When the land-grant institutions were established by the Morrill Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862, one aspect of the Act was “to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” As a regional university serving the citizens of West Texas and the Panhandle, and a member of The Texas A&M University System, West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) is associated with two important entities: the Texas Panhandle Historical Foundation (TPHF) that guides the production of the TEXAS Outdoor Musical and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society/Museum (PPHS/PPHM). Both share a common interest in promoting an understanding of and appreciation for Texas history and the “several pursuits and professions in life” in the Texas Panhandle.

Our Texas Panhandle history shapes us through the TPHF and PPHS/PPHM and weds us to our purpose of shaping the future of Texas. One without the other is lifeless.

No single entity attends to the cultural foundation of Panhandle history through antiquities, storytelling, and geographic appreciation.

WTAMU should be responsive to the coordination of these essential ventures by taking a leadership role as a forward-looking and historically appreciative storehouse of insights and ideas that empowers and informs future growth and service. Such a commitment is not solely the jurisdiction of WTAMU, to be sure. The spirit of the Morrill Act primarily assigns it, but more importantly, it is a responsibility we owe our region.

WTAMU is a significant repository of historical records, artifacts, and relationships to our extended community. It has responsibility for preserving and disseminating insights embedded in the TPHF and the PPHS/PPHM. The two entities and WTAMU are marked important to, and a part of, the future of our region and state. All of the collections in a unique place, if thoughtfully coordinated, have statewide value to students of every stripe and locale.

Generative Idea

The value of WTAMU, the TPHF, and PPHS/PPHM extend beyond our borders. The impact of the Panhandle on the state was and continues to be significant. All of these organizations independently operating are falling short of their full potential for statewide impact. However, creating the Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle (CFTP) organization would provide a collectively unique opportunity to demonstrate civic pride and service to the Panhandle, and more importantly, garner shared support from across the state. The board of the CFTP organization would be an appointed membership that represents business, industry, civic, and education from various statewide leadership perspectives.

Board Reporting Structure

No new state funding would be allocated for the organization. Funding would come from industrial and commercial enterprises, gifts, and endowments that value the CFTP and state progressiveness, while also respecting state history.

The coincidence that both organizations are searching for an executive director provides ideal timing for more effectively using resources as the CFTP. Combining the two positions into one creates salary/incentive opportunities, allowing both the TPHF and the PPHS/PPHM to attract a business and future-minded nonprofit leader for organizational advancement. Salaries and benefits for both organizations would be compressed and fall under the jurisdiction of WTAMU. The arrangement could be for a fixed term, such as three years, to allow an extended road test of the concept and encourage entrepreneurial leadership from all parties, especially the executive director. Lastly, investigate digital resources that would bring the TPHF and the PPHS/PPHM into the digital communications age.

Overall, marrying the board of the TPHF and the board of the PPHS/PPHM creates one well-functioning, regionally driven entity. The role of the combined-group-entity is to preserve the cultural foundation of the Panhandle. This effort would extend the purpose and reach of WTAMU, the TPHF, and the PPHS/PPHM.