University Founder’s Gravesite Gets a Makeover
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Almost 100 years ago, Commerce founder and professor, William Leonidas Mayo, was buried on campus on March 14, 1917. Although preparations and funding has been an ongoing process for a few years, construction for the renovations on the gravesite is currently undergoing a five week process that is set to be completed before the Homecoming celebration.
Randy VanDeven held the position of Interim Vice President of Advancement when the initial renovation plans for the gravesite were endorsed by the Texas A&M University-Commerce Foundation to celebrate the 125 anniversary in 2014. The present Interim Vice President of Advancement, Wyman Williams, is in currently in charge of overseeing the work revolving the remodeling process.
The reconstruction will be a beautiful upgrade in appearance to a historical landmark on campus that people often overlook because of its uncomfortable setting. Two sets of stone steps will be lead up to Professor Mayo’s Gravestone and in between these walkways will be a planter. The site will be adorned with plants that will create an appealing environment and pay respect to the founder. Six columns will be added along the stone wall seating area and each will contain a plaque with one of the names that A&M-Commerce has identified as since the founding. A walk around the remodeled site will provide a history on how Texas A&M-Commerce came to be.
In celebration of the institution’s 125 anniversary, the six columns were each worth $12,500 while the stone steps were worth $1,889 in honor of the year that Mayo first purchased the school. A portion of the $125,000 target of funds necessary for this task was donated thanks to the former university president Charles Austin, Micky and Wanda Trusty, and Atmos Energy. They will also be acknowledged on the gravesite as gratitude for their endowment.
The construction will be completed before the start of Homecoming, allowing time to set up the greenery and conclude any final pieces. Homecoming this year will be a special event because the annual ceremony held at Professor Mayo’s burial site will be the official dedication in a new modern setting.
Mayo’s original East Texas Normal College was located in Cooper, Texas until a fire in 1894 forced him to move the institution towards Commerce. By 1917, he hoped that the Texas Legislature would buy his public college and integrate it in the state system.
Professor Mayo had always wished to be buried on the ground of his institution so it was an unfortunate coincidence that he died from a heart attack immediately after receiving news that the state was purchasing his school. It is actually illegal for a person to be buried on the grounds of a Texas state school so his family was prompt to prepare his funeral. This unique attribute of the school makes our founder Mayo the only college president to be buried on site of an institution in the state of Texas.