For the first time in 1965, students could stay in San Angelo to complete their bachelor’s degrees rather than transfer to a larger school. That was music to the ears of students like Alex Decuir, who shares the rare distinction of being a member of SAC’s last graduating class and ASC’s first. He also played on the Rams basketball team.
“My friend, Charles Spieker, and I finished our sophomore year right before the move for SAC to become a four-year college,” Decuir said. “So we redshirted the next year when it was still a junior college so we could come back and play two more seasons for Phil George at Angelo State. It was very significant for us to not have to go off to a different four-year college.”
“Also, they had dropped football when I first got there, and basketball was the king sport,” he added. “So that was kind of neat for me as a basketball player. But the year I redshirted, they were bringing in players to start playing football again. I think everyone was excited about that.”
However, the decision of whether to stay through the transition or transfer was not so easy for everyone, including Sue (Moore) Engdahl, a member of SAC’s final 1965 graduating class.
“It concerned me whether the college was really going to be able to add all the courses I needed for my major,” Engdahl said. “Nobody really knew for sure. At any university in those days, students weren’t kept as well informed about those types of situations as they are now.”
“Some of my friends stayed for financial reasons, so it was a good situation for them,” she added. “But I needed to go off somewhere else because I had never lived away from my parents. Some of my friends were going to Sam Houston State, so I also decided to go.”
Despite their differing thoughts on the transition, both Decuir and Engdahl had life-changing moments at SAC/ASC. Decuir was offered what might have been ASC’s first baseball scholarship, which probably kept him out of the Vietnam War draft. Engdahl met her future husband, longtime ASU agriculture professor Dr. Gil Engdahl, at a SAC dance.
Decuir went on to enjoy a long coaching career before retiring in San Angelo. Engdahl worked over 40 years for the Texas A&M Agricultural Experiment Station, most of them in San Angelo after her husband joined the ASU faculty. As a result, both of them had a front row seat to the growth and changes on the Angelo State campus, and each of them has a favorite.
“The Junell Center is second to none,” Decuir said. “I sit in there and watch games and say to myself, ‘is this really in San Angelo?’ They sure did it right when they built that facility. The curriculum has also changed so much since I was there. It’s important that ASU is now able to attract students interested in studying in all different fields. And now playing home football games on campus has brought a lot of excitement. They did all that right, as well.”
“I’m very proud of ASU’s growth,” Engdahl said. “I was able to really watch the new buildings go up, new faculty arrive and departments grow. I’m also very proud of ASU’s academic standards and I’m glad they’ve kept them up. The college used to be just for people in the community and surrounding area. Now it is for students from all over the U.S. and the world.”
Engdahl and Decuir also hazarded a guess at how ASU will fare over the next 50 years.
“I think ASU will grow, and I want it to,” Engdahl said. “But I want it to retain the current atmosphere. ASU provides education in career fields that this area needs, and I’m happy about the new engineering program. But I want students to still feel the same, that they can still have a close relationship with their professors, even as the university gets larger.”
“People talk about moving up to Division I for sports,” Decuir said, “and I guess that might happen. I think ASU will still be here in 50 years, but that’s if kids still need to go to college and are not able to just do it all on a computer. We’ll just have to wait and see what technology brings.”
For now, though, Angelo State is delighted and proud to be celebrating its 50th birthday.