Four days before delivering his Campus Muster speech to thousands of community members, Dwight Roblyer, Class of 1984, stands before a clutter of loose-leaf papers occupying what was once his desk, and he is at peace.
When the clock strikes 7 p.m. on April 22, the Texas A&M political science lecturer will provide the keynote address to a crowded Reed Arena at the 2019 Campus Muster ceremony. The Aggie tradition presents current and former students from across the globe with the opportunity to gather and reminisce on their time shared at A&M, as well as commemorate the Aggies who died within the past year.
The honor of being selected as keynote speaker is not lost on Roblyer, who notes the company of generals, governors and Aggie alumni he now joins. Roblyer said his selection to speak astonished him so much, he repeatedly asked Muster Committee members if a mistake had been made.
“When they asked me, it was just really hard to conceive, because I know the kinds of people who have spoken at previous Musters and it’s not me,” Roblyer said. “I’m very ordinary compared to all those people. I told my wife that night [of the selection] as we were leaving the restaurant, ‘Honey, I don’t know if you realize this, but this is going to change our lives.’ This is a whole different level of involvement and exposure.”
Roblyer never envisioned himself as a person who would be asked to give the keynote address. However, Aggie Muster Committee Speaker Executive David Pham said Roblyer’s ability to make a lecture hall feel like “an extension of home” was one of many reasons for his selection.
“We know that students and faculty know who he is, and they see him in the light to carry on the spirit of Muster,” Pham said. “It’s something that we can completely trust him with because we know he’ll put forth his whole heart, soul and dedication into it.”
Juggling 650 students while perfecting his keynote address hasn’t been an easy task. With the support of a committee primed to solve any issue thrown their way, Roblyer said it has felt even easier getting to know them throughout his writing process.
“It’s been interesting re-exploring the power of A&M in the process of writing the speech,” Roblyer said. “I think that’s probably one of the things that’s notable on my mind. The whole idea of why this place is so different: That our predecessors would come up with an event that’s part memorial service and part family reunion. It’s an odd sort of mash-up, but it works well here.”
In the final stretch of edits and preparation, Roblyer said he appreciates Muster for reasons beyond presenting, because Monday concerns everyone. Roblyer explained that to softly call the Muster is to discover an empathy far greater than any tragedy.
“Why do we attend a memorial service for somebody that isn’t our immediate relative?” Roblyer asked. “Quite often, it’s because we are there to support the family member that we know. It’s a matter of saying, ‘Hey, we’re here for you.’ It’s a show of solidarity, support and compassion, and I think it’s very much the same when it comes to the Aggie family.”
Among this year’s Campus Muster honorees are former First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush and former President George H.W. Bush, who was commander in chief while Roblyer served in the United States Air Force. Roblyer said it is a great honor to help commemorate “two very special Americans,” but maintains that every honoree is of equal importance at Aggie Muster.
“One of our goals is not to try and elevate any of the lost members above any of the others, because they’re all vitally important to their circle and this community,” Roblyer said. “It’s another set of important people on the list, with all of them being important.”
Though Roblyer may still be awaiting the pinch to wake him from the dream, Stafford Toone, Class of 2018, said he is not surprised by the Muster committee’s selection because he’s “the perfect fit.”
“When I first heard of Dr. Roblyer’s selection by the Muster Committee, my very first reaction was to buy a plane ticket so that I could be in College Station and hear from him,” Toone said.
When Toone first arrived at A&M, he carried many of the same worries other new students do, but as a student “30 years older than everyone else,” assimilating on campus proved most difficult. Toone said the fear dissipated the day he sat in Robyler’s state and local government course. In a class which hundreds of students take a semester, he never went home feeling left out.
“What [the selection] told me was that enough people had recognized the same qualities that I had seen enough of to say he’s the right guy for this job, and that makes me really happy,” Toone said. “I really think, in some ways, this is the reward he deserves for his commitment to his students and the school.”