Nearly 50 years after making a donation that helped shape the future of Texas A&M University at Galveston, George P. Mitchell stands at attention near one of its newest buildings.
A statue of Mitchell, the Galveston-born billionaire and Texas A&M graduate, who donated 100 acres on Pelican Island to the university in 1968, was officially dedicated Thursday.
The bronze statue depicts Mitchell as a young man and a member of the A&M Corps of Cadets. It’s a marker of the school’s history, in a place that university officials call a symbol of the campus’ future.
“I know he would love it, because this place is kind of his pride and joy,” said Jay Hester, the statue’s sculptor, who said he became Mitchell’s friend after sculpting another statue of him in The Woodlands.
Mitchell died in 2013.
Thursday’s event celebrated not only the statue, but the opening of two campus buildings: the 86,000-square-foot first phase of an academic complex, which includes a visitors center, classrooms, laboratories, academic services areas and administrative offices, and the $6 million waterfront events pavilion.
Both buildings were completed earlier this year, and opened in August, in time for the start of the fall semester.
“I am so proud about what’s happened to the campus over the last five or six years,” Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said.
Texas A&M got approval for a $60 million construction bond from the Texas Legislature in 2013, which had fueled much of the campus’ expansion in recent years. Speakers on Thursday credited former Texas A&M University at Galveston President Robert Smith, along with state Sen. Larry Taylor, and state Rep. Wayne Faircloth for helping secure the support for the expansion from the state.
Col. Michael Fossum, who was appointed the chief operating officer of Texas A&M University at Galveston earlier this year, said he expected millions more to be invested into the campus in coming years.
Officials want to eventually enroll 3,000 students on the campus.
During tours of the new academic building Thursday, students and faculty lauded the academic space. The building’s new labs — which are used by many first- and second-year students — are more spacious and include upgraded technology.
The administrative offices include a student counseling office funded by the Abe and Annie Seibel Foundation. Officials said the new building allowed the school to move classrooms and offices out of converted dormitories and a warehouse that had been adapted to meet the school’s needs.
The new building also expands the study space on the campus. There are tables and whiteboards scattered around the halls of the buildings, the central staircase doubles as seating area where students can plug in digital devices, and the second floor includes a small canteen where people can buy food and drinks.
“Students wanted more and better study space,” said Patrick Louchouarn, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and chief academic officer, adding that current students were consulted during the design of the new building. “That’s a dream for an educator.”
Phase 2 of the Academic Complex, which will include a large lecture hall, new campus bookstore and administrative offices, is under construction.