I want you to briefly reflect on the meaning of Texas A&M’s Yell Leaders. Since 1907—more than 100 years—the Yell Leaders have embodied the unique Aggie Spirit for which Texas A&M is so well known. Today’s Yell Leaders represent the 12th Man at athletic events, serve as campus ambassadors and regularly make appearances at events for current and prospective students, former students, campus administrators, visitors and dignitaries. On gamedays, they add to the electric atmosphere in Kyle Field and represent a defining symbol of our university.
Today, I want to share the story of Texas A&M’s oldest living Yell Leader, William “Bill” C. Lonquist Jr. ’48. Lonquist grew up in an oilfield camp in Cayuga, Texas, where his friendship with one of his father’s colleagues sparked his interest in petroleum engineering. He became the first Aggie in his family at a time when the freshman class at Texas A&M was 1,500-strong and students hitchhiked home at the end of each semester. His studies were interrupted, however, when duty called him to serve in the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II.
Once he returned to Aggieland, Lonquist found a deeper appreciation for the discipline and cohesiveness of the Corps of Cadets. In 1948, he was among the first group of World War II servicemen to be elected Yell Leaders. Sadly, the Aggies struggled on the field that year, losing all but one of their games. To make the best of the situation, the Yell Leaders started a new tradition in which cadets kissed their dates—or “mugged down”—when the offense made a first down.
After graduation, Lonquist enjoyed a successful career in the oil industry. He married his wife, Paula, and raised five sons (of which four graduated from Texas A&M). Today, Lonquist still roots on his beloved Aggies, but this time from the stands. He watches current Yell Leaders direct a student section more than 20 times the size of the one he led in 1948. But the passion of the 12th Man, he’s noticed, remains unmatched. His lifelong loyalty to Texas A&M has led him to generously give four scholarships for students in the Corps, Mays Business School and the College of Engineering. He also donates to the Yell Leaders scholarship fund and supports Aggie athletics through the 12th Man Foundation.
What I appreciate most about Mr. Lonquist’s story is that tradition is at the heart of it. Our university has for decades distinguished itself due to longstanding and unique traditions that are woven into our identities and unite us as Aggies. While not everyone can carry on the traditions of Texas A&M in the most public ways possible, I hope that his story makes you appreciate the deep-rooted history of our university. I hope that it makes you consider what you can do to ensure our traditions—Muster, Midnight Yell, Silver Taps, Fish Camp, The Big Event, and all the rest—remain a uniting force at Texas A&M. And I hope that you, too, will be as proud of the mark you make in Aggieland as Mr. Lonquist is now.
Tyson Voelkel ’96
President, Texas A&M Foundation