By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
Texas A&M University–Central Texas officially has the green light from Fort Hood to move forward constructing of its new campus.
Lt. Gen. Rich Lynch, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, handed over the deed to 672 acres at the corner of State Highway 201 and SH 195 to Michael McKinney, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System on Friday.
The new campus will house junior and senior level undergraduate courses and a full master's degree program. The transfer of land from Fort Hood to the system signaled the beginning of a long construction process but marked the end of an even longer planning process.
Texas Representatives Chet Edwards and John Carter pushed federal legislation in 2004 to allow Fort Hood to transfer the land to the university system. President George W. Bush signed the measure into law in October of the same year, nearly five years before construction on the campus would begin.
Friday's event was worth the wait for many though, as former and future Texas A&M University students came together with those who pushed for the campus's construction with the help of Fort Hood.
"We're seeing a wedding today," Rep. John Carter said. "Two great institutions have joined together … We are going to see great things grow up here."
Though Texas A&M University officials have not yet settled on a solid layout for the future building, finding a brand for the new campus began Friday evening at 5 p.m. when polling began on the university's Web site, www.tamuct.org, for Killeen residents and future TAMU-CT students to vote on the school's mascot and colors.
"We are in the process of finding our own identity," said Tracy Teaff, interim provost and vice presidents for academic and student affairs. "This is the beginning of life's next chapter."
The event also marked the beginning of a new chapter for Fort Hood soldiers as well, Lynch said.
The new campus, in addition to the new G.I. Bill "gives them even more of an opportunity," he said. "These soldiers &#8211; they yearn for education."
Construction on the campus is slated to break ground next fall and the first classes are expected to begin in fall of 2011. Despite the wait, enrollment figures are already well over what was expected.
"By the time we get this building finished … we'll need another building," McKinney said.
Though legislators and university officials announced their excitement about the new campus and its opportunities for Central Texas students, the event was particularly emotional for Tanya Blenden, TAMU-CT's student body vice president.
The master's student and mother of four grew up in Killeen and graduated from Central Texas College.
"This is my home," she said. "For me, to have the advantage to stay here and go to school is a dream."
Contact Hailey Persinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.