April 16, 2018

Memorial Student Center (MSC) student committees are a powerful force on the Texas A&M University campus, and at the helm of every committee, student leaders steer the way.

Michelle '80 and Brooks Herring '80, who recently endowed the MSC Reynolds Award, are pictured at Mt. Fuji, Japan, when they lived in Tokyo during an overseas work assignment.

Four former students and close friends—Michelle ’80 and Brooks Herring ’80, and Cheri ’80 and Ernen Haby ’81—haven’t forgotten the valuable lessons they learned while serving others in the MSC.

Michelle served on the MSC Directorate and as chair of MSC Town Hall. “It was our job to bring in large-scale concerts and to work out the details of logistics and budgeting,” she said. “My experience as a committee chair helped prepare me to enter the business world. I gained essential skills in managing people and projects, and I learned to be a better listener by understanding diverse thoughts and translating those different perspectives into desired outcomes.

“The moment the performer came out—seeing every seat filled, hearing the whoops and cheers, seeing the smiles and knowing that we had enhanced our peers’ undergraduate experiences through our programming—that’s something I will never forget.”

Brooks, who served as MSC president during the 1979–1980 school year, recalls big acts like the Beach Boys and Steve Martin entertaining students. “Many wonderful Friday evenings started with a concert at the G. Rollie White Coliseum and ended with Midnight Yell.”

MSC activities brought the troupe of four together. “We served on the MSC Council the year that Brooks was president and became good friends,” explained Ernen, who also served as MSC president during the 1980-1981 school year.

Recognizing and Commemorating

Recognizing student leadership is important because it validates the dedication required for extracurricular participation; spurs inspiration to further succeed; and can provide much needed support in place of a loan or part-time job.

The MSC Reynolds Award, created in 2000, is awarded annually to four outstanding juniors who will serve in MSC leadership officer roles during their senior year. Students were traditionally given a small gift in recognition, but there was not a permanent source of funds for a monetary award. In 2017, the Herrings filled this need.

“There are two reasons why this award is significant,” said Brooks. “One, it is an excellent opportunity to commemorate the legacy of Pam and Jim Reynolds, who have influenced so many students over the years. Two, it is a time-consuming commitment to be an MSC leader. We wanted to make life a little easier for students while they give their time supporting Texas A&M.”

That same year, the Habys created an endowment for the Thomas H. Rountree Award. Established in 1966, this award is given annually to recognize and honor students who make significant contributions to the MSC’s mission and bring prestige to the organization through their leadership experience. Ernen received the award in 1981, and Brooks received the award in 1980.

“During our time in the MSC, we saw the importance of former students giving back,” said Cheri, who served as director of public relations on the MSC Council. “Wayne Stark ’39 had his famous rolodexes of former students whom he called on to fund programs and to help advise current students. Over and over, we saw the generosity of ‘Old Ags’ and how supporting the MSC positively impacted both students and the university.”

Hearts of Gratitude

Both couples met at MSC events: Michelle and Brooks became acquainted through Town Hall, while Cheri and Ernen met at an annual MSC banquet. Later, the couples were in each other’s weddings. Both couples are proud that their children also attended Texas A&M and participated in the MSC. “It was exciting to watch them enjoy and benefit from the same amazing experiences we did,” said Ernen.

Cheri '80 and Ernen Haby '81 strive to make a positve impact on students and the university by supporting the Memorial Student Center.

All four agree that the MSC had a major influence on their lives. “Most of us, when we left where we grew up to attend this world-class university, realized that we had been living in a sort of cocoon,” Michelle said. “The MSC opened our eyes to the world and introduced us to so many things, including the value of cultural diversity. We recently moved back to Texas after living in Asia for 11 years. Those broadening experiences as a young adult proved invaluable to me over a lifetime of travel and also while living as an expatriate in Singapore and Japan. I couldn’t have known decades ago how well that seed planted during my MSC years would serve me in my future endeavors.”

“Texas A&M has done so much for me,” Brooks added. “I was a just a young man from Victoria, Texas when I enrolled. As president of the MSC, I interacted with student and faculty leaders across campus. I worked with renowned leaders such as The Honorable Fred McClure ’76, now executive director of the Leadership Initiative at Texas A&M; The Honorable Jeb Hensarling ’79, who’s now a congressman; Dr. John J. Koldus III, a remarkable man and the first vice president of student services; and Jim Reynolds, when he just started at Texas A&M as the second director of the MSC. I had the opportunity to observe their character traits and leadership techniques.”

Today, 1300 students participate in one of the MSC’s 19 student-led committees, which range from lecture series and leadership conferences to international experiences and visual and performing arts. Each committee has multiple leadership positions, allowing students to learn new skills and connect with a diverse group of peers.

“If not for the many former students who gave so generously, our experiences in the MSC would not have been the same,” Ernen said. “As we look back at all that we gained from our participation in MSC programs, we understand the importance of continuing that process. We want to be part of that building process, to continue in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.”

“We need the MSC organizations to continue to thrive as the university grows,” Brooks added. “They provide opportunities for students to broaden their horizons and allow them to be active participants, rather than just spectators.”

To learn how you can support MSC programs, contact Torii Kapavik '11, director of development for student affairs, below.