Every April, current and former Texas A&M students gather to honor fellow Aggies who have died during the year. Muster is one of A&M’s most recognizable traditions, but what many people don’t know is that Campus Muster is the work of just 30 students.
Muster Committee is the group of A&M students who organize the annual Roll Call for the Absent in Reed Arena and other associated events. These 30 students are divided into subcommittees with different responsibilities that together make Campus Muster possible. Serving on the Muster committee is completely voluntary and none of the students are interested in compensation. Instead, members of the Muster committee are invested in honoring Aggies and carrying on A&M traditions.
Kaley Markos, sport management senior, and Brandon Williams, electrical engineering senior, are program executives. Markos and Williams are responsible for managing their subcommittee, which oversees the preparation of Reed Arena for Campus Muster. Planning includes everything from booking Reed Arena to individually tying 2,500 ribbons for the ceremony.
“The visual you see at Muster is just candles and darkness, and that’s so beautiful, but there are so many details our committee works so hard on all year that contribute to that beauty,” Markos said.
A key element of Muster is the keynote speaker. The process of making speaker arrangements falls to speaker executive David Pham, recreation, park and tourism sciences senior, and his subcommittee. Pham said the decision to choose political science lecturer Dwight Roblyer, Class of 1984, as the Muster speaker was based on his service to A&M, as both an educator and as an Aggie.
“Not only is he an amazing educator, but he also caters to the Aggies and the student body,” Pham said. “Each year, he opens up his home, along with his wife, Cathy, to students for Thanksgiving. He fully embodies the Aggie core values. He’s a representation of what it means to be an Aggie. All he does is to serve and give back and shape the community around him.”
Muster honors Aggies who have passed in the last year and provides comfort to their families. These tasks fall to the Roll Call and families subcommittee, led by international studies junior Amy Burdette and biomedical sciences senior Martin Osorio.
An eight-member committee compiles Roll Call, prepares the Reflections Display in the Flag Room and coordinates with the 150 Muster Hosts.
Osorio said he considers Muster to be highly personal for him. The first Muster he attended was for a friend honored during the ceremony. Osorio said seeing Muster impact his friend’s family inspired him to become more involved.
“Being able to impact those families and really show them A&M cares about them now and will forever is so beautiful to me, and it’s so comforting to me to know I will have someone do that for me as well,” Osorio said.
Burdette’s first job on Muster Committee was to coordinate the Reflections Display. She said the display is impactful to both students and families.
“Seeing students walk through there and feel connected to the Roll Call is just really special,” Burdette said. “A lot of the families might not have been Aggies or might not know a lot about Texas A&M. It’s been so meaningful to me that I’m able to be a small part in helping them understand how much Aggies remember and love their person.”
Although Campus Muster is one of A&M’s most prominent traditions, the Muster Committee still works hard to inform students of the event, according to communication senior and Muster Committee awareness executive Michael Sims.
The Awareness Committee advertises on campus through social media, videos, posters and banners during the week before Muster. Though the outreach efforts may seem overwhelming to coordinate, Sims said he attributes his success to his subcommittee.
“At the end of the day, I have such an amazing group of people with me, so it’s really not hard work,” Sims said. “It’s amazing to see what they have accomplished.”
The center of this operation is human resource management graduate student and Muster Committee chair Helena Shakesby. She has participated in Muster for the past four years, in positions such as Muster host, reunion class liaison, Roll Call and families executive and committee chair.
Shakesby explained what she calls “compassionate logistics,” the art of planning a profoundly emotional event.
“It’s a very delicate balance,” Shakesby said. “We adapt our process to ensure that the emotional integrity of Muster and the heart of Muster is placed above all. We work very hard to make sure that though we are planning and executing an event, those who we do it for and why we do it stay at the forefront.”
To each member of the Muster Committee, Muster is about honoring Aggies, no matter what they did during their life, simply because they are Aggies.
“You honor people who you may have never met before, but you knew them, because they were an Aggie,” Sims said. “Come the night of Muster, that’s enough for me to say ‘here’ for them.”