Construction Officially Begins on WT’s Geneva Schaeffer Education Building

Chip Chandler May 13, 2024
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Construction Officially Begins on WT’s Geneva Schaeffer Education Building

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — A major step to revive an iconic West Texas A&M University building took place today, with the official kickoff of the construction phase for the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building.

The Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp joined members of the Schaeffer family, U.S. Congressman Ronny Jackson, Texas Rep. John Smithee and WT administrators to celebrate progress on a project “which will breathe new life into what will once again be a center for activity on the campus,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for philanthropy and external relations.

The family of Geneva Schaeffer, including husband Stanley and their three children, made a $2.5 million naming gift to WT in February 2022 as part of a wide-ranging effort to bring the Education Building back to life.

“Shortly after I arrived, Stanley had a conversation with me and shared if the opportunity every became available, he sure would like to have Geneva’s name on the old Education Building,” Wendler said in prepared remarks. “Be careful what you say to a university president when it involves a potential contribution.”

Wendler said the building—known to generations of Buffs as “Old Ed”—“will be a centerpiece for the future of WT, what I think of as ‘New Ed’.”

“This facility is another way WT is fulfilling the vision cast in the long-range plan WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World,” he said. “WT aspires to be an innovative leader in digital education. At the heart of the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building will be digital technology blood pumping through the University so we can deliver an excellent educational experience to more students, in new ways, in more places, through new technology.”

The approximately $32-million facility is expected to open in the fall of 2025. The building has been gutted over the past several months to prepare it for its new incarnation. Other structural repairs and reinforcement have taken place, and foundation work is under way for a new annex for the building.

The Schaeffers’ gift is an important aspect of the building’s revival, but not the only one.

In October 2021, the University announced that it was allotted $45 million from Senate Bill 52, part of a $3.35 billion allocation for capital projects at Texas higher education institutions. Additional funds from WT’s allocation have been used on fire safety upgrades around campus.

The area legislative contingent has “done much to ensure WT is the Panhandle’s university, and I know you plan to continue to advocate in Austin for the people and communities of this region,” Wendler said.

“Today’s groundbreaking is just the latest in a historic building boom at West Texas A&M University,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “Since 2011, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has invested more than $306 million here in Canyon. This unprecedented investment in higher education in the Panhandle will reap benefits for Texans for generations to come.”  

The Education Building, which was the second academic hall built on campus, officially opened Oct. 19, 1928. It originally housed a demonstration school, where education majors got hands-on training in teaching schoolchildren. That school was discontinued in May 1951, and classes for WT students were housed there until 1988.

Geneva Schaeffer attended the demonstration school through fifth grade, then transferred to Canyon schools, where she met Stanley Schaeffer and began a lifelong romance.

In its new incarnation as the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building, the facility will be occupied by the WT Graduate School and an instructional design space to advance digital learning.

The building also will provide office space for student support and success departments. The building will offer approximately 60,000 square feet of additional learning and office spaces, including three full floors and about half of the building’s basement.

WT pioneered distance instruction in 1997, and the Geneva Schaeffer Building will be pivotal in its future, said Dr. Neil Terry, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.

Geneva Schaeffer earned her bachelor’s degree from WT in 1955, and in April 2016, she was bestowed an honorary doctorate of philosophy in WT’s Terry B. Rogers College of Education and Social Sciences. A public-school teacher for 17 years, she advocated for improvements and opportunities in education for decades and was a driving force in fundraising for the University.

Stanley Schaeffer, who also graduated from WT in 1955 and earned his MBA here in 1970, was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2021 from the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business. He was named a WT Distinguished Alumnus in 2004.

In 1987, Stanley Schaeffer joined with a small group of investors and Ray Bain to purchase First State Bank of Dimmitt, which became known as First United Bank in 1994. Today, the bank has expanded to 19 locations across 13 West Texas cities; Schaeffer currently serves as Director Emeritus.

Geneva and Stanley Schaeffer were the first winners of WT’s Pinnacle Award in 2005 and were named Outstanding Philanthropists by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2006.

In 2010, she and her husband established the Dr. Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education and Social Sciences to stimulate academic excellence and enhance scholarship, research and instruction for faculty in the College. The position currently is held by Dr. Betty Coneway.

The Schaeffers were married for 65 years before Geneva Schaeffer’s death in 2016. Their three children — Jackie, David and Jerry — also share significant ties to WT.

Collectively, the Schaeffer family is among the most generous of WT’s supporters. Their giving benefits students, faculty and programs across the campus, including the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, the College of Education and Social Sciences, Study Abroad, Athletics and more.

WT 125, the University’s long-range plan, is fueled by the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised nearly $160 million.



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.


Photo: Construction officially began May 13 on the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building at West Texas A&M University. The facility, the second-oldest academic building on campus, opened in 1928 but has been mothballed for about 30 years. In its new incarnation, it will be the digital hub of WT's online learning initiatives and home of the WT Graduate School. Pictured ceremonially driving hammers to signal the start of construction are, from left, Dr. Neil Terry, WT provost and executive vice president of academic affairs; Emily Winters of architect DLR Group; Gary Hall of The Texas A&M University System's Facilities Planning & Construction; TAMUS Chancellor John Sharp; WT President Walter V. Wendler; and WT Student Body President Kyal Browne.