The West Texan: Boldly Stepping into the Future

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WestTexan-Spring2022-COVER-FINALPhoto:This article originally appeared in the Spring ’22 issue of The West Texan. Click the image to read the entire issue.

“When I heard they were closing it, I was just praying they wouldn’t tear it down.”Lana Gregory ’75, ’79 speaks for countless West Texas A&M University alumni who attended classes in the Education building before it closed its doors in 1988.

“That was my fear, that it would be demolished,” Gregory said. “I know it takes a lot of money to renovate it, so I’m so happy to hear that it’s going to happen.”

In fact, the Education Building—lovingly referred to as “Old Ed”—is more than simply being renovated. It’s being utterly transformed—complete with a new name.

Following a $2.5 million gift announced in February, the building will now be known as the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building, named for a late but beloved WT supporter whose connection to the University began in the building’s halls.

GenevaSchaeffer_JMB_EPhoto: Stanley Schaeffer announces a $2.5 million gift to West Texas A&M University to name the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building.

Geneva Gressett attended the demonstration school for primary-school students through fifth grade. After marrying her beloved  Stanley Schaeffer in 1951,  Geneva ’55 earned a degree in education and taught in Houston, then Dimmitt. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in philosophy from what’s now known as WT’s Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences in 2016, and died later that year.

When  Stanley ’55 and their children— David ’79, Jackie  and Jerry ’81—announced their naming gift in February, University officials also revealed that the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building would serve a new purpose on campus.

In October, WT announced that it was allotted $45 million from Senate Bill 52, which allocated $3.35 billion for capital projects at Texas higher education institutions. When extensive renovations are complete, the building will be occupied by the WT Graduate School, recognizing the significant growth it has achieved in the past five years. Plans call for new spaces for research and new areas to connect with off-campus students and potential new students.

But primarily, the second-oldest building on University grounds will be reimagined as a space that will put WT on the bleeding edge of innovation in distance learning.

Since 1997, WT has been a pioneer in online learning, fundamentally because it offers students in the Panhandle region easier access to higher education.

“Our goal with the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building is to be a first-mover in the next phase of distance learning, whether that’s virtual reality or advances we don’t even know about yet,” said  Dr. Neil Terry, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Our goal is to be as cutting-edge as we can possibly be, and the building will be the vehicle that will propel those strides.”

OldEdAnnouncementPhoto: “Old Ed,” as it has been called for years, is now formally the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building.

Those kinds of advances weren’t remotely on the horizon when  Neva Barker ’58 took education courses in the building.

“When my husband got a job coaching in Amarillo in 1955, I decided I’d go back to school and get a teaching certificate, even though I didn’t know a thing about WT,” Barker said. “I never dreamed I’d ever be able to go to college, so I really enjoyed my time in that building. I think it’s wonderful that they’re bringing it back to life.”

So does her son,  Brett B. Barker ’87.

“Mom told me she loved all of the hours she spent in that building, but I think I only took one class in there,” Brett Barker said. “But it’s wonderful to hear that.”

“I was so sad when I heard that they shuttered it, so I cannot wait to see how they revitalize it and put it back to use,” said  Gwen Hicks ’81, ’00, a retired teacher who now runs the nonprofit organization Amarillo Angels.

“I just treasure the education I received in that building. It set me on my path throughout my career—a great foundational experience,” Hicks said. “I think about all the educators who went through that building who I admire professionally and personally, and I cannot wait to see how it’s revitalized and serves new generations.”

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