The culmination of every Aggie education is met with the opportunity to finally don a gold-cast Aggie ring. After completing 90 hours as an undergraduate last April, Ashley Ralph earned not one ring, but two.
The agricultural economics senior quite literally received more than she signed up for at last year’s Ring Day when her grandfather gifted her the same Aggie ring his father graduated with in 1923. Today, the near-century-old ring is still an indication of Aggie knowledge, but in its passing from father to son to great-granddaughter, it is enveloped in a family tradition of Aggieland excellence and life in the Corps of Cadets.
In the years leading up to the ceremony, Ralph said she and her grandfather often discussed the day the ring would become hers. Still, Ralph recalls the moment it arrived as a complete surprise because her grandfather had yet to mention he would even be attending the ceremony.
“When I came for my Ring Day a year ago, they had convinced me I wasn’t getting the ring because he was going to hang onto it, but I was still really excited to get my own ring,” Ralph said. “I got through the line, and they handed me my ring. I was trying it on, and the person tending the table asked me to turn around because he had something else for me, and I thought I had dropped something, but he handed me this little black ring box. When I opened it, I was completely shocked.”
Inside the black velvet box was a weathered ring Ralph said she had never seen before, though she knew exactly where it came from. To Ralph, the ring’s smooth edges did not represent wear and tear, but the history of her great-grandfather, John Mayfield, Class of 1923, a World War I veteran who traveled 19 hours by train from Houston to College Station, and served in the same Corps. For Ralph, it is a history she can embrace.
“I think a lot of the values and traditions that we hold so dear to A&M and its culture are really summed up in just this one little piece of gold,” Ralph said. “I can see that ring and say, ‘This is what brought me here.’”
According to Ralph, her appreciation extends beyond the ring because she shared the moment with her grandfather, John Mayfield Jr., Class of 1958. Like his father before him, Mayfield Jr. graduated from A&M while serving in the Corps, but he never truly left campus; not once he had a granddaughter to take to Aggie football games and munch on ham and cheese sandwiches in the back of a pickup truck.
These early glimpses of Aggieland and the Corps assured Ralph of where she wanted to be.
“He was the one to really expose me to A&M,” Ralph said. “Every time we would come up here he wanted to come back and see the Quad. He wanted to see the Corps Center. He wanted to relive his days in the Corps. From my perspective, all I saw A&M as was the Corps, and I try to make the impact that I saw the Corps had when I was younger.”
Mayfield said passing down his father’s ring last April was not a question of why, but when, because just as his father wore the ring as a Corps Colonel, then his granddaughter should own it as she entered her senior year as Chief of Staff.
“It was a great deal of pleasure that brought tears to the both of us,” Mayfield said. “It was a pleasure to present her the ring, and I knew that her great-grandfather was smiling in heaven when I gave it to her.”
As graduation nears, Ralph said she only feels excitement, not because she is ready to leave it all behind, but because she cannot wait to take her Aggieland experiences with her.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reflecting on my time in the Corps, especially with this ring,” Ralph said. “Every time I look at it, it just reminds me of how far I’ve come. It reminds me how far my family has come. You know it’s been a hundred years, and I hope it lasts a hundred more, but it’s really such a blessing and I feel so lucky to have this experience.”