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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Former University president dies

Frank Vandiver did not graduate from Texas A&M, but he was still an Aggie. Vandiver served as president of A&M from 1981 to 1989, during which time he had a vision to make A&M a world-class university. On Jan. 7, Vandiver died from lung complications in his sleep.
His daughter, Nancy Wahl, Class of 1981, was a senior when her father began his role as president of the University. She said she watched him grow to become an Aggie.
“It was fun watching him change once he got here,” she said. “He really became an Aggie. Everyone does, once they are (at A&M) long enough. He was so happy to be part of A&M, it was just the ultimate place for him.”
Services were held for Vandiver on Jan. 9 in College Station. Vandiver’s son, Frank A. Vandiver, said the service was overwhelming. He said he was honored that the Ross Volunteers performed the service.
Vandiver taught at Oxford University and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served as president of Rice University and University of North Texas before making College Station his home.
Vandiver was a military historian, the author of 20 books as well as the founder and director of the Mosher Institute, a think tank on national defense and arms control based at A&M. For the past 10 years, the Mosher Institute has been inactive and Vandiver instead focused on his writing career. His final book, “How America Goes to War,” will be released this summer.
Edith Wakefield, who worked as Vandiver’s editorial assistant at the Mosher Institute, said she will remember his intelligence.
“(Vandiver) had one of the keenest intellects of anyone I’ve ever known,” she said.
Vandiver served as president of Rice University from 1968 to 1970, and for the University of North Texas from 1979 to 1981. He became president of A&M in 1981, while Wahl was a senior.
“He came right at a defining moment in A&M’s history,” Wahl said. “It wasn’t just an agriculture and mechanical school anymore; it was gaining international stature. He worked hard at making that true.”
Wahl said her father’s vision for A&M as a flagship university came before many people thought it possible.
“He introduced the concept of A&M being a world-class university,” she said. “At the time, that really shocked people.”
Vandiver also concentrated on increasing minority enrollment.
“He looked at A&M and thought it was missing something special,” Wahl said. “He believed in broadening perspectives and giving everyone an opportunity.”
Wahl said when her father became A&M’s president, she helped him get a taste of Aggie life by taking him to the Dixie Chicken.
“He wanted to see where I had been spending all of my time,” she said.Wahl said her father loved A&M, especially Aggie football, and stayed in College Station after his presidency because of his devotion to the school.
“I wish every student could have known him,” she said. “He offered unconditional love and support, and every student was special to him. That was a gift he gave as an educator.”

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