Gallery Features Murals, Audio Of Aggie Stories Recorded By StoryCorps
Two Aggies were driving down the road in Washington, D.C., with an Aggie bumper sticker on their car.
One of them was Harold Adams, a former Texas A&M architecture student who, soon after graduation in 1962, worked on design projects for President John F. Kennedy Jr. On a Saturday afternoon in the mid-1960s, he and his roommate were surprised when a car pulled alongside theirs, and three girls began yelling, “Gig ’em Aggies!”
“Well, we weren’t all yelling. That was friend Lela,” said Janice Adams, one of the young women in the car who later became Harold Adams’ wife. “Lela’s father had been the dean of agriculture at A&M, and Lela had spotted this Aggie sticker on the car. She said, ‘Pull this car over! The only guys who ever leave Texas are rich. We’ve got to meet these rich Aggies!’”
This is just part of Janice and Harold Adams’ conversation recorded by StoryCorps, the national oral history project, that is featured in the “StoryCorps at Texas A&M” exhibit that opened with a reception at J. Wayne Stark Galleries in College Station Tuesday afternoon.
Through Thursday, Jan. 31, gallery visitors can hear the rest of the Adams’ story and listen to 11 other conversations between Aggies at pedestals fitted with iPads and headphones. They also can peruse murals hanging above the pedestals that relate to the audio stories being shared.
Diverse voices sharing their experiences
Last year, Texas A&M partnered with StoryCorps to record these and almost 30 other Aggie stories. All of them are approximately five minutes in length and available to listeners on the StoryCorps at Texas A&M website. For 16 years, the nonprofit has gathered the largest single collection of human voices ever recorded telling powerful stories of their shared humanity.
“What you’ll find when you go through these stories are diverse voices sharing their experiences and having meaningful conversations,” said Kelly Brown, associate vice president of marketing and communications at Texas A&M. “A two-time Purple Heart recipient detailing his harrowing rescue in Vietnam; a missionary taking his family to work in war-torn Burma, Sudan, Syria and Iraq, and putting his life on the line to rescue a young Iraqi girl under a barrage of gunfire; and students sharing the fears they had when they first stepped foot on campus, and how that faded as the Aggie family moved in.”
“Texas A&M is a family before it’s a school, and that’s what makes it so special.”
In the Stark Galleries, hanging over the pedestal where the Adams’ story is told, a mural features an enlarged meeting memo drafted by the young architect in regard to selecting the site for Kennedy’s presidential library.
Names on the memo include some of Kennedy’s top advisers: Ted Sorensen, his speechwriter; Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the famous Harvard professor and historian; and McGeorge Bundy, his national security adviser, among others. All of them were invited to the White House meeting, the subject of Adams’ memo.
The mural also features an eerie image of Jackie Kennedy working with Adams and others on the design of Lafayette Square located across the street from the White House. In the photo, then-First Lady Jackie Kennedy is wearing the pink Chanel suit that she later wore on the day her husband was assassinated.
Adding to the national narrative
At another pedestal in the gallery, visitors can hear a conversation recorded between Aggie Yell Leaders Gavin Suel and Connor Joseph. Suel was born in College Station but most recently lived in Africa for eight years with his siblings and missionary parents. He and his entire family became targets in a mass shooting at a Kenyan shopping mall, and Suel narrowly escaped harm. He returned to College Station to attend Texas A&M two weeks before the beginning of Fish Camp, and he was nervous because he felt like a stranger in America.
“This was my home, but it wasn’t necessarily where I was comfortable anymore, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to do,” Suel said. “I say in the StoryCorps interview that I was immediately adopted into the Aggie family, and what I meant was that Texas A&M is a family before it’s a school, and that’s what makes it so special; that’s why A&M changes lives more than any other school; that’s why the alumni base is so strong; and that’s why we have the best student section in football.”
Also in the exhibit, Jennifer Ganter and Katy Jackson, Aggies who inherited the Dixie Chicken from their father, share stories about their nontraditional upbringing and childhood memories around the famous bar. They also talk about owning the Aggie institution that has served beer and provided “rites of passage” for students through numerous popular traditions for more than 40 years.
StoryCorps tapes one-on-one conversations between diverse people in retro Aerostream trailers fitted with recording studios that travel across the nation. The conversations are archived at the U.S. Library of Congress, and some of them are shared with listeners across other platforms, including National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and StoryCorps’ website.
Those interested in adding to the national narrative remotely can download the StoryCorps mobile app and record their stories.