In 1956, about 8,000 students were enrolled at Texas Tech, and while many of these students would graduate and leave the college for their careers, one freshman would become a legacy for his work at the university.
Bill Dean, executive vice president and CEO of the Alumni Association, said he has always loved Lubbock and has gotten the chance to see the university change from the small school he attended to the university that now has Tier One Carnegie Designation.
“We didn’t have SAT or ACT tests, they had an entrance test they gave us and it determined what kind of math you should take and that kind of thing,” he said. “There were no coed dorms. Freshmen were required to wear slime caps, these green caps, for probably the first semester we were here. You registered by going building to building. It was quite different.”
While Dean was in college, he worked at the student newspaper, then known as The Toreador, worked on the La Ventana yearbook, played varsity baseball, was president of the student body, president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and president of the Interfraternity Council.
“I think you learn things,” he said. “It helps you grow. In my experience, students who participate in something, belong to something, do much better than those who don’t.”
Now that he has worked at Tech for so many years, Dean said he still sees student involvement as a key factor that increases the retention rates of the university.
Dean graduated from Tech in 1961 with a bachelor’s in marketing, he said, then he went into the Army.
During this time, President John F. Kennedy was dealing with the Berlin crisis with Germany, Dean said, and college graduates had three choices: they could be drafted and serve two years in the infantry, they could join for three years and select what division they wanted to go into, or they could join for six months of active duty and then have a five and a half year service obligation after that. Dean chose the latter option.
After serving in the Army, Dean returned to Lubbock to work on his master’s in education administration and a teaching certificate during night classes. He also started working as student activities director for the newly constructed Coronado High School.
“I loved it. I wasn’t married and I didn’t have any major obligations, so I spent tons of time in that publications room, in the dark room, working with students,” he said. “I look back on it as a great time, primarily because I could devote the time to it. I spent a lot of time up there with the kids, and we had a great time.”
While Dean enjoyed working at the high school level, he was soon offered a job at Tech as the student publications director, which had better pay for his newly formed family.
When Dean advised The University Daily, the newspaper was tied very closely to the journalism school and there was an adviser who taught a reporting class to the student workers.
Dean’s goal as director was to improve the journalism skills of the student reporters while still allowing the newspaper to be student-run, he said, and he served in this role for 11 years.
Dean was then offered his current position at the Alumni Association, and he said he was reluctant to leave student media because he enjoyed his work there.
“It was a whole new world,” he said. “The best thing about this job is over the years, you see how the university changes, how it grows, how it develops, how it’s a much stronger academic university today than it was back in the 60s. That’s a very rewarding experience.”
Dean has served as the executive vice president of the Alumni Association for about 38 years now, he said, and he is also an associate professor in the College of Media and Communication.
Todd Chambers, associate dean of undergraduate affairs for the College of Media and Communication, said he has known Dean since 1984 when he came to Tech as a freshman and took his first class with him.
“I came back and told my roommate, ‘man, my professor looks just like Tom Landry,’ and it was Dr. Dean,” he said. “It’s been a privilege now when I came back to Tech as a professor to be able to call him a colleague. Over time it’s developed into more of a friendship more than anything.”
Dean already has a well-known legacy, Chambers said, and one can go anywhere in the U.S. and mention Tech to someone and they will ask about Dean.
Dean balances being a nice and well-liked professor with being rigorous in his teaching, Chambers said, and he pushes his students to strive for excellence.
After teaching for decades, Dean said he still enjoys getting to see students transform as they work their way through college.
“If you ask him what gets him excited, I guarantee it’s about teaching students and changing students’ lives,” Chambers said. “And he does it. Every day he owns it. I have a ton of respect for him. He is Mr. Texas Tech to me.”
Dean balances his two jobs for Tech by scheduling his four classes in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he said, and he works at the Alumni Association during these afternoons and full-time on Tuesday and Thursday.
The Alumni Association often requires putting in extra hours, he said, and he travels frequently to represent the association and he university.
Jim Douglass, associate vice president of the Alumni Association, said he has worked with Dean for 37 years since Dean hired him at the association.
“When you think of Bill Dean, a few things come to mind,” Douglass said. “He is integrity, very straightforward, he shoots from the hip, he lets you know exactly what he’s thinking and he is very well respected by everybody.”
Dean has many spheres of alumni who know him through his different roles at Tech, Douglass said, and his good reputation with the entire community reflects back onto the Alumni Association.
Dean has been a steady influence on the association, Douglass said, and he uses the help of the younger staff members to help modernize it when change is needed.
“I don’t think he’s ever going to leave,” Douglass said. “He will be honored accordingly when and if the time ever comes when he leaves here, either feet first or leading a parade, who knows.”
Dean has a secure legacy at Tech, Douglass said, and he is the “dean” of the alumni associations across the country.
Dean is also involved with his fraternity as the current faculty adviser, sponsored the cheerleaders for 11 years and is in his 21st year as chapter adviser for the Saddle Tramps.
“I love baseball, that’s my sport,” he said. “I go to every game. It keeps me young.”
Tech has been named a national research university and received Tier One Carnegie Designation, and Dean said these enhance the value of his degree from 1961 as well as the degrees of all Tech alumni.
He has seen six generations of students come through Tech during his time at the university, and Dean said he does not see himself retiring anytime soon.
“As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, why should you retire?” he said.