Gift from Piehl Family Establishes Professorships in Education, Agriculture at WT

Chip Chandler

Photo provided by WT Communication and Marketing

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124, [email protected]  

 

CANYON, Texas — Newly endowed professorships in agriculture and education continue a long history of giving to West Texas A&M University by one prominent Amarillo family. 

WT officials announced this week the establishment of the Bill Piehl Professorship of Education and Social Sciences and the Plug Piehl Professorship in Agriculture following a gift of $250,000 by businesswoman and philanthropist Helen Piehl in honor of her daughters. 

Dr. Mikyung Shin, assistant professor of special education, was named to the Bill Piehl Professorship, and Dr. Mallory Vestal, associate professor of agricultural business and economics, was named to the Plug Piehl Professorship.  

The Bill Piehl Professorship, given in honor of Puff Niegos, is named for Helen Piehl’s late husband, a 1960 WT graduate who became a leader in the high-pressure gas industry through the family business, Western Sales and Testing of Amarillo. 

Bill Piehl struggled with reading and writing, leading to a lifelong passion shared by him and his family for finding ways to support similar families and educators who work with such students. Puff Niegos was instrumental in the founding of WT’s Center for Learning Disabilities, part of the Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences. 

As the Bill Piehl Professor, Shin said she will continue supporting children and families with a diverse range of learning needs and potentials. 

Dr. Mikyung Shin is the newly named Bill Piehl Professor of Education and Social Sciences. Photo provided by WT Communication and Marketing

“Through this support, I can continue to develop technology-based mathematics lessons and interventions for students with learning disabilities,” Shin said. “I will strive to continue to improve the quality of life for students who struggle with learning, particularly those who face issues related to mathematical vocabulary and word problems. In that way, I would be able to demonstrate how one family’s commitment to the field can benefit the community.” 

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Shin joined WT in 2019. She earned bachelor’s degrees in special education and English language and literature from Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul in 2006, then earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in special education from the University of Texas–Austin in 2009 and 2013. 

She teaches special education teacher preparation and educational diagnostician courses and is an editorial board member of the Korea Learning Disabilities Association and Learning Disability Quarterly. 

“Dr. Shin’s dedication to the success of individuals with learning differences is evident in the strong leadership she is providing to the WT Center for Learning Disabilities,” said Dr. Eddie Henderson, dean of the Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences. “The Bill Piehl Professorship continues and strengthens the advocacy of the Piehl family for individuals with learning differences. We sincerely appreciate their investment in this important area of educator preparation and service to the community.”  

Niegos is pursuing an MBA at WT and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Southern Methodist University. She is a board member and former president of the WTAMU Foundation and a member of the Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences Advisory Board. Niegos also serves on the Mary E. Bivins Foundation board and on the board of the North Heights Linen Service. 

The Plug Piehl Professorship will be given, when appropriate, to a female agriculture faculty member. 

Dr. Mallory Vestal is the newly named Plug Piehl Professor in Agriculture. Photo provided by WT Communication and Marketing

“The word ‘honor’ does not fully convey my feelings toward this professorship,” Vestal said. “Not only does it carry the name of one of the most prestigious families in the Panhandle, but it also embodies some of the area’s most successful professional women, who are servant leaders to the very core. While the presence of women in academia has evolved over my lifetime, I can confidently say women have been ever-present in the field of agriculture. It is my pleasure and privilege to be a woman in a field near and dear to my heart.”   

A Tulia native, Vestal earned her bachelor’s degree in agribusiness/equine industry and business from WT in 2005. She earned a master’s and a doctoral degree in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University in 2007 and 2012, respectively.  

She teaches a wide variety of courses from agricultural economics, farm and ranch management to futures and options, among others, and is the co-faculty adviser for the Agribusiness Club. In 2016, Vestal was appointed to the Plains Land Bank Board of Directors, where she still serves. 

Plug Piehl’s ties with the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences run deep. A graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in industrial education, Plug Piehl is a member of the WT Agriculture Development Association, a chapter of the WT Alumni Association. She also sits on the College’s advisory board.  

“We are excited to honor Dr. Vestal with the Plug Piehl Professorship in Agriculture,” said Dr. Kevin Pond, dean of the Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “Dr. Vestal is a shining star in agricultural business and economics, and is known for her industry engagement, excellent teaching and for bringing real-life experiences into the classroom.”  

Both professorships help WT meet critical regional needs, one of the key missions of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. 

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched Sept. 23 — has raised about $110 million. 

“We appreciate how the Piehl family continues to support and advance West Texas A&M University. Drs. Vestal and Shin are outstanding faculty members and great choices to steward the student engagement and program advancement intended with establishing these professorships,” said Dr. Neil Terry, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.  

In addition to these professorships, the Piehl family has supported WT through scholarships, endowments, research, athletic support and community programs. 

 

About West Texas A&M University 

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.

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