Following his mother’s advice led Al Wheeler ’63 to one of the most influential times of his life. When deciding where to attend college, his mother urged him to choose Texas A&M University, and, knowing that his friend had already selected the school, Al decided to become an Aggie. “My mother was elated about that,” he said.
After arriving on campus, Al’s friend only remained for one week, but Al knew he had found his home. “I loved it there,” he explained. “I loved the camaraderie and everything about it.”
Al’s time in Company E-2 in the Corps of Cadets played an important role in these experiences at Texas A&M and helped him develop lifelong ties to the university.
At the First Lady’s Service
The Mascot Company, E-2 is responsible for caring for the First Lady of Aggieland. Al often helped escort Reveille II to events and cared for her during Corps trips. On one visit to Dallas, the revered mascot came home with Al to meet his mother. “You would have thought she was meeting the president of the United States!” Al recalled. “She bragged to all her co-workers about babysitting Reveille.”
Although the freshman initiation process was challenging, Al persevered. His class began with 43 freshmen in E-2, but by his senior year, only 10 remained. From those seniors, Al was appointed by a group of military officers from a Corps Oversight committee and the graduating Senior Corps Cadets to be company commander of his unit, where he ensured that cadets conformed to their duties. Hearing his name announced for this distinction was a meaningful moment for him. “I was thrilled to be chosen as company commander,” he explained. “That was major for me.”
Al said that Company E-2 positively impacted his time at Texas A&M and beyond. “Looking back at the best times of my life, attending Texas A&M is right near the top,” he said. “The friendships I made in College Station are still alive and well today. Reveille was a major part of that. Taking care of her made such a difference in what we were able to do, and everybody loved taking her to different events. It made you feel so proud to walk down the street with her, and I loved showing her to everyone. When we went on Corps trips, Reveille was the star of the show, and we got to be part of it.”
Caring for Reveille also instilled in Al a lifelong passion for serving others. He has served on many boards, was active in the Baptist Men’s Association and exhibited the Aggie value of selfless service in numerous other capacities. For Al, the most humbling of these experiences was volunteering in New York after the events of 9/11. He and his wife, Judi, worked in the dining tent, serving hot meals to the workers clearing debris. “To say ‘thank you’ seemed barely adequate to express my gratitude,” Al said. “I really wanted to tell them they were all heroes to me.”
Helping Future Cadets
Since his time as a student, Al’s ties to the university have been further reinforced through his three sons, who followed in their father’s footsteps to attend Texas A&M. “I’m proud all my boys graduated from Texas A&M and that they are representative of the university,” he said. “I even have two bonus Aggie daughters-in-law!”
Because of these connections and the impact Al’s experiences at Texas A&M had on his life, the Wheelers are providing the same opportunities to others using a gift in their will to create a Keepers of the Spirit Scholarship endowment. Their gift will provide annual scholarships to freshman, sophomore, junior and senior cadets in Company E-2.
“We wanted everyone to have equal access to higher education,” Judi said. “If continuing with their education hinges on finances, we wanted to provide that additional funding for students to attend college.”
The couple hopes the scholarships will encourage future cadets. “E-2 was my outfit,” Al added. “I’m paying them back. I hope the recipients feel the same as me during my time at Texas A&M. Being a freshman was not fun, but what it taught me about discipline and perseverance and what I learned through the four years was powerful. I’m the man I am today because I had the education, camaraderie, training and discipline that the Corps is known for, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”
The Wheelers chose to create their gift through a bequest. Designated in a will or revocable living trust, a charitable bequest is a popular choice for many donors because of the numerous benefits it presents. For instance, it allows individuals to retain their assets and continue using them during their lifetimes. Furthermore, giving property through a bequest reduces estate-tax liability. Bequests are also easily created or changed at any time, allowing for greater flexibility in leaving a legacy for Texas A&M. To find out how to create a bequest or other planned gift, contact Angela Throne ’03 at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-5638.
Keepers of the Spirit Scholarships are awarded to cadets who aspire to the highest scholastic and leadership standards. You can fund a Keepers of the Spirit Scholarship with a $500,000 endowment, which will annually fund four scholarships for cadets in each class year. These scholarships defray the cost of tuition and expenses by $20,000 to $25,000 over four years. To learn more, contact Tom Pool ’96, senior director of development for the Corps of Cadets, at email@example.com or (979) 862-9154.