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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

Professor surprised by students with Aggie Ring for 79th birthday

Photo by Photo by Laura Haslam

A&M professor Arnold LeUnes was surprised by students with an Aggie Ring Sunday to replace the one he lost to a house fire.

On Sunday afternoon, Arnold LeUnes’ was enjoying a celebratory 79th birthday meal with his family at Willie’s Grill and Icehouse when two of his students surprised him with a Class of 1960 Aggie Ring. Shaking out of excitement, he kindly accepted the ring and thanked his students, Sophie Roberts and Jacqueline Gutierrez, over roaring applause.

It was 34 years ago when Arnold LeUnes lost his original Aggie Ring to a house fire caused by a gas unit in the ceiling. His six children and wife, Judy, are his most important concern, so he had never purchased a replacement ring during their upbringing. Sophie Roberts, kinesiology junior, heard this story on the first day of his abnormal psychology class last semester and felt compelled to start a GoFundMe campaign that October to raise money to buy him a replacement ring.

“It’s exciting; I haven’t had a ring for 34 or 35 years,” LeUnes said.

Roberts said although LeUnes is a reserved man by nature, she could tell he was pleased with the surprise reveal.

“He’s kind of quiet,” Roberts said. “I think he is very happy … I feel like getting it replaced by students who love and adore you is more special than when he probably got it the first time.”

One table over from the LeUnes family, a group of students was finishing their meals at the time of the ring reveal. Robert Eichhorn, business administration sophomore, and Emma Wiegand, health junior, were both emotionally affected by the surprise.

“I definitely teared up, I got a little emotional,” Eichhorn said. “That’s the power of the Aggie family. It’s crazy to see, it’s something you can’t replicate, it’s just a feeling you have. You see something like that, and it’s amazing.”

Wiegand shared these sentiments. She said the weekend had been filled with overwhelming Aggie spirit from Friday’s Muster Ceremony and the Aggie Ring reveal she witnessed.

“I just think it’s a beautiful thing that obviously he made such an impact on these two students’ lives that they would go out of their way to raise the funds to replace that Aggie Ring,” Wiegand said. “They said that he gave 51 years of service to Texas A&M and I just think that’s amazing. It’s just something that you would never see happen anywhere else, and that’s just a part of the reason that makes Texas A&M so special.”

To plan the reveal, Roberts reached out to LeUnes’ wife, Judy. She gave Roberts a zip tie to measure his ring size, which she then took to James Avery for an estimate. They had originally planned to give him the ring in December, but after medical complications in the family, the two decided on his birthday celebration.

“Sophie called, and I didn’t know her, and she said, ‘We want to raise money, is this okay?’” Judy LeUnes said. “What I think is so wonderful, to them, that was the greatest compliment that they could give him an Aggie Ring that he had lost, because they cared so much about him.”

Judy LeUnes said it was touching to see the importance of the Aggie family come to life during this experience.

“For that to be that important to these kids, really touched me,” Judy LeUnes said. “Once an Aggie, always an Aggie. I’m just real excited; now he’ll probably have the shiniest Class of ‘60 Aggie Ring ever.”

After LeUnes’ 51 years of teaching at the university, Gutierrez said it felt like giving him a ring was the right thing to do.

“It really was the Aggie responsibility, just to pay for all the years of service he has given our campus,” Gutierrez said.

LeUnes’ large family knew about the surprise and worked to keep the secret until the reveal. His son, Chay LeUnes, traveled from Cypress and was glad to see his Dad receive his Aggie Ring.

“Well he’s 79; it’s about time he got his Aggie Ring back,” Chay LeUnes said. “He was delighted, so I was too. That was great to see — I mean, the smile on his face was awesome.”

Over the years of being a professor, LeUnes has created a memoire of the students who have impacted his life.
“The kids have been wonderful,” LeUnes said. “I’ve written a 1,000-page memoir about my years at A&M and I have a tribute of 1,000 students from 1966 to today, who I consider huge parts of my life … You could not be treated better by the students than I have been.”

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