Aggie rings often travel around the world through the careers and adventures of Aggies everywhere. Former NASA flight director, Gerry Griffin’s Aggie ring took an unexpected route when it traveled to the moon and back on Apollo 12, reaching the farthest distance from Aggieland ever recorded for an Aggie ring.
The opening of the Zachry Engineering Education Complex in fall 2018 created a sanctuary for future engineers and it also gave a home to incredible pieces of Texas A&M history.
Near the east entrance of Zachry, Griffin, Class of 1956, has his Aggie ring displayed as the ring that traveled to the moon. Griffin oversaw the launch of Apollo 12 on Nov. 14, 1969 and watched diligently as astronaut Richard Gordon launched into space with a few special items from Griffin’s family.
Gordon carried Griffin’s Aggie ring, his wife, Sandy Griffin, brooch, his son, and Class of 1981, Kirk’s Cub Scout ring and his daughter Gwen, Brownie locket tucked into each other and held with a small piece of tape that was precisely placed in Gordon’s Personal Preference Kit — a storage unit that astronauts to bring items for their mission.
After retrieving the ring from Gordon, Griffin wore the ring well into the 1970s and realized later in his career that his ring was something to protect.
“I went over to the crew building, where the astronauts hung out,” Griffin said. “They had it all laid out and mine was right there so I picked it up, un-taped it, and I just put it back on. There’s actually a picture of me [during] Apollo 13, when they splashed down. My hand is up in the air with a Gig’em sign. You can see my ring, it’s on my hand. Not too long after that I decided that maybe I shouldn’t be wearing this thing. It is kind of special.”
The items Gordon took to space were then miraculously spared from a home burglary at Griffin’s several years later. Although his wife’s brooch was stolen according to Griffin. It was decades later when Griffin began to search for a more permanent and safer home for his Aggie ring. He decided to contact A&M President Michael K. Young to find the best place for his ring.
“One of the calls he [Young] made was to Kathy Banks who I think immediately leaped on it for the new engineering building,” Griffin said. “She and I talked and I said ‘sure, that sounds good to me. I just want to make sure the school gets it. ’”
Senior Assistant Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communication for Engineering, Marilyn Martell said that she worked closely with Griffin to display the ring in a way that would showcase its historical importance.
“I got to work directly with Mr. Griffin on the legal back-end of it,” Martell said. “He has generously loaned this to us to be on display indefinitely, so I worked with him to ensure that his wishes were fulfilled.”
Martell said that the display was crafted to remind Aggies of their limitless possibilities.
“We have this thing, ‘Where will your Aggie Ring Take You?’” Martell said. “That was really important to connect the fact that this ring has been further than anyone’s Aggie ring has ever been. Mr Griffin was extremely passionate about wanting this display to encourage future students to push themselves to see where their Aggie ring will take them.”