"What you have done in this community is remarkable," said Curt Langford, incoming Texas Tech University Alumni Association Chief Executive Officer. "This is a wonderful reinvestment in Tech and in your own community." Langford was in Dumas Thursday evening with Guy Loneragan, acting dean of the new Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine soon to be built in Amarillo. Groundbreaking for the new school will be September 19 in Amarillo.
The two Tech officials were the featured speakers at the Moore County Texas Tech University Alumni Association annual dinner. Chapter president Miles Mixon had just awarded $2000.00 scholarships to Sintique Rodriguez, Addyson Davis, David Pingleton, Seema Patel, and Kaleigh Speck. The Moore County chapter of the Tech Alumni Association has awarded over $63,000.00 since its inception in 2008, according to Mixon, who also presented Langford with a $2,500.00 check donation for the Alumni Association endowment fund Thursday.
"Scholarships open doors and change lives forever," said Loneragan. "They are a way to pay it forward and invest in the future."
Both speakers told the assembled Red Raiders that this was an exciting time for the university. Just six years from the centenary of the school's founding in 1925, Texas Tech has grown in size, improved academically, and raised its profile, especially in health sciences.
Shortly, Tech will operate one of only two veterinary medicine colleges in the state. The first class will begin studies in the fall of 2021. "Tech has taken its place on the stage of major institutions," said Loneragan. "To be a part of this once-in-a-generation activity is exciting."
Loneragan, who grew up in Australia, has been at Tech for nine years. He says Tech officials are already hiring faculty and working on curriculum for the new vet school that, he says, "will give Tech a much bigger presence in the Panhandle than it has today." He says more than 30 existing veterinary practices from around the state have contacted the university saying they are interested in being involved with the new school. There are already plenty of potential students. "The most exciting thing for me is the next generation of students who are interested in the program."
Loneragan says the new school will have as its mission supporting small, rural, agricultural communities and helping to alleviate the dire shortage of vets in these areas. Most vets in Texas practice in the Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio corridor. To bring more vets to the countryside and keep them there to support the state's large agriculture sector, the school will use a four-pronged approach that has proved successful in his native Australia. The school will focus on selecting and training local students, design the curriculum based on the needs of rural agriculture, provide students with practical experience in small towns, and continue to support working graduates in rural areas as they build their practices. "What Tech does well is supporting agriculture," he said.
The road to a vet school at Tech was long and complicated. The Texas Legislature first approved a school in 1971, but withheld funding. It was not until the 86th Legislature in 2019 that Tech officials were able to secure state money to get the school up and running. Loneragan said it was a united effort, beginning five years ago, by all of the politicians and entities of West Texas that finally opened the vault. Tech received $17 million dollars in state money to go along with the $90 million already pledged by local donors and officials. In the years since 1971, Texas A&M, with a monopoly on vet training in the state, was increasingly unable to meet the demand for vets across the state and the demand for veterinary education from Texas students. State officials were issuing more and more licenses to veterinarians trained in other states and other countries. Texas, one of the most important agricultural states in the nation, was dependent on vets trained elsewhere, and vast areas of the state -- the very areas where most agricultural activity takes place -- were underserved or completely unserved by vets. By 2019, this was a situation that politicians in Austin could no longer ignore, and the time finally came for the vet school promised in 1971 to become a reality. "This is a great time for Texas Tech," said Loneragan.