Texas' first state-supported institution of higher learning, The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, started as a land grant college with a handful of students in 1876.
In 1890, former Texas Ranger and state governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross, whose statue overlooks Academic Plaza, became president and is credited with keeping the struggling college from closing. For many years, the all-male military college specialized in the studies of mechanics, agriculture and military tactics.
Major General James Earl Rudder became president of the college in 1959. During his tenure, the college was renamed Texas A&M University (1963), women were admitted to A&M (1963), and membership into the Corps of Cadets became voluntary for male students (1965). Women were first admitted in the Corps of Cadets in 1974.
Texas A&M is one of only a few schools holding the triple federal designation as a Land Grant, Sea Grant and Space Grant institution. These designations recognize the university’s commitment to teaching and research in agriculture, science and engineering, oceanography and marine resources, and aeronautics and space-related fields. With the growth of the university's curriculum to include agriculture, engineering, architecture, business, education, geosciences, liberal arts, medicine, science, and veterinary medicine, the letters "A&M" no longer represent any specific words and are now simply symbolic.
Texas A&M now has a population of more than 59,000 students, including over 10,000 graduate students. Students can choose from 120-plus undergraduate degree programs and 240 master's and Ph.D. programs in ten colleges. As one of the nation’s largest universities, it is supported by nearly 5,000 budgeted staff employees, 2,700 faculty and more than 10,000 student employees.