a second vote, and regent H.L. Mills praised him for "the courage of his convictions".[4] During the days of West Texas State University, the football team was an enormously successful feeder program for notable professional wrestlers including Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk, Ted Dibiase, Bobby Duncam, Tito Santana, Barry Windam, Bruiser Brody, Dory Funk Jr., and Stan Hansen, among others.

Many returning veterans from World War II enrolled at the institution in the latter 1940s, taking advantage of new G.I. Bill of Rights assistance. Conditions were so overcrowded for a time that the former soldiers slept in the gymnasium, and beds were brought from a former prisoner of war camp in Hereford.[4]

In 1949, the school again changed its name, this time to West Texas State College. During the Cold War, attention at West Texas State was focused on anti-communism. One history professor, John Cook, claimed that many of the films shown on campus, such as Communism on the Map, were "propaganda". During this time, too, the historian J. Evetts Haley ran for governor of Texas on a staunchly conservative platform, but the office went to Marion Price Daniel, Sr..[4]

During the 1960s, the school changed from a regional teacher's college to a state university. In 1963, Governor John B. Connally signed a bill to change the school's name to West Texas State University. The newly named school would gain a College of Arts and Sciences, a graduate school, and professional schools of business. Near the end of the 1960s, West Texas State obtained its own board of regents, established a School of Agriculture, a School of Fine Arts, and created a Department of Nursing.

By 1970, the student enrollment neared 8,000, but was decreasing. The primary reasons were the changes in the selective service system and increases in tuition. The university's funding was largely enrollment-driven, and this caused serious financial problems for the school.

The college radio station KWTS began broadcasting in 1972. The West Texas State athletics were in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Missouri Valley Conference, but the school decided to change its status to Division II and the Lone Star Conference in 1984.

In 1986, WT President Ed Roach was the subject of protests and calls for his resignation over the amount of money spent on the campus' Presidential House.[5] The 7,301 sq ft (678.3 m2) house cost $991,000, which was more than the $494,900 authorized by the State College Coordinating Board.[6] In 1991, Roach was indicted for diverting scholarship money to meet other budget deficits.[7]

The university joined the Texas A&M University System on September 1, 1990, and started to use the name West Texas A&M University in 1993. The school's first president under the new system was Barry B. Thompson. Early in Thompson's tenure, he dropped the school's football program, but the program returned a year later without athletic scholarships.

President Thompson was appointed chancellor of the Texas A&M University System in 1994 and Russell C. Long became the new president. During Long's tenure, the school renovated buildings, maintained its student enrollment growth, and added its first PhD in agriculture.

The school had a long-term connection with T. Boone Pickens, who was appointed to its Board of Regents in 1969. On March 21, 1973, Pickens resigned from the board in protest,, but was reappointed in 1981 and became its chair in 1982. He continued to chair its board until its merger with the Texas A&M system in 1990. In 1987, he pledged a $1.5 million matching gift to endow its business school, which was named in his honor. On November 24, 2004, the school issued a press release stating that it planned to remove Pickens' name from the T. Boone Pickens College of Business after university officials came to believe he had not completed pledges he made to the university. In fact, Pickens had satisfied his pledge, but asked to have his name removed. On December 1, 2004, the then-President Russell C. Long acknowledged the error and agreed to remove Pickens' name.[8] Subsequently, Pickens donated $165 million to Oklahoma State University-Stillwater. In 2007, Pickens endowed the "Pickens Professorship of Business" and in 2010, he endowed the "Pickens Professorship of Management." In 2017 the business school was named The Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, in recognition of the largest gift ($80 million) received by the university in its history.[9]

In late 2005, Long retired from his position as the school's president, and Dr. J. Patrick O’Brien took that office in early 2006.

During the tenure of President O’Brien, WTAMU has seen a surge of construction projects completed, including the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex, the Hayward Spirit Tower, the Charles K. and Barbara Kerr Vaughan Pedestrian Mall, the Buffalo Sports Park (including Wilder Park and Schaeffer Field), a new entrance/climbing wall and renovations in the Virgil Hensen Activity Center, Buff Hall, Centennial Hall, Founders Hall, two new parking lots, Victory Circle, the JBK Student Center Expansion, Classroom Center/WTBookstore renovation, Engineering and Computer Science Building renovation and the implementation of the WT Amarillo Center in Center City, Amarillo.

