Graduation of any class is always a moving experience, full of hope for the future. But for those who direct TALL, it’s the post-graduation performance that counts. If the time, money and effort goes into the active phase is not followed by eager participation in local, state and even national affairs, then the TALL experience comes to naught.
It is well to remember, however, that once the active phase is over, alumni continue on their own career paths, often changing jobs and moving up the ladder. Gone may be the “pumped up” feeling that characterized the active phase. Growing families and other matters of importance often take precedence. And also important, the well-organized and planned structure of TALL and the direction and mission-oriented that come with it, is now their own responsibility.
With this in mind, the administration decided early on to help formalize the post-graduation experience. It was recognized that the limited number of alumni and the spread in location and occupation would be a challenge. A structured organization was needed. And while the number of alumni would be limited for the first three classes, it was obvious that it would grow with time.
TALL alumni also were aware of the obstacles, but determined to renew the TALL experience, continue the close bonding and become a recognized force in Texas agriculture and rural communities. First, it was important to form an association. After several starts, the outline was formed. Gary Don Boyd of Austin was elected first president, followed by Charles Elk of Dallas, Charles Cammack of San Antonio, Lorie Woodward of Austin, Jim Perry of Comstock, Barry Evans of Kress and currently Mike Petter of Pleasanton. Mostly under Elk’s direction and with his prodding, a draft of the Charter and By-Laws came into being. It was formerly approved by members present at the annual meeting at Lubbock in February 1994.
The TALL Alumni Association (TALL-A) is now firmly in place. Regional and annual meetings are scheduled, and even informal social get togethers are planned. A real hit has been TALL panels of 3-5 alumni, appearing in public meetings in Tyler, Houston, Abilene, Waco and San Antonio. A receptive audience is always delighted to hear from the alumni.
An obvious necessity is to acquaint new alumni with older graduates of each class. A challenge indeed! Although they may come from like backgrounds, the close relationship that binds each class together must be expanded. There in no substitute for meetings that develop a one-on-one relationship.
Informal channels for sharing useful information have been established between TALL-A members. An example is the frequent linkage between alumni in different jobs or disciplines, sharing vital information and advice. Often this may be the most reliable and pertinent information available.
Alumni have found new ways to give a valuable assist to each on-going program. They extend a helping hand with plans and arrangements for local meetings of TALL. Also, they round up outside support to help defray the cost of meetings in their area – a marked benefit to the operating budget. They also contribute scholarships to each class. The search is underway for other avenues of service, expanding the TALL experience.
Several in TALL-A have reached state and national positions of importance, as will be detailed later. They extend from the Governor’s office to the staff of Congressmen and Senators in Washington, D.C. Others have been appointed to the state and national Board of Directors of various associations. Still others have worked at the local level, bringing their TALL experience to bear on the challenges facing rural communities. Several TALL alumni have coached grade school youngsters in the Texas Agrifood Masters program. By serving the public in a myriad of ways, they build the solid reputation for TALL.