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Aggies John Scroggs and Paul Robles exchanged commitment vows at Bryan's Messina Hof winery in 2003. Five years later, they legally married on the steps of San Francisco's ornate City Hall. Gay marriage motivated two Texas A&M academics, Clair Nixon and Jeff Puryear, to donate thousands of dollars to invalidate 18,000 same-sex nuptials perfomed in California, including Scroggs and Robles'.

Second in a Series.

The Century Oak‘s arching limbs form a natural grotto, a shaded refuge of tranquility on Texas A&M’s bustling campus of 48,000 students.  For generations, students proposed marriage under this hallowed canopy.  Thus, in April of 2002, it was only natural that John Scroggs would invite a very special fellow Aggie to accept perpetual commitment in this sacred place where so many of his classmates began their lives together.  In this story, however, cherished tradition takes a hard left turn.

Scroggs’ chosen life partner was another gay man, Paul Robles, also a student and fellow university employee.  Since Texas A&M’s inception in 1876, throughout its first nine decades as an all-male, military college, and after women were allowed to enroll in 1963, Aggieland love stories followed the traditional plot:  boy meets girl.  When John took his broken computer to Paul for repair in 1998, boy meets boy was still a hostile concept at a university that, in the penultimate decade of the twentieth century, had fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid certification of a gay student organization. Continue Reading »

January 20 was more than Inauguration Day.  It was the first day of the new semester in Aggieland.  Nevertheless, President Elsa Murano—who as a Hispanic woman is not the typical Texas A&M chief executive—hosted faculty and students in the Zone Club at Kyle Field.  It must have been a bitter pill for Aggie conservatives, who once threw eggs at a likeness of our President, to know the inauguration of a black president was broadcast into their “sacred” Kyle Field.

Clair Nixon, professor of accounting in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M, who has served as bishop of a local Mormon congregation, has ten children. Recently he donated $3,000 to oppose same-sex marriage in California, an action that threatens to delegitimize the marriage of two fellow Aggies, John Scroggs and Paul Robles.

Part one of a series.

Jeffrey Puryear and Clair Nixon form the Aggie archetype. Both earned degrees from Texas A&M and both returned to their alma mater to contribute to its academic mission. Each is devoted to his family, work, and church, owns his own house and pays taxes—conforming in every way to the image that Texas A&M markets regarding the solid citizenship and family devotion practiced by Aggies worldwide.

John Scroggs and Paul Robles are also Texas A&M former students who have remained in Aggieland as faithful university employees. Although younger and not as far advanced in their careers, they also own their own home and pay taxes, serve jury duty, vote in local elections, and donate to charity. Each has lived in College Station for almost 20 years. Their maroon blood runs thick.

Only one characteristic differentiates Scroggs and Robles from most Aggies. They are a gay couple, long-time companions who took advantage of a brief window of opportunity to be married legally in California this past summer. Although breaking up another Aggie’s marriage is definitely not an activity encouraged by the Aggie Code of Honor, it’s precisely what Puryear and Nixon—and arguably many conservative Aggies—would like to do to these one-time students, classmates and dedicated Texas A&M employees. Continue Reading »

The former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club split a doubleheader last weekend.

Aggies and Iraqis took to their feet in response to George W. Bush, but W.’s reception on the College Station leg of his presidential adoration tour proved more accommodating.  Less than 48 hours after an Aggie graduation convocation warmly “whooped” a failed president who would have been jeered on most American campuses, Iraqis marched in support of journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, whose two-shoe pitch at Sunday’s Baghdad press conference spoiled any Bush attempt to claim respect from a country he invaded six years ago.

Friday’s crowd at Reed Arena, filled with a disproportionate share of America’s “25 percenters” who think highly of the Bush presidency, heard a one-line reference to the 21 Aggies who have died in the War on Terror, a casualty total second only to West Point’s.  Otherwise, Bush devoted most of his wartime references to living veterans and non-Texans—an Oregonian who visited the White House on artificial legs as the result of battlefield injuries and a 61-year-old military surgeon, a man Bush’s age, from Nevada who serves in Iraq. Continue Reading »

Eighty days after President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a fire fight in Baghdad killed Jonathan Rozier, the first of 20 Aggies who would die in this unnecessary war. Five years will have passed when Bush addresses Texas A&M graduates Friday, but the dying continues and the commander-in-chief seems unrepentant.

Once again, Aggieland serves as a refuge for the Bush clan. Years after Pappy Bush located his presidential library here, Bush the Younger gives what could be the last college commencement speech of his presidency Friday. Texas A&M, once dubbed be the American university with the most nostalgia for Ronald Reagan, is one of the few civilian venues where Bush could expected to be received warmly by an academic convocation.

He needs us. His election-day approval rating stood at 25%, only one point higher than Richard Nixon at the depths of Watergate. Some 78% percent of Americans lack confidence in the economy, according to Gallup. Seven years after the 9/11 terrorists struck, the war in Afghanistan looks more bleak than ever, and despite some military success in Iraq, that adventure remains unpopular with the American public.

The campus where a student group threw raw eggs at a likeness of Barack Obama several weeks before the election seems perfectly tailored for a president who sexed up intelligence to justify invading Iraq, authorized kidnapping and torture after promising compassionate conservatism, and turned a balanced budget into a financial black hole. In the waning days of perhaps the most unsuccessful presidency in America’s history, President Bush found a university where he’s still admired. Continue Reading »

No Aggie Ring, but a Set of Senior Boots

When Robert Gates left Texas A&M for the Pentagon several years ago, at Pappy Bush’s behest to pull incompetent W.’s chestnuts out of the Iraq War fires, a debate raged on Aggie web forums:  Should possibly the greatest president in Texas A&M history be awarded the vaunted Aggie Ring?  Eventually, common sense prevailed and Gates assumed his position among A&M’s storied leaders, beside Earl Rudder and Sullivan Ross, but without the sacred ring one must earn through the student experience.  Instead, the Corps of Cadets that Gates joined on early-morning runs awarded him a pair of custom-made senior boots—which is no small honor for a non-student in Aggieland.

The rave reviews of the Gates administration stand in stark contrast to the enmity heaped upon his predecessor, Ray Bowen, and the lukewarm reception afford his successor, Elsa Murano.  Yet, his administration was not perfect, despite the Teflon coating that remains two years after he vacated the eighth floor of Rudder Tower.  With Gates’ willingness to stay on as Secretary of Defense under Barack Obama, not every Aggie’s choice for president, is it now time to seek a more critical examination of his four years as A&M’s president?  Will his willingness to serve a hated Democrat open the door to a critical review of his administration as our university’s leader? Continue Reading »

"Racehorse" Haynes

I’m writing while sitting in the courthouse gallery on Monday morning, at the punishment phase of P. David Romei’s felony trial.  Saturday night the jury convicted the former Executive Director of the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley on two of the three counts of theft and misappropriation of public and private funds.  Today the jury decides if David will go on probation or serve as many as ten years in prison.

1. As my two previous posts note, I think the case against David was overwhelming.  That the jury deliberated for more than 30 hours over two and one-half days bespeaks the caliber of our citizenry that answers a jury summons.  That they acquitted him on one charge while convicting him on two—while reducing one felony charge to a misdemeanor—shows the careful, deliberate way in which they approached their duties.  One of the newspaper articles said a fraction of those summoned showed up, and that extras had to be diverted from the leftover jury candidates from another trial.  It looks like the best members of the potential jury pool took their civic duty seriously. Continue Reading »

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