John Tarleton’s dream was to create an institution of higher education for students of modest means.

Today, that dream is real. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would leave 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.

The Tarleton family will long remember 2018 for unforgettable moments and huge successes.

Just look.

For the first time in Tarleton history, the Texans completed their regular football season undefeated to win the Lone Star Conference title outright.

They also finished in the top five in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll, even if they did lose in the regional finals, 13-10, to the Minnesota State Mavericks in Mankato. (The game kicked off in normal weather conditions before a snowstorm turned the field into an ice rink.)

Ask the Texans about their spirit to win, and they’ll talk about the new Pointe du Hoc March up Rudder Way prior to home games. Initiated this year by the Texan Corps of Cadets, the march passes the statue of Tarleton alumnus and World War II hero Maj. Gen. James Earl Rudder, symbolizing his determination for a D-Day victory.

Mention the cadets, and you have to give a nod to the BIG win by Tarleton’s Army ROTC Texan Battalion at this year’s Ranger Challenge. Teams brought home first and second place for the first time in university history.

And in their first appearance in the Elite Eight, our ladies secured their first NCAA Division II South Central Regional Volleyball Championship with a four-set win over rival Texas A&M-Commerce. The competition took place in front of a standing-room-only crowd in Wisdom Gym.

            If these aren’t reasons enough to throw my hat in the air, Tarleton’s softball team recorded its first 50-win season in program history this spring and advanced to the regional final.

Tarleton’s dance team, the Texan Stars, and a squad of combined spirit groups are national champions for the first time in Tarleton history.

The Stars claimed the program’s first Division II team performance championship at the National Dance Alliance competition this spring, and the combined groups embraced a championship trophy after winning the Division II National Cheer Association Game Day Performance. The 30-member group featured 18 Texan cheerleaders, the Texan Rider mascot, five Texan Stars and six Plowboys.

In academics, Tarleton will get bragging rights to its first Ph.D. in January pending final approval by the full Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The doctorate of philosophy in criminal justice has been in the works for three years.

A new online accelerated MBA added in 2018 gives students an opportunity to complete the degree in 12 months, and an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) prepares registered nurses for professional growth opportunities.

Plus, three new Bachelor of Applied Science programs — manufacturing engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, and construction science and management — make it easier for students who graduate from high school and community colleges with technical credits to earn a degree in an engineering-related field.  

When it came to giving in 2018, alumni, faculty, staff and university friends put it over the top with a record $395,000 in tax-deductible donations and pledges on Tarleton’s Giving Day in April.

They did it again this fall on Giving Tuesday, reaching deep to give $164,173 and to turn my dream for an affordable, high-quality education into a reality for hundreds of students who otherwise might not have the opportunity.   

Looking at 2018, I can imagine what’s ahead.

A new year of BIG wins awaits.