New leadership marks historic first for Corps
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
Texas A&M is going through a period of change — a move to the SEC, the ever-present construction on campus, outsourcing facilities services and the reopening of the MSC, to name a few.
With these changes to the University, the Corps of Cadets is preparing for a change of its own: Marquis Alexander has been named Corps commander for next year, which will make him the first black cadet to hold the position.
As the highest-ranking position a cadet can obtain, the Corps commander is charged with running the 2,800-strong group of cadets. Alexander, junior international studies major, said his appointment reflects the increase in diversity in the Corps. And, while he was excited to be assigned the position, the fact that he is going to be the first black Corps commander was something he initially overlooked.
"I was overjoyed, but it didn't really hit me — the whole first black Corps commander thing — until later, after other people brought it up to me," Alexander said. "I felt very humbled, and I felt honored that they would instill so much trust in me and put me in charge of what we're looking at being the biggest Corps next year."
It has been 48 years since the Corps saw its first black cadets, and, though Alexander acknowledged the significance of his appointment as the first black Corps commander, he said he wanted people to focus more on the fact that becoming a Corps commander is an accomplishment many never obtain.
"I don't want people to focus on, ‘Oh, he's the first black Corps Commander,'" Alexander said. "I want people to say, ‘He was the Corps Commander.'
"I guess it is a significant event, because in 135 years I'm the first black Corps Commander. It's kind of cool."
Current Corps Commander Pat Reeves said he also recognizes the significance of Alexander's appointment — citing that Alexander was also the first black sergeant major the Corps ever had — but that it is something that has been overlooked by cadets.
"The best thing I've noticed about this is that [the race] aspect of his command has gone unnoticed," Reeves said. "I was very pleased with the Corps of Cadets, and, hopefully, other student leaders across campus will see that race went unnoticed."
Zach Leger, junior history major, who was in the same outfit as Alexander, said it's great for Alexander to be the first black Corps Commander, but that the appointment is so much more than that. Leger said Alexander is right for the position.
"I think Marquis was the best man for the job, regardless of the color of his skin," Leger said. "He's one of the hardest-working, most honest, humble men I've ever met. He's going to do everything he can to make sure that the Corps stays on track in meeting its goals."
As the Corps Commander, Alexander said he wants to help bring the Corps into the 21st Century and to mature cadets in key positions. Specifically, Alexander said he wants to branch out the Corps into the rest of the University.
"We want to try to start working with the MSC President and the FLOs, and see if we can get the Corps out in the University and off the Quad," Alexander said. "We want to show that we are willing to work with the other students because they're part of the University, too. In 10 years we'll be completely irrelevant if we keep going the same route that we're going."
Alexander anticipated his biggest challenges stem from the transition period the Corps is currently in, which includes the University's move to the Southeastern Conference.
"Right now it's split: some people love the way things are going, and others say, ‘We've never done it this way'," Alexander said. "Especially with the new conference, now there is going to be so much centered around change, and what I don't want to see is a rift between cadets."
Reeves also anticipates that the move to the SEC will be a challenge, and said Alexander will have the responsibility in aiding student organizations to unite and ensure every Aggie is represented.
"My advice to Marquis would be to continue dialogue with leaders around campus so that all the organizations have a voice and that we don't marginalize what is to be an Aggie in any respect," Reeves said. "We have to make sure that we stand together and stand by each other. It's going to be his responsibility to stay true to our purpose and serve the University."