By: Tommi Ivey
Any lover of Texas athletics knows the famous and tradition-filled rivalry between the University of Texas and Texas A&MUniversity. Few realize, however, that at one time, the two schools almost merged due to large amounts of debt at Texas A&M College.
But one man, Colonel Edward B. Cushing, saved the College Station institution from consolidation with UT. After graduating from A&M in 1880, Cushing began a 42-year career with the Southern Pacific Railroad, where he rallied to improve College Station’s rail service and worked tirelessly to bring people to see the town’s institution of higher learning.
In 1912, Cushing was appointed to the A&M Board of Directors, who immediately elected him president. He had a tough job ahead of him: The school’s mess hall had been destroyed by fire in 1911, and in 1912, the Old Main building, which contained the school library, also burned to the ground. To make matters worse, funding from the State of Texas slowed drastically, and A&M was in the red approximately $87,000 (about $1.9million in today’s dollars).
Many legislators wanted the school closed and moved to Austin. To save his small but spirited college, Cushing obtained credit with his personal funds to clear the debt. He then sent his own personal railroadcar, the “San Jacinto,” to Austin to bring legislators to College Station. Once they visited the school and learned about A&M’s important work in agriculture and engineering, Cushing hoped, legislators would reconsider their plan.
Cushing won the battle, and the two schools were never combined. Upon his death in 1924, Cushing left a large collection of engineering texts and surveying equipment to the college to help supply a new library, which opened in 1930. The library, which still serves students today, is now known as the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives.