May 14, 2024

When Dr. Kevin Gamache ’12 declined his offer to attend Texas A&M University for his undergraduate education for financial reasons, he promised himself he’d find his way to Aggieland for another degree one day. That degree came nearly 30 years later, along with a friendship between him, his wife, Rita, and two Texas A&M professors that will impact students for years to come. 

Both from San Angelo, Texas, Rita and Kevin lived similar yet different lives growing up. While Rita called San Angelo home throughout her childhood, Kevin came from an Air Force family and moved back and forth between the town and Anchorage, Alaska, every few years to follow his father’s career.  

When it came time for college, Kevin’s first acceptance came from Texas A&M. But being one of four siblings in college at the same time, he chose to turn Aggieland down and accept a scholarship from Angelo State University to pursue his bachelor’s in biology. After graduation, he did something he said he’d never do: join the Air Force. “Growing up, I told people I wanted to be a civilian because I was tired of moving around,” he sai. “But joining the Air Force is what led me to Rita.” 

Though Rita also attended Angelo State University for her bachelor’s in elementary education, the two didn’t meet on campus. Instead, their meet-cute happened at the local department store. During his 10-month wait before going on active duty, Kevin took on a string of jobs, including one in the men’s department at a local retail store. Unbeknownst to him, his future wife was just down the aisle working in the children’s department.  

Rita and Kevin went on their first date in January 1982, and when Kevin left for active duty four months later, they entered a long-distance relationship. “For the next two years, Kevin and I communicated by writing letters,” Rita said. “It wasn’t the fastest, but we made the best of what we had, and our relationship prevailed.” The couple married in June 1984 and Rita joined Kevin in Wyoming for his first assignment as a missile combat crew commander.

From there, Kevin’s military career led the couple on a 24-year journey spanning Texas, Wyoming, Montana and Washington, D.C., as Kevin assumed roles ranging from ROTC education to missile maintenance. During this time, the Gamaches welcomed two children to their growing family, and Rita dedicated herself to a teaching career in elementary education. Kevin would ultimately retire from the Air Force in 2005 with the rank of Colonel, spurring the couple’s next adventure.

Aggie at Last 

After Kevin’s retirement, the family relocated to College Station where he taught all-hazards preparedness through the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and later transitioned to The Texas A&M University System to take over its security program. Meanwhile, Rita continued her career in education, joining the Bryan Independent School District as an elementary school teacher.  

Once settled in Aggieland, both Rita and Kevin pursued further education: Kevin embarked on a new master’s program in homeland security from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, while Rita pursued a master’s degree in library and information science at Sam Houston State University. “We both believe that education is continuous, and you’re never too old to start a new degree and can never know enough,” Rita said.

Inspiration Endowed 

As Kevin finished his Ph.D. and the couple continued attending more G-Camps, the Gamaches developed a deeper personal relationship with Vitek and Giardino. When the two professors retired in 2022, Rita and Kevin decided to create a gift to thank and honor them. “I would not be in the position I am today without the education I received,” Kevin said. “I had a successful Air Force career, and thanks to my Ph.D., I’ve had an equally successful career with the Texas A&M System.”

I would not be in the position I am today without the education I received.
- Dr. Kevin Gamache '12

In December 2023, the Gamaches established the Dr. John “Rick” Giardino and Dr. John D. “Jack” Vitek Endowed Fellowship in Water Management and Hydrological Science to support a graduate student studying fluvial geomorphology, an area of study that focuses on river formation. “Between the two of us, we have six degrees, and these two professors are among the best educators we’ve ever had the experience of learning from,” Rita said.  

The couple hopes their gift will attract more students like Vitek and Giardino to become higher-level educators who share the same passion for impacting educators at the grade-school level. “When we reflect on Rick and Jack’s impact on those teachers and the ripple effect it will have on their students, it’s nothing short of inspiring, and we want to continue their legacy,” Kevin added. “We hope we are pouring into someone who can have the same influence on their future students that Rick and Jack had on us.” 

Want to transform your appreciation into action and leave your own mark on academia? Contact Alissa Simpson below to learn how to establish a graduate fellowship.