WT Graduation honors Paul Engler, 1,573 students graduate from college
West Texas A&M University honored businessman and college donor Paul Engler with an honorary degree Saturday in the first of three commencement ceremonies held at First United Bank Center in Canyon, with a total of 1,573 students obtaining university degrees.
Engler received an honorary doctorate. in Business Administration and Agriculture from the two colleges that bear his name: the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business in WT and the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.
Upon hearing of this honor, Engler said it was the most beautiful and meaningful he had ever received.
“I have traveled many miles in my 75 years of active participation in the business world. Some of those miles were easy and came fast while some of them were extremely difficult, and those tough miles were definitely the grand masters of my life,” Engler said. “As a result, I would like everyone to know that I appreciate the opportunities that God and the business world have provided me over the years. Thank you again for this incredible honor you have given me.
WTAMU President Walter Wendler commented on the honorary degree awarded to Engler.
“Paul Engler’s life and career have had a huge impact across Texas and the world, including – in a really significant way – here at WT,” Wendler said. “He embodies the true Panhandle values of authenticity, hard work, and commitment to community, and he’s not afraid to take risks and stand out as a leader. He really changed the trajectory of WT, and I’m glad we recognize his impact with this well-deserved honorary degree.
One of the many graduates holding a first-generation degree was Marshal Johnson, who shared the honor with his sister that day. Johnson had an arduous, injury-plagued journey that saw him arrive at WT on a basketball scholarship and come away with ambitions of becoming a doctor. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and is now seeking admission to medical school.
Johnson came to WT on an athletic scholarship after a stellar prep career at Clarendon High School, where he won Golden Spread 2A Player of the Year as a senior. He also earned Amarillo-Globe News first-team super team recognition after averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds in 2017 and led his team to second place in the state championship.
Due to injuries, Johnson only played 63 minutes of basketball during his college career, and he eventually quit the sport after sustaining a kneecap and quadriceps injury to focus on his studies.
“Being a first-generation college student, it’s such an amazing feeling to be able to get on stage, especially when my parents never had that opportunity, which was a big part of my driving force to graduate,” Johnson said. “It was tough, especially when I was trying to play basketball. I can’t put into words how it feels to get to that point.”
Another first-generation graduate, Ashely Dawn Oakes, completed that journey two decades after graduating from Tascosa High School. Oakes is an only child and mother of four, and she lost both parents years earlier. She was the first member of her family to graduate from high school. Oakes reflected on graduating.
“I spent my last years working in school to make this day happen,” Oakes said. “My mum always told me to get an education first, then get a job, then start a family, and obviously I did it all but the way she told me,” said said Oakes, “WT and the McNair Scholarship Program have been absolutely amazing, and I’m so grateful to the friends and family I have who pushed me even when I wanted to quit.”
According to Chip Chandler, WT’s senior communications specialist, the oldest graduate of this Class of 2022 was 65 and the youngest was 19. The graduates of this class came from 41 states and 18 different countries. The graduating class included 137 individuals who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA and had 45 military veteran graduates. Chandler said 50% of undergraduates are the first in their families to graduate from college.