COLLEGE STATION — Nearly a half-century after African-Americans were admitted to predominantly white Texas A&M University, a black student has reached the pinnacle of one of its signature organizations.
Marquis Alexander next school year will become commander of A&M’s Corps of Cadets, a high-profile post that involves establishing the cadets’ dress codes for their military-style uniforms and setting their daily schedule, including physical training that can begin before dawn.
“There is a sense of pride that’s there,” Alexander, 22, said Wednesday, standing in front of the “Corps Arches,” an arched brick wall that marks the entrance to the dormitory area for the 2,100 members of the Aggie Corps of Cadets. “I look at it as encouragement to other people to get out and do whatever they want no matter what their background is.”
Black students represent less than 4 percent of the 40,000 undergraduate students at the College Station campus.
“A lot of people from that part of town don’t come here,” said Alexander, who already spent a year and a half in the Marine reserves before enrolling at Texas A&M in 2009.
His continuing duty as a reservist, where he’s a corporal, also makes him the first person with actual military experience to head the corps.
Texas A&M opened its doors in 1876. Blacks and women weren’t allowed until 87 years later. The first African-Americans joined the corps in 1964. The first women cadets came a decade later. Alexander, who hopes for a career as a military lawyer or intelligence work, said he wasn’t even aware he was the first black cadet commander until someone told him.
“I don’t know why it’s taken so long,” he said. “But I know the corps’ process is that they will always put the best people in the spot. I can honestly say my race didn’t play a factor. I hope it’s because I was legitimately the best person for the job.”
Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: Texas A&M appoints first black Cadet commander