In January 2009, the University began its first ever comprehensive campaign to raise $35 million for scholarships, faculty/program support, and capital projects. The Share your Pride Campaign ended in August 2014 and raised more than $50 million.[10]


West Texas A&M University is considered a selective university with an acceptance rate of 67.4% (2014).[1] The university offers 60 undergraduate programs, 38 master's programs, and two doctoral programs through its six colleges/schools and graduate school.[11] West Texas A&M University has awarded more than 71,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees since 1910. West Texas A&M University has been named “military friendly”[12] and its academic programs and campus have been recognized by The Princeton Review,[13] U.S. News & World Report,[14] National Geographic,[15] Newsweek and The Daily Beast.[16] U.S. News ranks WTAMU as #32 for Best Online MBA Programs, #11 for Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA), and #204 for Graduate Studies of Speech-Language Pathology.[1] The University's Buffalo Sports Park is home to the largest grouping of synthetic athletic fields in the United States,[17] and its Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility is one of the largest testing facilities in the world for both large and small wind turbines.[18]


Along with the Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility, West Texas A&M University uses the Killgore Research Center, which houses the Attebury Honors Program, Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, and WTAMU Academic and Research Environmental Health and Safety office, to conduct research on blood-borne pathogens, biosafety, and occupational health.[19] WTAMU also teams up with several other institutions such as the Alternative Energy Institute, Athletic Training Room and Education Laboratory, Computer Information Systems Software and Network Security Testing Lab, Cooperative Research, Education, and Extension Team, and Dryland Agricultural Institute to conduct research initiatives.[20]


WTAMU demographics[2]
Gender, age, ethnicity, and Origin (fall 2016)
Average age25.7
African American5.57%
Asian American2.54%
Native American0.53%
Pacific Islander0.17%
Two or more races listed2.27%
Geographic origin

West Texas A&M University has a student body with almost 56% of it being female and 40% being made up by minorities. An overwhelming number of the student body are native Texans (82%), while around 285 students are from other countries.[2]

Distance education

The school is a leader in distance education.[21] It offers individual classes online and three undergraduate and two master's degree programs that can be completed totally online.

GetEducated.com ranked West Texas A&M University's online MBA degree number three (technically fourth) nationally in its list of affordable, quality Best Buys in online education.[22]


The newly renovated Jack B. Kelley Student Center made its debut in late 2012, and is the center of campus activity at West Texas A&M University. The JBK features Legacy Hall, a new campus venue for programs and activities. Legacy Hall can seat 750 people theater-style, has its own stage, built-in sound system, programmable lighting and projectors with two 21-foot screens. The expansion also features several smaller meeting rooms to accommodate student groups and a student gathering space that features “collaborative” furniture on wheels with electrical charging stations.

The JBK is also home to The Legends Club, Starbucks, a Chick-fil-a Express, a Which Wich, a Sharky's Burrito Company, and a convenience store.[23]

Buffalo Sports Park, a $21.8 million student-funded project, is the location of WT's new Division II intercollegiate complex for competition in baseball, softball, soccer, and track and field; it is the site for university intramural activities, community events, and area high school sports. The project involved a complete renovation of campus from east of Jarrett Hall and north to the former site of the university's Wind Test Center. The complex includes: the competition David and Myrt Wilder Baseball Field with seating; a competition softball field with seating; a competition combined soccer and track and field facility with seating; two combination football and soccer practice fields; a three-field intramural and recreational softball/flag football facility with lighting; two intramural basketball courts with lighting; two intramural tennis courts with lighting; a practice field for the WTAMU marching band; a grand lawn park activity area with lighting; a jogging trail with lighting; and rest room, concession, and ticket facilities.[23]

Charles K. and Barbara Kerr Vaughan Pedestrian Mall was completed and dedicated at Homecoming 2007. The pedestrian mall is located directly north of Old Main where Wisdom Road and University Drive formerly intersected. These cross streets between Old Main, Killgore Research Center, and the Jack B. Kelly Student Center are gone. In their place is a newly landscaped green space with the new Hayward Spirit Tower and the marble statue “The Original Texans”.[23]

The Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex opened in August 2006 as WTAMU's first new academic building in 30 years. The building features "smart classroom technology". Other special features include radio and television studios, a 304-seat Branding Iron Theatre, the Happy State Bank Studio black-box theatre, an acting studio, recital hall, music studios, and choir rehearsal rooms. The Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex is home to the Department of Music, the Department of Art, Theatre and Dance, and the Department of Communication.[23]

The Administration Building is now called Old Main. It went through a $5 million renovation beginning in February 1987. The Old Main building consist of four levels, and houses the administrative and enrollment management offices, as well as classrooms and laboratories. The Division of Education, the Department of History and Political Science, and the Division of Nursing are based in this building.

The Classroom Center was built in 1968. The four-story building contains classrooms, computer and writing labs, and faculty offices. The College of Business and the Department of English and Modern Languages are located in the Classroom Center. The Classroom Center had its reopening on August 24, 2009, for the start of the fall semester.

Mary Moody Northen Hall accommodates music studios, dance studios, a public art gallery, recital hall, art studios, computer labs, and classrooms.

