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  • Eternal Flame

Success throughout West Texas A&M University

By: Tinlee Roland


Imagine meeting your idol, favorite celebrity, or even your hero. Your hands are shaking and your stomach’s turning from excitement. What if you found out that person graduated from the same college as you, that’d be neat! Well, West Texas A&M University has several notable individuals, for example, many professional athletes, professional rodeo athletes, military notables, business professionals, and even actors and singers. These individuals all graduated from WTAMU just as you already did or are planning to do, you might be the next Buff celebrity. The individuals I'm going to spotlight are Helen Neal, Joe Warren Gill, and Trevor Brazile. These past Buffs have achieved a lot in their lifetime, and I will spotlight their achievements. It's very impressive to know how these individuals came from the same place in life as us.

Courtesy of WTAMU

Mrs. Helen Neal was born Sept. 17, 1927, in Okmulgee, Ok to Henry and Rosetta Rentie Elliott. She spent many years making a loving home for her family. However, her education was not forgotten. She returned to West Texas State University, now West Texas A&M University, to complete her degree. In 1962, Helen became the first black student to graduate from WT. Her life’s desire was to be a social worker. “She was always willing to help someone else. One of her strengths was a desire to see other people improve” said her daughter Delores Thompson. She fulfilled this desire in the form of volunteer work with Jan Werner Adult Day Care Board, Amarillo College Foundation, YMCA Young Achievers, Amarillo Citizens Police Academy, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Northwest Texas Hospital Auxiliary, Girl Scouts, Amarillo Opera, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, and many other organizations. She was a charter member of the Amarillo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Her hobbies included quilting, reading, and black history. She combined her love of quilting and black history by presenting the Underground Railroad to the Texas Panhandle community. Helen Neal was an educator and civic leader known throughout the Amarillo Community, making a historical impact on

WTAMU. After all her contributions to WTAMU, there is now a center called the “Neal Multicultural Center”.

Courtesy of WTAMU

Joe Warren Gill was born on Jan. 6, 1921, in Groom, TX, the son of Robert and Loyce Buzan Gill. In the fall of 1927, Joe and his family moved to Canyon, TX. He graduated from Canyon High School in 1939. Then went on to get his bachelor's degree from West Texas A&M University. Gill enlisted in the U.S. Army until he received a battlefield promotion to Captain. On 21 March 1945, then-Captain Gill was serving with Company E, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, Seventh U.S. Army in the European Theater of Operations. Gill was a brave man, and his accomplishments included a Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Silver and Bronze Star, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Germany), Presidential Unit Citation, and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Courtesy of

Trevor Brazile, was born November 16, 1976, in Amarillo, Texas, to Jimmy and Glenda Brazile. Trevor attended the Vernon Texas Regional Junior College earning his associate's degree in arts and sciences. After he finished at West Vernon, he transferred to West Texas A&M with a rodeo scholarship. Trevor left West Texas A&M in 1996 before he graduated so that he could compete full-time in the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA). Trevor was an American rodeo cowboy who dominated the sport in the early 21st century. He set records in lifetime earnings, single-season earnings, and most significant winnings at a single rodeo and became the third cowboy to win more than one triple crown. Professional Rodeo Cowboy, All Around Cowboy, 2-Time Steer Roping World Champion. Trevor has achieved quite a bit in his lifetime including 26 world titles, 83 all-around titles, 15 Tie-down titles, 12 teams roping with Patrick Smith & Rich Skelton, and 10 steer roping titles.

“To keep from getting overwhelmed with each rodeo or each event, the best way is to keep everything in perspective—as far as life goes,” Brazile told Relentless. “You hear people say a certain rodeo is a must-win, or whatever you want to call it. But really, it’s a rodeo that you prepared for. I’ve been to rodeos where I thought I had to win and didn’t, but it turned out everything was still OK.” Trevor has now retired but spends his time helping youngsters dream of the same dreams Trevor had at a young age, which is now what he does full-time. “Life’s too short not to enjoy what you’re doing for a living, whether you’re doing good or bad,” said Brazile. “It doesn’t mean you’re not serious about your work. I love life, and I want the people around me to love life, too.”

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