In the Summer of 1963, then University President James Rudder admitted the first African American student to Texas A&M. His name is Leroy Sterling and his admittance opened the door and made it possible today for African American students and alumni to be welcomed, respected and invited into every college, department, program that the University has to offer.
In the Fall of 2013 in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the first African American being admitted to the University, then President R. Bowen Loftin inaugurated the Texas A&M University Pioneer Award. This Award is designated for any African American who was admitted to the University from 1963 - 1970. 16 Pioneers were awarded this medal at this inaugural ceremony.
In the Fall of 2017, current President Michael K. Young presented another 7 Pioneer Awards at the second TAMU Pioneer Awards ceremony.
On behalf of all African American Students who attended and graduated from TAMU (and for those yet to come) we say THANK YOU for your bravery, perseverance and sacrifice to make the doors of A&M more open, our presence more welcome and our gifts and abilities more valued among the professors, staff and students at this great University.
By 1963, a year before the Civil Rights Act, three Black students quietly enrolled in a summer session as “special students,” becoming the first to attend Texas A&M. Among them was Leroy Sterling, who took classes during two summer sessions before going on to graduate from Texas Southern University and earn a master’s degree in French and English from the University of Houston.
Sterling who was from Bryan, served in the Army and enrolled at Texas Southern University prior to taking classes at Texas A&M. He first received a rejection letter, but learned a few weeks later that the University would accept him. Sterling taught at Texas Southern University for five years before working for Dow Chemical Company for 17 years. He continued his teaching career at Alabama A&M University.
In 2019, Texas A&M President Michael K. Young awarded Sterling the Pioneer Medal, which honors African Americans admitted to the University between 1963 and 1970.