Bobcat Beginnings

With TXST’s 125th anniversary on the horizon, the Oral History Project aims to capture alums’ collegiate memories

By Paul Stinson

black and white photo of people walking in txst's quad
A photo from the 1980 "Pedagog" yearbook captures a busy day on the Quad.

Each graduate of Texas State University navigates a distinctive path in life. But no matter how different their post-college careers, they all share lasting memories of their time in San Marcos and the transformative experiences of being a Bobcat. 

In 2024, Texas State will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding. To mark the occasion, the Office of Alumni Engagement is capturing the stories of Bobcats from across the decades with a wide-ranging Oral History Project. 

“What better way to learn about the university’s unique history than through the stories of the alumni who lived it?” said Alejandra Merheb, assistant vice president for Alumni Engagement.

Alums have until Oct. 13 to join the more than 10,000 voices who’ve already shared their stories via telephone recordings. The project will culminate with the creation of a book honoring Texas State’s impact on the lives of graduates, as well as an audio library of the oral history recordings.

“Whether you graduated from Southwest Texas or Texas State — once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat!” Merheb said.  

Texas State University’s Oral History Project is accepting submissions through Oct. 13.

The Alumni Engagement office mailed postcards to all alumni with addresses on file, sharing instructions on how to call in to record their memories. Visit the Oral History Project website for more information on participating in the project and to purchase a copy of the Oral History Project book. 

multiple students walking on sidewalk near grassy area
Students traverse campus in 1970.

A sampling of recordings from the Oral History Project underscores that while Texas State has changed dramatically over the decades, Bobcats share sentiments about the support, acceptance, and educational growth they found as students.

Texas lawmakers authorized the establishment of the Southwest Texas State Normal School in 1899. Over the years, the university has grown from 303 students to more than 38,000. Opened in 1903 as a single building — Old Main — the San Marcos Campus now covers 507 acres.

But the campus, bisected by the picturesque San Marcos River, has retained its cozy charm.  “It was a small town — it wasn’t in one of the big cities like San Antonio and Austin, and that really appealed to me,” recalled Dr. Anabel Romero-Juarez, class of 2001, in her audio recording. 

Nine hours away from her native El Paso, Romero-Juarez arrived in San Marcos as a first-generation college student and joined the Latina sorority Sigma Delta Lambda. 

“That was super impactful — gaining a new family away from home,” Romero-Juarez said. “SDL was a huge part of my life that opened doors to really getting involved across campus with other organizations.”

Like Romero-Juarez, alum Patrick Ervin pursued a career in education after graduating from TXST in 2017.

Listen to Dr. Anabel Romero-Juarez's story in her own words.

Listen to Patrick Ervin's story in his own words.

“It completely set up my career,” said Ervin, who teaches second grade in the Irving Independent School District. “I went in for education, and now here I am going on six years now after the fact.”

In his Oral History Project recording, Ervin recalled plunging into campus life and making lifelong friends during his time at Texas State.

“Here was my first real moment of independence,” he said. “I was excited to get to be my own person and get to grow. I would not have the confidence of an educator that I have if I had gone somewhere else. I think it shaped the strong independent person that I am now.” 

photo of people walking on college campus is 1987
A 1987 "Pedagog" photo of Bobcats on campus.

Most of the Oral History Project recordings capture the experiences of students who came to Texas State and then moved away to pursue their professional careers. One notable exception is Dann Baker, class of 1974. 

After serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, Baker arrived on campus in 1970 to study education, biology, and sports science. In 1974, he won the collegiate wrestling championship after going undefeated.

Baker stayed at Texas State for 43 years, including as a senior lecturer in the Department of Health and Human Performance. He started the university’s karate and judo teams, and he racked up numerous championships and accolades over his career as a competitor and coach, including the title of “senior karate grand master.”

Though he specialized in martial arts, Baker appreciated the peaceful atmosphere he found at Southwest Texas State University (the university’s name at the time).

“Everybody got along with everybody,” Baker says. “It’s still pretty much like that.”

Listen to Dann Baker's story in his own words.

The Oral History Project has also received submissions by letter, Merheb said. One of those is from 95-year-old Eldon Ball, who graduated in 1949 from what was then called Southwest Texas State Teachers College.

man and womans headshots side by side
Eldon Ball and his late wife, Joyce Wise.

“I worked at the two theaters in town for four years to pay all my college expenses,” wrote Ball, who would go on to serve as an elementary school principal in Hutto.

Ball also wrote about his late wife, Joyce Wise. Also a Bobcat, Wise attended TXST at the same time as Ball, but the two didn’t reconnect until 1983 after Wise’s first husband passed away. After getting married, Ball and Wise moved to Milano, where they converted an old two-room school building into their home.

“Texas State means so much to so many people,” Merheb said. “I encourage alumni to share their experiences with us so we can learn from them and better share what it means to be a Bobcat.”