Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin is spending his final days with students, who he has always been outspoken in his admiration of. On Friday morning, he addressed a small group of students while sitting under a banner that read “Be the best that you can be!” Loftin shared the front of the classroom with a beta fish named Diamond.
Loftin read aloud 'Anna Meagan: The Aggie Cinderella Story' to 17 second-grade students in Lindsay Cravatt's class at Harvey Mitchell Elementary in Bryan. The students greeted the outgoing president with a 'howdy' and squirmed and fidgeted with their own bow ties while sitting Indian style near the front of the classroom.
The trip was part of Cravatt's community readers program that started this school year and has featured U.S. Rep Bill Flores along with other prominent community members.
The book detailed the adventures of an Aggie co-ed who, with the help of the fairy god-dog Reveille and a magical 12th Man towel, is able to attend the Ring Dance.
Loftin had a Q&A following the reading and the second-graders were quite spectacular with their questions. They got right to the point.
Here are some of the best ones:
Question: Why do you wear bow ties?
Loftin: When I was very very young, older than you, but just starting to work at a university, my boss, the president there, told me I had to wear a tie every day. I didn't like being told what to do. Do you like being told what to do? I don't think so. My president told me to wear a tie and I said I'll show him, I'll wear a bow tie. I've worn a bow tie ever since and now it's my personal brand.
Question: Did you like being the president of Texas A&M?
Loftin: Very much. You know why? Because of you. I like students everywhere, of all ages. Being around students is the best part of the job.
Question: Why are you leaving?
Loftin: That's a very long story, too. It's time for me to change where I am so I decided back in the summer I would go back to being a teacher and that was my plan and I was working toward that goal but a short time ago another university called me and asked if I would come and take care of them for a little while. So for a while I'm going to leave Aggieland and go to Missouri ... and I'll be there for a while, but guess where I'll come back to. I'll come back to Aggieland.
Question: Do you know anybody Ben Malena? That's my cousin.
Loftin: I know Ben Malena, yes. He's a good football player. I've sawed varsity's horns off with Ben Malena.
Question: What do you do as president?
Loftin: I do all kinds of things. What I like to do is I like to be with students. So I go where they are. I go to football games, basketball games, soccer games and dive meets. I go to student organizations and talk to them there. I walk around campus and talk with them on campus.
Question: Is that hard work?
Loftin: It's not that hard. It takes a lot of my time. In between those meetings with students I stay in the office and sign papers and go to endless meetings and hear all kinds of problems. I try to fix those problems.
Question: What's your favorite book?
Loftin: I have many favorite books. The Bible is a favorite book of mine. I also read a lot of old books. I like William Shakespeare. I read fiction books from time to time as well. I read about different types of technology things. I used to read science fiction a lot but not much anymore.
Question: Why do you want to go to a different university?
Loftin: I didn't start off thinking about that but when they came to me and asked me to think about coming to them I asked myself – I've served Aggie students for a long time, I can serve them as well. I want to be a part of a university. That's where I've been all of my life basically.
Question: Do you know Becky?
Loftin: Becky? Uh, I know many Beckys. I don't think I know her. I know Becky Gates, Robert Gate's wife. So I don't think I know her.
Student: She's my mom and she works at A&M.
Loftin: Well about 10,000 people work at A&M.
Student: She knows you but I don’t think you know her. I was trying to tell my mom your real name but she says, “Mr. Bowtie.”
Loftin: A lot of people call me Dr. Bowtie. That's OK. I don't mind that one bit.
Question: How long have you been married?
Loftin: I've been married 41 years. Our last anniversary was in November. Forty one years is a long time, your parents probably aren't 41 years old.