Muster is still three months away, but Texas A&M’s most unique tradition already softly makes its call across campus.
The 2016 campus Muster speaker was announced Thursday to be R.C. Slocum, the most successful football coach in Texas A&M’s history and a man whose relationship to the university highlights the way Aggie football is often intertwined with long-cherished campus traditions.
Slocum was the head football coach during the 1999 Aggie Bonfire Collapse, a tragedy that killed 12 students, injured 27 others and etched emotional scars that still linger today. Many of his players volunteered in the rescue and recovery effort in the collapse aftermath by clearing debris and carrying away the massive logs that made up the several-tier structure.
His football team would go on to snatch a win from A&M’s archrival, the University of Texas, a week after the Bonfire Collapse in an emotional victory that helped ease the suffering of a student body still in shock.
Slocum brought the entire 1972-1973 football team to that spring’s campus Muster, and has attended a Muster ceremony every year for the past 43 years. His address will no doubt offer a clear reply to the call that Muster makes to every Aggie — to find joy in a life lost, even when it is cut tragically short.
This is an important message to remember as we enter the new semester. Twelve students died over the summer and the fall of 2015. Their passing was mourned in four Silver Taps ceremonies last semester, and their families will soon be invited back to campus in the spring to set up a memorial to their son or daughter in the MSC Flag Room, to hold a candle in the darkness of Reed Arena and to answer “here” with the rest of the Aggie Family when their loved one’s name is called.
It is sobering to think that we may again be called together for three more Silver Taps before April 21. But it is wonderful to know that no matter the number and identity of the names eventually called, Muster will celebrate their lives as members of the Aggie family.
The Muster 2016 quote, announced in early November as an excerpt from the 1980 Muster speaker address by Henry Cisneros, reads “The truest respect we can give today in remembering the spirit of Muster is to preserve it. To live it. To be there.” It is a fitting backdrop to Slocum’s invitation and acceptance to serve as the 2016 speaker. It is also a reminder that, although Muster occurs just one day out of 365, it is a tradition that should motivate students — current and former — to remember its spirit always.
John Rangel is an aerospace engineering senior and science & technology editor for The Battalion.