President Ronald Reagan speaks in Rudder Auditorium in 1978.
“They Didn’t Hiss Me!”
I very much enjoy reading Spirit. In our mostly digital world, there is something comforting about turning the glossy pages of a real magazine.
I read with interest the summer issue’s
. Along with other earlier presidents, the visits of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were noted. However, Ronald Reagan was missing! article about U.S. presidents who have visited campus
I served as program chairman for Ronald Reagan’s only visit to Aggieland. His Nov. 15, 1978, visit was hosted by MSC Political Forum, the MSC committee that brought speakers from across the political spectrum to campus to educate students on the issues of the day. Reagan had conceded the Republican nomination to Gerald Ford in 1976 and launched his ultimately successful 1980 campaign shortly after his visit. It was Political Forum’s biggest event in our history. We easily sold out Rudder Auditorium!
More than 40 years later, three memories remain from that visit. My first memory is of David Fisher, Reagan’s advance man—the person who visits before the arrival of an important visitor to make appropriate arrangements. At the time, I didn’t know what an advance man was or what they did, but once I saw Fisher come to campus and help us get prepared, I knew what I wanted to do! Three years later, I became the advance man for Gov. Bill Clements during his run for reelection in 1981-1982.
Second, we used The Texas A&M University System plane to pick up Reagan in Dallas and bring him to College Station. I was a 19-year-old sophomore in a private plane with the next president! I thought that was very cool.
Last, and my fondest memory, was our chat just before and after we went on stage. Reagan was backstage in a chair reviewing his legendary 3x5 notecards. Before my introduction and his entrance on stage, I gave him a rundown of Aggie traditions and ended with a heads-up on what a “whoop” and a “hiss” meant. I told him “whoops” were good, but he might hear a loud hiss if he said something on the wrong side of where the students stood, since Aggies don’t boo. As you might imagine, Reagan just killed it, and as we left the stage to the sounds of cheers and whoops, he leaned over to me, cocked his head, gave me that Reagan smile and said, “Sam, they didn’t hiss me!”
Sam Gillespie ’81 Dallas, Texas