February 13, 2019

Ashley Ralph ’19 recalls that as a child, her grandfather John Mayfield Jr. ’58 brought her to campus to explore the Quad, see cadets march into Kyle Field and cheer on the Fightin’ Texas Aggie football team. Those experiences shaped her own love for Texas A&M and the Corps of Cadets.

When John Mayfield (Class of 1923) chose to enroll at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in 1919, he sparked the start of a century-long family legacy, which his great-granddaughter, Ashley Ralph ’19 will bring full circle when she graduates this May. As a young girl, Ashley recalls her grandfather, John Mayfield Jr. ’58, bringing her to campus to explore the Quad, see cadets march into Kyle Field and cheer on the Fightin’ Texas Aggie football team, all to ensure that Texas A&M University was a part of her life. “After all those visits, I always knew I would attend Texas A&M,” Ashley said. “There was never another option for me.”

In keeping with tradition, it was only natural for Ashley to join the Corps of Cadets like her grandfathers. “Being an Aggie is rooted in tradition,” Ashley said. “That’s what brought me here, and that’s what keeps me here. Not only do the traditions we follow give me a bond with my fellow Aggies, but they also connect me to my grandfathers. There’s something special about knowing they were doing almost the exact same thing 100 years ago.”

As tangible evidence of her Aggie roots, Ashley received her great-grandfather’s Aggie Ring last April along with her own. “My grandfather had mentioned the ring to me at the start of my freshman year, but as Ring Day approached, he and my mom had convinced me that I was not going to receive it,” she said. “I didn’t even think my grandfather would be at my ceremony. When the day came, I was so surprised to see him there. I was even more shocked to be presented with my great-grandfather’s ring. Before that day, I had never even seen it.”

Smooth from years of wear, Ashley’s great-grandfather’s ring carries decades of family history. For her grandfather, passing down his father’s ring was a moment to celebrate the accomplishments of years past and look forward to those to come. “It was a distinct pleasure and lots of fun,” said John Mayfield Jr. ’58. “I’m sure my father was smiling in heaven the day Ashley got that ring.”

The Roots of Tradition

To Ashley, her great-grandfather’s ring symbolizes a family bond that goes beyond blood. “I keep the ring in my room and take it out on occasion before important Corps events to remember not only how far I’ve come, but also how far our whole family has come,” Ashley said. “Had my great-grandfather not been so immersed in Aggie tradition, I might not have experienced all that the Corps and Texas A&M offers.”

Before attending Texas A&M, Ashley’s great-grandfather John Mayfield (Class of 1923) served in World War I. With this experience, he became a natural leader, rising to Corps colonel his senior year—the equivalent of Corps commander today. In the years following his graduation, John earned the title of “Texas A&M’s No. 1 Fan” for his support to the athletic department. Known to only miss a football game if his wife was ill, John later became one of the first inductees to the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Honor in 1980. Among other accomplishments, he also played a role in organizing The Association of Former Students, further linking his family’s ties to the Aggie Ring.

Last April, in addition to earning her own Aggie Ring, Ashley Ralph ’19 was gifted her great-grandfather’s ring by her grandfather, John Mayfield Jr. ’58.

“I’m sure my great-grandfather would be proud to see where we are now,” Ashley said. “A lot has changed since 1923, but the Aggie Spirit remains the same. We still uphold the same values that allow us to trust other Aggies, which is why we can meet a stranger, see their Aggie Ring and talk like we’re best friends. I’ve never met my great-grandfather, but through reading about him and hearing stories from my grandfather, I know he would say the same.”  

A Lasting Legacy

In her time at Texas A&M, Ashley has climbed the ranks of the Corps and now serves as chief of staff in her senior year. She also plays for the Corps women’s basketball team, traveling to tournaments at Notre Dame and Houston during their season. She even competed for Texas A&M’s rowing team her freshman and sophomore years. In her spare time, Ashley volunteers for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “I love being around good people,” she said. “I’ve made some of my best friends during my time at Texas A&M, and I know we’ll remain friends for our whole lives thanks to the experiences we’ve shared.”

Her love for people led Ashley to pursue a career in real estate. After graduation, she plans to move back to Houston to stay involved with the rodeo and the Aggie community there. With hopes of continuing to pass down her great-grandfather’s ring, Ashley wants to keep her future family involved in Aggieland.

“I won’t force my kids to attend Texas A&M, but I hope the family tradition at least sparks their interest,” Ashley said. “I think my choosing to come here added years to my grandfather’s life. He’s been able to relate to my experiences in the Corps, which has strengthened our bond and brought us both so much joy.”

To support the Corps of Cadets, contact Tom Pool ’96, senior director of development, at tompool@txamfoundation.com or (979) 862-9154.