By Allen M. Junek ‘18
At 93 years old, The Honorable Samuel R. Gammon III ‘44 has personally experienced periods of history–nationally, internationally, and at Texas A&M–that most people have only read about. Gammon has served in two wars, earned three degrees, and held more than a dozen diplomatic posts, both domestic and abroad.
“As a foreign service officer, I knew four presidents of the U.S., three presidents of France, two presidents of Italy, two emperors, and one pope,” he said.
The list of Gammon’s life experiences and accomplishments is staggering, and he generously chose to make the College of Liberal Arts a part of that legacy. Having received a bachelor’s degree in history from Texas A&M University, he created the Gammon Family Endowment in History to support transformational teaching and innovative research in the department. The gift, funded through a bequest, was made to honor the memory of both his father and older brother.
Texas A&M has played a large part in Gammon’s life since the age of one when his father, the late Samuel R. Gammon II, accepted the position of chair of the Department of History, which he held for 30 years until 1955.
“The campus brats–mostly faculty kids–used to get into the steam tunnels and run all over the campus underground and explore everything from outside our faculty house to the power plant,” Gammon recalled.
Having been raised in Texas A&M faculty housing, it seemed only natural that Gammon would eventually become an Aggie himself. In 1940, at the age of 16, he enrolled in what was then the all-male Texas A&M College.
It was a historically significant time for the university: Soldiers were being trained for war on campus; the Aggie football team had just been named national champions; and the first official mascot of Texas A&M roamed the grounds at her leisure. Looking back fondly at his time as a student, Gammon particularly cherishes his memories from Yell Practice and the night Reveille I unexpectedly slept on the floor in his dorm room.
During World War II, before he could graduate, 19-year-old Gammon and his older brother, William F. Gammon ‘41, were commissioned into the
U.S. Army. Sadly, his brother died fighting in the Philippines in 1945. Ambassador Gammon returned to campus after the war, completing his final semester at Texas A&M in the summer of 1946.
After graduation, Gammon pursued his doctorate at Princeton University but was recalled into the Army during the Korean War. He served for 17 months but, as the only surviving son in his family, was not sent overseas. Afterwards, he completed his Ph.D. at Princeton and, in 1954, joined the Foreign Service, where he spent the next 27 years. During this time, Gammon served in various diplomatic capacities around the world–from Rome to Paris, back here in the states, and his favorite post in Ethiopia. In 1978, Gammon was appointed as the American Ambassador to Mauritius, an island nation off the southeast coast of Africa.
Gammon said his liberal arts education was invaluable preparation for his career in diplomacy, particularly the study of languages.
“When I was consul general in Ethiopia, none of our military spoke French, so I was able to translate for the emperor, Haile Selassie I, who didn’t speak English,” he said.
After leaving the Foreign Service in 1981, he put his passion for history to work for 12 years as executive director of the American Historical Association, the largest and oldest historical society in America.
“I’d like to see history pushed a little more vigorously,” he said. “As one of the great philosophers said, ‘Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.’”
Here’s hoping Gammon’s impressive lifetime of service and gift to the College of Liberal Arts will inspire the generations of the future to learn from the past.
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