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Surgeon. Pioneer. Conservationist.

Red Duke in his element. Portrait by Andy Dearwater. 

It was 1985 when Jayar Daily first met the late Dr. Red Duke ’50 at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Within five minutes, Red discerned that Jayar hailed from outside the Lone Star State. “I told him I was from Colorado,” Jayar said. “Then he asked if I liked to hunt and fish, and there was hope for me yet.”

The two, introduced by a mutual connection, met to discuss marketing the 100th anniversary of Boone and Crockett, North America’s oldest wildlife and habitat conservation organization, of which Red was about to become president. “I’d only ever seen him on television, but it was nothing compared to the real-life version,” Jayar said. “That day began our 30-year friendship.”

With his signature twang and bushy red mustache, Red was larger than life to most he encountered: a trauma surgeon with the presence of an old-time cowboy movie star. His achievements were many and notable. He treated former Texas Gov. John Connally after he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963, and he was instrumental in bringing Level I trauma care and LifeFlight air ambulance services to Houston in 1976. Red also wrote topic scripts and hosted the Texas Health Reports television program, while classmates of his may remember that he served as Head Yell Leader and began a tradition as the first Aggie to recite “The Last Corps Trip” poem at bonfire.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that Red was also an enthusiastic conservationist,” said Jayar, who is now a 25-year member of Boone and Crockett. “He loved wild spaces. He loved the land and he loved to hunt. As president of Boone and Crockett in the 1980s, he invigorated our club by reigniting Teddy Roosevelt’s founding vision and refocusing the national importance of conservation and wildlife management.”

It is for these reasons that, in 2017, Boone and Crockett decided to honor Red in a lasting way: The club is raising a $4 million endowment that will expand Texas A&M’s existing Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation and Policy Program and rename the program after Red, with permission from the Duke family.

Connecting Conservation Research with Public Policy

The existing Texas A&M conservation program was established through gifts amounting to $1 million from Boone and Crockett. The program provides graduate fellowships to support research conducted under the Boone & Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation and Policy, a position held by Dr. Perry Barboza, who was recruited to Texas A&M in 2015.

While a core focus of the current program is wildlife and conservation research, translating these findings to conservation public policy is paramount. With the help of the club’s pledged funds, the elevated and renamed Boone and Crockett Dr. Red Duke Wildlife Conservation and Policy Program will better develop future policymakers who will need to make informed decisions about ensuring the safe future of our nation’s wildlife populations and their habitats.

In addition to supporting more graduate researchers, the program will enter into an interdisciplinary partnership with the Bush School of Government and Public Service to include capstone courses that connect wildlife science with policy—a factor that no other conservation education program in the nation can claim.

“The Texas A&M program will use a novel approach to fill the demand for leaders in wildlife policy by preparing more wildlife biologists to work on policy issues while also recruiting policy oriented students to wildlife,” said Jayar. “The intent is to ensure that science remains the foundation of conservation and to produce students who better understand how public policies impact wildlife and their habitats.”

Red Duke '50 was a well-known trauma surgeon. He famously saved the life of former Texas Gov. John Connally after he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963.

With the right educational foundation, graduates of this program can address conservation issues such as the breakdown in federal public land management; how to educate homeowners of large and small land holdings on private land conservation; how to manage wildlife in a state of drought; and how wildlife and their habitats can rebound to change.

Why Texas A&M?

“Red is part of the reason we chose to invest our resources at Texas A&M, but our members are also impressed with the Aggie culture,” Jayar said, “which produces students with a strong sense of responsibility, leadership and public service who want to develop solutions to real-world problems.”

Also notable is Texas A&M’s track record for the highest-quality Ph.D. education in conservation, biodiversity and wildlife management through its Applied Biodiversity Science program. This factor, paired with expert faculty in these fields, Texas A&M’s land-grant and Top 10 research institution status, and its extensive network to communicate conservation issues through the AgriLife Extension service, the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Bush School, will help ensure the program’s success.

“Texas A&M is the perfect place for my father’s vision to be realized, and associating his name with the program will be a reminder of his leadership legacy in conservation and science,” said Red’s daughter Sara Duke, an adjunct faculty member in the Texas A&M Department of Ecosystem Science and Management and a civil servant for the Agriculture Research Service of the USDA. “He didn’t like being boasted about, but I suspect that if he knew about the renaming of this program, he would probably grumble with a little smile sneaking through his big mustache.”

You can support the club’s efforts to grow the Boone and Crockett Dr. Red Duke Wildlife Conservation and Policy Program with a gift of $25 or more online at To make an endowed gift of $25,000 or more, payable over a five-year period, that will support the program’s conservation efforts in perpetuity, contact Mark Klemm '81, assistant vice president for development (below).