JAVELINA STORIES

 

What's in a Name: Uncovering the History of Seale Hall

by Elaine Barnes

Coordinator, Alumni and Donor Communications

 

Seale Hall
 

 

By any other name, Seale Hall would look just the same. But underneath the name is a treasured story of a devoted man, Dr. Edward Wynn Seale, and many one-of-a-kind memories from the students who lived there, each unintentionally fleeting with the passing of time. You may have recently caught yourself on Texas A&M University-Kingsville soil, passing through the bustling construction and past the fenced-in, battered building thinking to yourself, “Out with the old, in with the new!” But the history of its namesake and how Seale laid the foundation for a uniquely resilient South Texas university is a story that can’t be lost by the building’s demolition.

For many universities, dormitories rival other campus buildings for most scorned, usually underperforming in a multitude of ways, with each student eagerly awaiting the chance to move off campus. But in the early 1930s, Texas College of Arts & Industries was facing a detrimental problem – they didn’t have any housing for students, at all. Factor in the Great Depression and an absence of funding at a school with an inescapable need to grow enrollment – and grow it fast – and you have the perfect formula for disaster.

Charging this challenge was Seale, who had an innate personal investment in the educational success of South Texas. Having served in multiple educational capacities in the region, he found himself mentored by and professionally attached to then-president of Texas College of Arts & Industries, Dr. Robert B. Cousins. Collaborating with one another, each understood the distinctive necessities of the university in overcoming the economic turmoil it faced. However, one of the biggest hurdles that Seale confronted in this mission came with Cousins’ unexpected death.

Disheartened by the loss of his friend, but unable to shake his belief in the university’s potential, Seale approached the Board of Directors and applied for presidency in hopes to preserve Cousins’ mission of Texas College of Arts & Industries being a competitive source of higher education in South Texas – a decision that, because of Seale’s revered selflessness and thoughtfulness toward the community, took mere hours to be enthusiastically approved by the Board.

In 1932, Seale swiftly got to work as president. Although his objectives were many, his emphasis on the need for student housing was at the forefront of his mind. Without it, he saw no chance for institutional development. But he still faced the impossible task of creating the funds for such a colossal project. Known to even sometimes personally cover expenses where funds lacked and couldn’t seem to be raised, it came as no surprise that Seale discovered an opportunity for victory. In the midst of the Great Depression, the Public Works Administration was created under President Roosevelt. Seale discovered this government program and recognized it as the university’s only chance. He created a presentation which called for two dormitories, one for women and one for men, each housing 100 students. Seale embarked on Washington, determined to seize success.

His hard work and dedication proved triumphant with the university being granted $300,000 for the construction in 1934 – a tremendous feat that unfortunately, Seale would never know. After his charge to Washington, days later while attending the Rotary International Convention, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, causing his untimely death. Married less than a month earlier, his new bride and his beloved South Texas community of Kingsville were devastated. The local newspaper appealed to readers to continue the mission of Seale in insuring the future of Texas College of Arts & Industries. With the grant in place, construction began as soon as possible, and in 1935, two dormitories emerged on campus. They were named Cousins Hall and Seale Hall – an honor given in memory of two treasured university presidents vital in the progression of their beloved school.

Since then, the building has been host to many transformations and countless memories and experiences, especially for the students who once lived there. It has remained an iconic part of campus, with many alumni relating it as a rite of passage. A&M-Kingsville Chief of Staff, Randy Hughes ’74, ’82, lived in Seale Hall in the early 70s. He chuckled remembering details – writing the $385 check (the biggest he had ever written at that time in his life) for room and board; the large yard space where his friends and he frequently played Frisbee; sitting on the front steps watching campus buzz around them; or the countless, amusing pranks the guys who lived in Seale Hall would play on one another.

One such prank involved an animal and an excessive amount of newspapers. As Hughes explained, he would receive the newspaper from his hometown, and after reading it, each paper would contribute to the growing stack in his closet. When one of the guys in the dorm who was known for leaving every weekend took off, Hughes saw it as the perfect chance to dispose of the papers. “We had caught a raccoon, or a possum, I can’t remember which,” he recalled, laughing, “But we wadded up all the newspaper and filled the entire room with it, almost to the ceiling. Then we let the raccoon loose.”

Back in those days, each dorm also had a “dorm mother” who lived on site, performing room inspections and generally just trying their best to keep students out of trouble. She turned a blind eye in this instance, muttering, “I didn’t see a thing!” after Hughes showcased his clever prank to her. When the student finally returned to his room after the weekend, Hughes and his accomplices helped clean the aftermath – but only after having witnessed an unforgettable reaction when their friend opened the door, only to discover a new inhabitant and an absolute mess.

Noting on the physical character of the building, the older condition of Seale Hall just added to the charm, Hughes argued, so much so that he and his friends requested to live there again the following year. They were even upset when informed the building was to be closed for student living. They fought to keep it open, not just because it was the most affordable place to stay, but because they saw Seale Hall as a relic in their overall college experience. Although unhappy with its closing as a dorm, Hughes attested that his friendships made in Seale Hall are some of his most long-lasting in life.

These relationships and experiences are a testament to the perseverance Seale held in protecting the future of the university. Seale couldn’t have foretold just how impactful those buildings would be in developing memories that would cross generations, but he did have the insight to know that their construction guaranteed the longevity of the university. Demolition of Seale Hall will take that historic corner of campus back down to the soil it struggled to be built on, but the devotion that Seale put into breaking its ground will remain. Whatever is founded on that soil will flourish, secure in a sentiment that Javelinas understand more than anybody – we may grow and transform with the years, but our roots and heritage remain as resilient as ever.

 

 

LOCATION

  Kingsville, TX
   
  EDUCATION
 

President, Texas College of Arts & Industries

  AREA OF PASSION
  Higher Education