Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Area Native Gary Bigham Named Dean of WT’s Rogers College of Education, Social Sciences


CANYON, Texas — A career educator with strong Panhandle ties has been named the new dean of the Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences at West Texas A&M University.

Dr. Gary Bigham, a 15-year veteran of WT who spent 20 years in teaching and administration in the public school system, officially will begin his duties Aug. 1 following approval from The Texas A&M University System.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust that WT’s top administration has placed in me,” Bigham said. “I take the responsibilities associated with my selection most seriously.”

Bigham was selected from a field of three finalists and 23 applicants. A 14-person search committee of administrators, staff, faculty and community representatives was formed to conduct the search.

Bigham fills a position made open following the decision of the College’s longtime dean, Dr. Eddie Henderson, to return to the classroom, as announced in October.

“The experience that Dr. Bigham brings with him from his time in rural school districts will significantly impact our students and service to the region,” said WT President Walter V. Wendler. “I am confident that the disciplines in the College will flourish under Dr. Bigham’s leadership.”

“Dr. Bigham has a proven ability to collaborate with area school districts and has risen through the academic ranks at WT, particularly playing a critical role in the success of our educational doctoral program,” said Dr. Neil Terry, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs. “The task ahead will be a challenge, as is the case with all new deans, but I know he is committed to a positive path for the future of the College.”

Bigham said he hopes to build on the long legacy of the Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences.

“At the core, I want this college to be the place where anybody seeking a degree in any of our fields — whether it’s education, psychology, criminal justice, political science, public administration, emergency management or the like — that we’re their first choice,” Bigham said. “I want us to have an active presence in the field, not only the place schools turn to for guidance and assistance, but for any of the social-science disciplines that fall within our fields of study.”

Bigham, a Lockney native, was inspired to enter education by his admiration of a high school agriculture teacher. After beginning his degree at WT, Bigham completed his bachelor’s in agricultural education at Texas Tech University.

He began his teaching career in Amherst, then moved to Springlake-Earth, where he served as an elementary and junior high principal before being elevated to superintendent. Along the way, he completed a master’s in agricultural education and a doctorate in educational leadership, both at Texas Tech.

After two decades in public schools, Bigham joined the WT faculty, where he has served as director of the University’s educational leadership doctorate program and superintendent certification.

Bigham has presented his research at local, regional, state, national and international conferences, events, and workshops. He has also presented professional development workshops for teachers, administrators and school board members. He coordinates the annual school board workshop for Texas Panhandle school board members and superintendents, a collaborative effort involving WT, the Texas Association of School Boards and the Region 16 Education Service Center.

Bigham has chaired the University’s Institutional Review Board and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and has served on the University’s learning management system advisory group. Bigham also has served on the Graduate Council, the Faculty Senate and various other committees at the department, college and University levels. Bigham also devotes service to professional organizations in educational leadership and community youth organizations in agriculture.

Henderson, Bigham’s predecessor, joined WT in August 2000 as head of the Division of Education and was named dean in 2006. He will remain at WT as a full-time faculty member in the doctoral program in educational leadership as the Myrna Raffkind Professor of Global Education, focusing on education law and policy, higher education leadership and special populations.

WT opened in 1910 as West Texas State Normal College, a school that trained teachers. Today, about 75 percent of all teachers and administrators throughout the Panhandle region have at least one degree or certificate from WT.

In addition to teachers and school administrators, the Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences is responsible for the preparation of school psychologists, social work professionals, and students for graduate programs in psychology, sociology, the law and public services and administration, as well as direct engagement with the community through its programs in criminal justice and emergency management administration. The College currently serves more than 1,700 students, making it the second-largest College at WT. It includes three departments: the Department of Education; the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice; and the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work.

Bigham will oversee all areas of the College, bringing to the fore the skills he learned as a public school administrator and those he has developed during his time at WT.

“When I started working on my master’s degree,” Bigham said, “I had two professors who encouraged me to get a principal’s certification, and I had no idea that I would develop the passion for educational leadership that I did.

“Opportunity comes about whether you walk through the door or not, and I decided to walk through that door.”

Recruiting and retaining the best faculty and staff members is a key component 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 campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021— has raised more than $125 million and will continue through 2025.


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