John Tarleton’s dream to create an institution of higher education for students of modest means today is reality. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would make its founder proud.

This monthly column, by an anonymous university author, looks at the school’s progress, issues of our time, achievements and challenges through the eyes of John Tarleton—a dreamer’s point of view.

Nothing keeps graduates engaged with their alma mater better than a group created just for them. The Tarleton Alumni Association (TAA), does exactly that for more than 75,000 former students.

Created in 1912, the association helps Tarleton Texans stay connected to friends, classmates and the university community whether they live down the street or halfway around the globe.

It’s a connection that lasts a lifetime.

Tarleton leaders know that TAA members are a vital link between the university and the rest of the world, sharing the school’s reputation as a top-notch educational experience, fostering community engagement, advocating for higher education and garnering philanthropic support.

The association is one of only a handful nationwide that use 100 percent of membership dues to help students earn a degree. Since November 2013, TAA has funded more than $200,000 in scholarships.

That has been the university’s aim for all of its 119 years — to provide an affordable, quality education for students of modest means.

Tarleton leaders look to TAA for feedback on decisions that impact the university. Things like refreshing the school’s spirit mark or expanding and renovating Memorial Stadium. Tarleton alumni are the voice of the community.

When a delegation traveled to the Texas Capitol to increase public and legislative support, alumni were there to promote their beloved Tarleton.

TAA works with campus partners to create opportunities for graduates to stay involved and advance the university through a variety of networking opportunities.

Homecoming each fall and the summer concert bring alumni back year after year, providing an occasion to meet current students and renew old friendships. Along with TAA, Tarleton colleges and departments plan special homecoming activities. All of Erath County, it seems, turns out to enjoy the free summer show and Texan family reunion — TAA’s thank-you to business leaders and residents for their commitment.

A special ceremony in concert with Family Weekend is a long-standing TAA tradition. Family and friends gather at the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center to see students receive their Tarleton State University class ring and have their hand signed by the Purple Poo, followed by photos at Alumni Island.

During the university’s annual gala, the association recognizes distinguished alumni, faculty, staff and special friends. This year’s award recipients — selected from nominations — are Nancy Golden (’79), Distinguished Alumna; Dr. Jason Mogonye (’02), Outstanding Young Alumnus; Sandra Cox, Distinguished Faculty/Staff; and Stephenville City Electric, Inc., Distinguished Friend.

Affinity groups strengthen ties among alumni. So far, the TAA has established groups for the Plowboys, Texan Stars, Distinguished Alumni, members of the Texan Corps of Cadets, and Tarleton rodeo and meats judging teams.

Started in 1993, the annual Alumni Academic Forum links outstanding graduates from Tarleton’s colleges with current students. Alumni share success stories, tips on pursing a degree and testimonies on how the university prepared them for life after college.

Tarleton State University is a close-knit community. A family.

The Tarleton Alumni Association is the great connection.