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.
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).”