November 4, 2019

The 1994 Disney hit “The Lion King” teaches an important lesson to children, yet also serves as a reminder to adults that every action has great impact on the future. The movie’s featured song “The Circle of Life” paints an image of a chaotic world in which everyone must find his or her place to contribute. No one understands this concept better than Debbi ’74 and Dr. Gregg Dimmick ’74.  

As high school juniors in Omaha, Nebraska, the young sweethearts had no idea their future would lead them to Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, or that one person would have such a significant impact on the rest of their lives.

“I received a National Science Foundation summer program application in my high school physics class, and I was interested in being a geologist at the time,” Gregg said. “Only two universities listed geology programs: Iowa State and Texas A&M. We lived in the Midwest, so I knew there wasn’t much geology in Iowa—only corn and dirt, but no rocks! I didn’t know if Texas was known for geology, but I assumed it was better than Iowa,” he joked.


Debbi and Gregg in their youth enjoying campus life as Aggies.

Texas A&M’s summer geology program is where Gregg met the man who set the track for his and Debbi’s future: Professor Fred Smith. “Apparently, I did well enough in the six-week course that I made an impression on Professor Smith. I received a letter out of the blue my senior year with a $500 scholarship offer. He arranged the scholarship without me even knowing,” Gregg said. At the time, the cost of college was $4 per credit hour, so the scholarship was a huge incentive for the high school senior to take a leap of faith and move to Aggieland. 

Gregg recalled the southern hospitality Professor Smith extended even after he made his decision to become an Aggie. “When I flew in for early registration, I didn’t know the airport was out of town or how to get to campus, so he and his wife picked me up. They knew I’d joined the Corps, so they were calling me ‘Fish Dimmick.’ I didn’t know what that meant, but I found out pretty quickly,” Gregg laughed. “They had me over for dinner a few times my freshman year, and they were very nice. I’ve always felt he was the major influencer in my decision to attend Texas A&M.”

Meanwhile, Debbi was enjoying life at Valparaiso University in Indiana, but was experiencing unexpected heartache. “Gregg and I dated in high school in Omaha, Nebraska, but I assumed it would end when we left for college,” she said. “I missed him so much that I decided to transfer to Texas A&M my sophomore year.” As Debbi’s father was  stationed in the Air Force in Bryan two decades earlier, her family was familiar with Aggieland, making the move an easy decision.

“My folks also supported the move because Gregg and I had rung up quite the expensive long-distance phone bill from Indiana to Texas on their dime,” Debbi laughed. In a way, moving to Bryan-College Station also made Debbi feel she was returning home. “I was born in Bryan and was here until I was 18 months old,” she said. “I have a photo of my mother pregnant with me, standing in front of the Memorial Student Center (MSC).”



From seeing Elton John perform on campus at the start of his career (in which he couldn’t even fill the basketball arena), to buying dinner at the MSC with a $0.75 coupon, to parading The University of Texas’ stolen mascot Bevo around the quad, Debbi and Gregg enjoyed their college experiences and wouldn’t trade being an Aggie for anything. “It’s amazing how many times we say going to Texas A&M is the best thing that ever happened to us,” the couple agreed.

Debbi and Gregg have a sincere appreciation for not only the fond memories gained, but also the traits they developed as Aggies that shaped them for future successes. Both agreed Texas A&M was instrumental in building their self-confidence and leadership skills, while also instilling a love of service in them.

“Being in the Corps at Texas A&M was good for me because I’m a very introverted person,” Gregg explained. “I wasn’t good at socializing, and the Corps made me interact with others. I learned to introduce myself because I had to. I changed a lot in the four years I was here.”

Debbi agreed wholeheartedly. “I wasn’t particularly confident prior to coming here, but I overcame my fear of public speaking through presenting in class,” she said. These traits have proven exceptionally useful for Debbi through the countless leadership roles she’s held for professional volunteer organizations (including the university’s Sterling C. Evans Library and The Association of Former Students’ board), and for Gregg throughout his 37-year pediatric career in Wharton, Texas.

Gregg added that while he is retired from pediatrics, he still uses his medical degree to serve children in poverty-stricken areas. “Mission trips to Mexico and South America are really the only times I practice medicine nowadays,” he said. “That sense of volunteerism and selfless service Texas A&M instilled in us is still very important today.” 


Realizing how much Texas A&M has contributed to their personal success and happiness, Debbi and Gregg were inspired to use an existing annuity to commit a planned gift in honor of the late Professor Fred Smith. Their gift will fund a President’s Endowed Scholarship, which are four-year, merit-based awards designated for high-achieving Aggies. “We hope this will benefit students who love the university as much as we do,” Debbi said. “We are big believers in the long-term, and we feel this gift will continue paying forward.”


Professor Fred Smith presents Gregg with a certificate for completing the summer geology program at Texas A&M.

Gregg added that giving the gift in honor of Professor Smith was very important to him. “I’ve always felt like I owed him so much. I never would have ended up at Texas A&M without his guidance, and if I hadn’t landed here, neither would Debbi.”

Debbi and Gregg chose to support the university by making the Foundation beneficiary of a commercial annuity. The process for this type of gift was extremely easy. The couple simply completed a new beneficiary form for their annuity’s custodian. “We always wanted to fund a scholarship, but we really didn’t have the money to do it at the time,” Debbi said. “Giving through a planned gift made sense. It fits our financial plan.”   

While the benefits associated with their planned gift make it a smart financial investment, the couple noted their goal has always been to give back to the university because it’s an obvious benefit to the world. “Aggies receive an education, but they are also taught to intertwine that education with goals to leave the world a better place,” Gregg said. “Texas A&M delivers leaders—leaders with a heart.” 


Gregg may have become a pediatrician, but his initial fascination with geology (sparked by a love for archaeology) never faded. In fact, it is stronger today than ever.

In 1996, years before entering retirement, Gregg began searching for artifacts with a metal detector in a rice field near his home in Wharton, Texas. His findings led to a major historical discovery and an obsession for uncovering the real story of the Mexican Army during the Texas Revolution.

Also called “the Mexican Army guy” by fellow historians, and “Digger” by his grandchildren, Gregg’s passion for digging up artifacts has become much more than a hobby. He’s authored two books: “Sea of Mud” and “General Vicente Filisola’s Analysis of Jose Urrea’s Military Diary: A Forgotten 1838 Publication by an Eyewitness to the Texas Revolution,” and is currently writing a book on the Mexican Army and Texas Revolution for Texas A&M University Press.   

“There’s a sign in a barbecue joint in Wharton that reads, ‘Follow your heart, but bring your brain along’,” Gregg said. “This perfectly describes my life. I dreamed of being an archaeologist, and then a geologist, before realizing it wasn’t in the cards for me. I now realize becoming a doctor allowed me to follow my true passion.”

To learn more about making a planned gift, contact Angela Throne ’03 at or (979) 845-5638. To support scholarships with a major gift of $25,000 or more, contact Marcy Ullmann ’86, senior director of scholarship programs, at or (979) 845-6383.

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