Recently, I lost my Aggie (Texas A&M University) class ring and discovered that a loss may sometimes be turned into a gain. No, I am not talking about a dollar gain. I gained a whole bunch of new friends – many who wanted to help me find the missing ring.
If you are not a native Texan, you may be wondering, “What in the world is an Aggie and an Aggie ring?” Let me explain! An Aggie is a student, or former student, of Texas A&M University. There are no “ex Aggies,” only former students. As the saying goes: “Once an Aggie, always an Aggie,” and class rings are revered symbols of our having completed the requirements of something special.
One Aggie ring has been to the moon and back. Aggie Gerald Griffin, class of 1956, a NASA employee, asked astronaut Pete Conrad to take his Aggie ring to the moon on the Apollo Mission. Pete did so, and that ring is now on display at the Texas A&M campus, along with a collection of Aggie rings which have been donated by Aggies and their families.
Texas Aggies, as we are known, are proud of our school. It has a rich history and was established in 1876 as a “land grant college” officially named “Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College.” The school was, until 1963, an all-male school in which military training (ROTC) was required for freshman and sophomore years. In 1962, the school reached university status, was opened to women students and was renamed Texas A&M University.
I graduated from Texas A&M in 1942, bought my Aggie ring and proudly put it on my finger as I enlisted in the Army Air Corps. That ring stayed on my finger day and night through World War II and into civilian life following the war. I saw no reason to take it off, regardless of what work I did. So, it gradually became worn until it began to look like a slick gold nugget. In 1964, my wife surprised me with a brand new replacement ring with a diamond mounted in the crest. You can be sure I was especially proud of the precious new ring. Like the old one, I wore it day and night, until a recent day, when it slipped off, unnoticed, from my finger.
On this “fatal” day, I went to my dermatologist for a routine check, and as the doctor checked my hands, he mentioned my ring (he is an Aggie, too). So, I know it was in place then. My wife and I went from the doctor’s office to Chick-fil-A for a bite to eat, and from there, to Walmart. When I got home and started to wash my hands, my ring was missing. We quickly retraced our steps, searching for and leaving notices of the lost ring, all to no avail. I emailed the sad news to my children and some close friends, and the news began to spread rapidly. My San Antonio daughter, Tami Marlin, put the news on Facebook, and it went viral. She told me, at one point, she had more than 2,300 “likes” from her Facebook posting.
Today’s social media is something to behold. It is a far cry from the wall-mounted party line telephone system I grew up with. I began to hear from people everywhere, mostly those with A&M ties, suggesting ways to search and offering their help. Aggie Teresa Woodard, a news analyst with Dallas station, WFAA-TV Channel 8, saw the posting and called asking to interview me. I readily agreed, and some of you saw the results – a well-done television news story that spread like wildfire. I heard from a friend in Seattle, Wash., who saw the story there, and from another in Calif. with the same news. I learned that WFAA-TV Channel 8 is owned by the A.H. Belo Corporation, and Belo owns stations all over the country. So, my story got wide coverage.
Amanda Reynolds, the director of communications and public relations with Balfour, also got word of my loss, and, without my knowledge, got in touch with my daughter. Ms. Reynolds told Tami that Balfour had been making the Aggie rings for decades, and that they might be interested in getting involved. So, Tami explained that the lost ring was not the one I got in 1942, but was one that my wife ordered in 1964, some 52 years ago, to replace the one I had “worn out.” Ms. Reynolds then went to Balfour’s records and found that, indeed, Balfour had made that ring, and that the order was on file giving my name, size, etc.
With all that information in hand, Balfour showed it is a “corporation with a heart.” It volunteered to make, at no cost to me, a replacement ring. Ms. Reynolds had learned from Tami that I was to be celebrating my 98th birthday on February 1 of this year, so, together they decided to surprise me with the gift of a new ring at my big birthday party.
The birthday party was truly a “big” one. My family had reserved the party room at Cantina Laredo, an excellent place to eat and to party … and party we did! All five of my children and their spouses were there – a rare occasion. They brought grandchildren and even one great grandchild. After a sumptuous meal, they seated me and brought me a book which I like to call “my precious memory book.” It is a collection of fond memories, some serious and some humorous, from family members.
Then came the BIG surprise. I opened a small box first, and there was my original class ring – the one I “wore out” years ago. It had been in storage for years, and I was glad to see it, thinking it was to be the replacement for my lost ring. But, next came the gift of gifts – a brand new ring, courtesy of Balfour, by way of Ms. Reynolds. What a gift that was! It was the perfect finish to my 98th birthday party – one I will never forget. My sincere thanks to Balfour and all who had a part in my great party!
Oh, one more thing! If anyone who reads this has found or knows someone who has found my lost ring, I have a generous reward ready for its return. No questions asked, but a big thank you will accompany the reward. Just call Frisco STYLE Magazine, and they will get word to me.