The Agriculture and Sciences Building was constructed in 1974. The three-story building houses the Division of Agriculture and the Department of Life, Earth, and Environmental Sciences. The building contains classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices. The Agricultural Sciences Complex opened in the summer of 2018. Located in the northeast corner of campus, the facility is almost 160,000 square feet and includes classrooms, labs, offices, a meats lab, agriculture event center, and a pavilion for animal showing, handling, and evaluation. The Agriculture program was named the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences in 2017, in honor of the largest gift in the university's history.[24]

The Engineering and Computer Sciences Building was renovated in 2011 and again in 2017. It is home to the School of Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics.

A veteran's war memorial is expected to be revealed on Memorial Day 2018.

The Texas history museum, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, has been located on the campus of West Texas A&M University since the early 1930s.

Amarillo Center

The WTAMU Amarillo Center is located on the 10th and 11th floors of the Chase building in Amarillo, Texas. A permanent campus is being built at 8th Avenue and South Tyler Street, starting with the Commerce Building, which is planned to open in the fall of 2018. The new facility will be home to the WTAMU Center for Learning Disabilities, Speech and Hearing Clinic, Panhandle Area Health Education Center, Small Business Development Center, Licensed Professional Counseling, social work program, psychology program, special education program, and instructional technology program.


West Texas A&M University's sports teams participate in the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference. Their athletic teams are nicknamed the Buffaloes or simply called the "Buffs," while the women's teams are known as the “Lady Buffs”. As of 2016, West Texas A&M University student-athletes compete in baseball, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's cross country, women's cross country, equestrian, football, men's golf, women's golf, men's soccer, women's soccer, softball, men's track and field, women's track and field, men's bowling, women's bowling, and volleyball.

The Lady Buffs softball team won the 2014 NCAA Division II national championship in Salem, Virginia. The team was coached by Kevin Blaskowski and led on the field by Alyssa Lemos, Renee Erwin, and Rita Hokianga.

Presidents of West Texas A&M University

  • 1910-1918: Robert Bartow Cousins
  • 1918-1948: Joseph A. Hill
  • 1948-1972: James P. Cornette
  • 1972-1977: Lloyd I. Watkins
  • 1977-1982: Max Sherman
  • 1982-1984: Gail Shannon
  • 1984-1990: Ed D. Roach
  • 1991-1994: Barry Baird Thompson
  • 1994-2005: Russell C. Long
  • 2006-2016: J. Patrick O'Brien
  • 2016–Present: Walter V. Wendler

Notable faculty and alumni


  1. "USNews.com: US News Education: Colleges: West Texas A&M University". USNews. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  2. "Quick Facts". wtamu.edu. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  3. Life and Artwork of Georgia O'Keeffe, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (11:00), C-SPAN"Life and Artwork of Georgia O'Keeffe". C-SPAN. January 9, 2013. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  4. Martin "Marty" Kuhlman, "The Red Scare at West Texas State", West Texas Historical Association, annual meeting, West Texas A&M University in Canyon, April 5, 2008
  5. "President Gets Backing of Regents". Dallas Morning News. November 20, 1986. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  6. Herman, Ken (October 30, 1986). "State wants WTSU to repay overrun on President's House". Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  7. "Ex-university chief indicted He's 1 of 3 charged in West Texas scholarship funds case". Dallas Morning News. December 11, 1991. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  8. Dean, Brandi (December 2, 2004). "WT: Pickens exceeds pledged donations". Amarillo Globe News. Archived from the original on 2012-05-23. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  9. "WTAMU Announces Engler Gift as Largest in University History". West Texas A&M Univ. November 17, 2017. Retrieved 2019-02-11.
  10. Rogers, Dyke (October 4, 2014). "Rogers: Buffs can be proud of campaign". Amarillo Globe News.
  11. "WTAMU Quick Facts". WTAMU. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  12. "2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities". KMI. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  13. "WTAMU Named to '2014 Best in the West' List". WTAMU Press Release. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  14. "WTAMU Online Programs Recognized by U.S. News & World Report". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  15. "Cloning Cows From Steaks (and Other Ways of Building Better Cattle)". National Geographic News. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  16. "21st Most Beautiful College". Amarillo Globe News. 14 August 2012. Archived from the original on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  17. "Buffalo Sports Park". WTAMU. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  18. "Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility". Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  19. "WTAMU Facilities". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  20. "WTAMU Research". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  21. http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/college/items/3665
  22. "Top Ranked Best Buys in Online MBAs - Regionally Accredited". GetEducated.com. Retrieved 2/5/2010. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  23. "West Texas A&M University". wtamu.edu. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  24. Stein, Robert (November 18, 2017). "Ag legend Paul Engler makes WT history with biggest gift". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved 2019-02-11.

Further reading

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