February 13, 2024

The papers of several literary giants, as well as precious artifacts of world and Aggie history are available to scholars and the public at Texas A&M University’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives. The works of Don Quixote, Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, George R.R. Martin, Alex Haley, Rudyard Kipling and Walt Whitman, and objects including a Sumerian clay tablet and a map of Texas created by Stephen F. Austin, all have a home in Cushing, which has been the university’s special collections library and archive for more than 25 years.

Today, the library is writing its next chapter with a strategic model that aims to create distinctive and rare collections. “A special collections library is like a specialized laboratory,” said Robin Hutchison ’91, associate university librarian of special collections and archives. “Our unique collections and programs that support our faculty and student success also attract researchers from around the world, and that’s what makes Cushing a destination.” But before it achieved its current prestige, the library and its namesake experienced adventurous journeys including tales of war, fire and a redemption story.

Saving Texas A&M

The library’s namesake, Edward B. “E.B.” Cushing, was a member of the Class of 1880, the second class at the then-new Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. However, after his father died in January 1879, his education took a detour as he became a surveyor for Ashbell Smith before joining Southern Pacific Railroad. He eventually returned to college and graduated with honors in 1899 with a civil engineering degree.

Cushing then rejoined Southern Pacific to become an administrator, but staying connected to his alma mater remained high on his priority list. He established the Alpha Phi fraternity, a precursor of The Association of Former Students, and chaired a committee that commissioned the YMCA Building.

Cushing eventually returned to Texas and became a federal bank examiner in 1919. Following his death in 1924, the Aggie’s legacy continued through his extensive collection of engineering books he had bequeathed to the college, requesting they be used to start the first stand-alone library, which was ultimately named in his honor.

A Growing Endeavor

Prior to the dedication of Cushing Library, the college had a library in Old Main that was displaced after the 1912 fire. The library moved to the first floor of the newly built Academic Building but was unable to meet the needs of the growing student body.

That led to the creation of Cushing Library in 1930 as the college’s first stand-alone library. “College leaders were focused on increasing the school’s reputation and responding to its growing enrollment,” Oldham said. “They considered the library an important component of the student experience, education and the college’s land-grant mission.”

The library’s staff is also expanding its collecting areas to support initiatives that include a book arts and book history program, which offers hands-on workshops using period-accurate printing equipment. An oral history program that will capture the rich stories surrounding the university’s land-grant mission, traditions and community is also on the horizon.

Moving forward, Cushing’s staff plans to continue enhancing and expanding the library’s resources to educate and delight future generations of visitors. “What we’re doing now comes full circle to the intention behind establishing this purpose-built library in support of research, teaching and inspiring intellectual curiosity,” Oldham said. “The purposeful and careful curation of our collections will ensure their growth, deepen the collections' usefulness to both students and researchers, and aid in the fulfillment of Texas A&M’s land-grant mission.”

To learn more about giving to Cushing or the Texas A&M University Libraries, contact Adelle Hedleston ’88 below.