A new book, “Breaking Away: How the Texas A&M System Changed the Game,” chronicles a decade of accomplishments in higher education in Texas — from Texas A&M’s entry into the Southeastern Conference to the most significant construction expansion in the history of the Texas A&M University System.

Author Tim Gregg documents how the Texas A&M System has employed its unique structure — 11 universities and eight state agencies — to answer the call of the nation and the state at a critical time when some are questioning the role of higher education.

In Breaking Away, Gregg tells the stories of the people of the Texas A&M System who are not bound by conventional thinking on what a university system can accomplish.

Leading the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas in 2017, Chancellor John Sharp put the Texas A&M System’s statewide network of agents to work helping Texans recover from Hurricane Harvey — an approach so successful that the Legislature formalized it by adding the Texas Division of Emergency Management as the Texas A&M System’s eighth state agency in 2019.

Gregg also discusses how the Texas A&M System Board of Regents and Chancellor Sharp embraced a broad agenda for the future defense of this nation. First, the System outbid competitors to become the only Texas university system to help manage a national weapons lab, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The System also converted an old military base in Bryan, Texas into the RELLIS Campus, which includes the testing home for the U.S. Army Futures Command.

On the education front, the Texas A&M System campuses are increasingly educating first-generation students and providing new ways to get bachelor’s degrees. Meanwhile, the flagship campus has increased research funding and has grown its number of National Academy members fivefold, thanks to innovative programs such as the Chancellor’s Research Initiative.

Gregg also tells the stories of the people behind these accomplishments:

Dr. M. Katherine Banks, a native of Kentucky coal-mining country who, by chance, took an engineering class and eventually found her way to becoming the President of Texas A&M University.

Dr. Ruth Simmons, who retired from an academic career in the Ivy League to take on the challenge of leading Prairie View A&M University as a means of giving back.

And Chancellor John Sharp, the one-time student body president at Texas A&M who became a statewide elected official and eventually the leader of The Texas A&M University System.

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