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Developing diversity

Psychology professor Arnold LeUnes shares his 50 years of experience as a professor at Texas A&M University.

By Alix P ’18

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a well-lived life with decades of stories is certainly worth thousands more.

Arnold LeUnes has been a professor in the Department of Psychology for over five decades at Texas A&M University. For a university steeped in tradition, A&M has seen many changes since it’s beginning, and LeUnes has served as a witness to the evolution of Texas A&M. He shares his experiences in two memoirs — Okie Boy, Texas Aggie and Stamping Out Ignorance in Aggieland, published in 2018.

“Many students over the years have asked why I haven’t written a book about all these stories I’ve collected,” LeUnes said. “So this is me doing that, and offering a tribute to the students that have made my life so joyous.”

LeUnes joined the faculty of Texas A&M in 1966, only three years after the first female students were admitted to the university. He was under the school’s presidency of Gen. James Earl Rudder with a front-row seat to the drastic and course-setting changes that came in the early years of A&M: transforming an all white, all male, all military school into the diverse and prestigious university we know today.

“I saw the early pioneers that came to A&M, especially among the first female students. Their toughness and perseverance to take harassment paved the way for the equal status of women we see here today,” he said. “It was exciting to be a part of the growth of this university. Every place evolves and changes, but not necessarily as monumentally as Texas A&M.”

Being immersed in the richest changes seen in Texas A&M’s history, LeUnes gained a story or two to write about. He shares about the successful and tragic ends of his fellow professors, department heads, and presidents, as well as the characters of unique court cases on which he testified, clients from his consulting psychology practice, and his ample time abroad. Most significant, however, are the stories of his students.

“There are about a thousand students that had substantial influence on my life and shaped the way I am today,” LeUnes said. “It is the greatest job to be a college professor — you get to hear and see the impact you have almost every day, and the students impact you just as profoundly.”

When asked about the impact he hoped to have as a college professor in such a dynamic period, LeUnes laughingly referenced the title of his second memoir.

“The title started out as a joke between me and my colleague, who felt this summed up the job of a college professor,” he said. “Our job as professors, and humans really, is to daily stamp out the ignorance that people are often ingrained with. Especially in the liberal arts, we hope to develop individuals that have rounded off the human experience, and are better able to showcase and appreciate different points of view.”

LeUnes says he is left with a deep appreciation for the richness of humanity. He watched a university develop from uniform to versatile, and knows that it is diversity that creates a rich life. Connecting with people of different walks of life constructed a contented, abundant career, but is not limited to his specific experience or even to Texas A&M.

“All of my stories are about A&M, but they could be stories of any place… they’re not exclusive to this university,” he said. “The characters are interchangeable, because we all have these significant people with significant impacts in our lives. And that’s what I appreciate about the human experience.”