Editor's Note: Bill Lonquist '48 passed away on January 20, 2020.
William “Bill” C. Lonquist, Jr. ’48 knows the art of motivation. As a Yell Leader in the late 1940s, he honed his ability to create enthusiasm and inspire passion from his Texas A&M University classmates at athletic events.
Those skills have served him well. After graduation, Lonquist steadily climbed to top leadership roles in the oil industry. His loyalty to Texas A&M influenced his family, which now boasts three generations of Aggies. And his dedication to his alma mater led to a lifetime of service, including creating four scholarships through the Texas A&M Foundation.
Deep in the Heart of East Texas
Lonquist grew up in an oilfield camp in Cayuga. As a youngster, he befriended one of his father’s professional colleagues, an engineer, who sparked his interest in petroleum engineering. That friendship started the teenager on his path to Texas A&M.
The East Texan was among the first generation in his family to attend college and holds the honor of being the family’s first Aggie. At the time, Aggieland was a different place. The railroad tracks marked the edge of campus, and all students were members of the Corps of Cadets. The freshman class totaled 1,500 and students didn’t eat meals off campus. Hitchhiking was the norm; at the end of each semester, hundreds of students lined up along the highway to catch rides home.
Education Interrupted to Serve the Nation
At the end of his freshman year in 1944, Lonquist’s studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Navy. He was trained in radio communications and posted in Hawaii toward the end of World War II. After the war ended, he was reassigned for six months to the U.S. Port Director on the Island of Saipan.
Upon his discharge from the service, Lonquist returned to Texas A&M to complete his degree. He found he had a deeper appreciation for the Corps’ commitment to discipline and cohesiveness, which differed from his experience in the Navy. “It was impressive to see individuals—who ranged from farm kids to big city boys—come into the Corps defining themselves as independent and then see them build a strong sense of camaraderie,” he said.
Lonquist also immersed himself in other campus activities. He earned the nickname “Bullet” when he outran All-Southwest Conference football player “Country” Higgins during an intramural tag football game. Lonquist also remembers joining his classmates at the College Station train depot, where they vied for dates with the arriving female students who attended Texas State College for Women, Texas A&M’s sister college.
Farmers Fight and First-Down Kisses
The year 1948 proved to be an exciting time for Lonquist, who was among the first group of World War II servicemen to be elected Yell Leaders. One of his fellow Yell Leaders was famed medical trauma surgeon Dr. James H. “Red” Duke ’50. Lonquist also served with Jim Stephens ’49, Tommy Splittgerber ’49 and Glenn Kothmann ’50.
That year, the Aggie football team, which played in the 25,000-seat Kyle Field, lost every game except for one (which ended in a tie). As the dismal season progressed, the Yell Leaders started a new tradition in which Aggies kissed their dates when the offense made a first-down.
In spite of the losing season, Lonquist has a wealth of positive memories: leading Yell Practice in front of the campus YMCA building, on the steps of the Texas State Capitol and in front of Houston’s Rice Hotel; being thrown into the Fish Pond; and giving a pep talk to the Aggie players prior to their game with Southwest Conference rival, Texas Christian University.
He also appreciates how much the role of Yell Leader has changed. His time in the position was divided with his responsibilities to the Corps. In comparison, today’s Yell Leaders have a much different experience, since they also serve as university ambassadors. “They often take an extra semester or an extra year to graduate because of all the Yell Leader time commitments and because they devote their summers to attending different events,” said Lonquist’s wife, Paula. “It’s like a job now.”
On to Career and Family
After graduation, Lonquist began his long, successful career in the oil industry. Initially, he worked as a petroleum engineer with Seaboard Oil Company before joining Texas Eastern, where he eventually served as president of worldwide exploration and production. During this time, Lonquist earned a law degree from South Texas College of Law. In 1983, he formed Memorial Exploration Company, which focused on U.S. oil production, and served as its president until the company was sold in 1997.
In 1981, Lonquist married Paula, and the couple raised their combined family of five sons in Houston. With College Station only a short drive away, attending events in Aggieland has been an integral part of family life over the years. “Sometimes I wanted to hit him over the head because he was so focused on making events at Texas A&M the priorities of his life,” said Joyce Lonquist, the wife of Lonquist’s son Paul ’77. “But in hindsight, what it did was create great memories for all of us who got to go along as members of Bill’s family.”
Not surprisingly, Texas A&M continues to be a central presence in the Lonquist family’s life. Two sons boast the middle names “Kyle” and “Ross.” Four of the five sons graduated from Texas A&M. In turn, five of 13 grandchildren are now Aggies. Lonquist also hopes that many of his eight great-grandchildren will eventually wear an Aggie ring.
Additionally, his children and grandchildren are being recognized in their own right within the Texas A&M community. For instance, son Richard Lonquist ’87 co-owns Lonquist Field Services, which topped Mays Business School’s 2017 Aggie 100 list. Grandson Kyle Lonquist ’13 was a Yell Leader at Texas A&M University-Galveston, served on the President’s Student Advisory Committee and chaired the campus’s Big Event. Granddaughter Katie Lonquist Thomas ’17 was an Impact counselor and co-chair, a leader in Freshmen Leaders in Christ and a volunteer with Breakaway Ministries.
Always a Part of Aggieland
Lonquist continues to find ways to show his devotion to Texas A&M. He regularly calls many members of his Corps unit and remains an avid supporter of Aggie athletics, having purchased season tickets for more than 50 years. He is also active in The Association of Former Yell Leaders and served as its president. He’s been a visible presence at many of the group’s functions and hosted dinners for Yell Leaders and their dates.
The oilman continues to be financially generous as well. He contributed extensively to the Foundation through creating four scholarships. The first gift established a President’s Endowed Scholarship in 1992. Sixteen years later, he funded a General Rudder Corps Scholarship, an endowed scholarship in Mays Business School and an endowed scholarship in the College of Engineering’s Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering. Additionally, he donates to the scholarship fund that helps Yell Leaders finish their education, supports Aggie athletics through the 12th Man Foundation and has assisted with numerous building campaigns, including the Kyle Field renovation and construction of the Hildebrand Equestrian Complex.
The former executive also offers his expertise to the university. For example, Lonquist served as vice president of The Association of Former Students and as a member of Texas A&M’s President’s Advisory Council under former President Robert Gates. He is also a long-time member of the 12th Man Foundation and has been a visible presence at a variety of events across campus.
Even though his days spent leading yells in front of a Texas A&M crowd are long past, people still approach Lonquist to tell him how much he has meant to the university. Equally as impressive are the friendships he has made and kept over the years. “When I met Bill, Paul and I had just started dating, and I often saw him at tailgates,” Joyce said. “I remember the thing I was most impressed by at that point was how many Aggies his age that he was surrounded by. I thought, ‘That’s a brotherhood, a family that so many other places don’t have.’”
To support the Texas A&M Yell Leaders with an endowed gift, contact Megan Pulliam ’09 by email at email@example.com, or by phone at (800) 392-3310 or (979) 862-1247. Give online at give.am/YellLeaders.