Wendler’s latest Panhandle tour over after 3 months, 4,000 miles

By Chip Chandler

Nearly 4,000 miles and more than 11,000 students later, West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler is back at his desk — for now, at least.

Wendler’s second Region 16  “Your Community, Your University” Tour 2.0 wrapped up Dec. 2, with the President visiting 67 schools throughout the Panhandle area.

Audiences at each stop on the tour watched a personalized video that featured an alumnus from that high school who is now attending WT or has graduated from the University.

The tour wasn’t a recruitment visit for WT, though Wendler said that would be a welcome outcome.

“I wanted these students to hear that it’s just important for them to develop a plan of attack,” Wendler said. “I call it ‘A Plan for One,’ and the possibilities are endless. Whatever they do — attend WT or another university, start off at community college, join the military, work in their family business or attend trade or vocational school — it just needs to work for them.”

The message appeared to resonate, said Dr. Eddie Henderson, dean of WT’s College of Education and Social Sciences, who has since met with a majority of Region 16’s superintendents.

“I asked them to give me their frank assessment of the tour, and they were very favorable,” Henderson said. “They said that they appreciated the fact that President Wendler didn’t make it a sales pitch for WT, that he talked about higher education in general and that he recognized the value of community colleges. Overall, they said there were students who were talking about attending college who had never talked about that before.”

The tour stretched from Sept. 14 to Dec. 2. Wendler spoke to a total of 11,080 students and traveled 3,865.2 miles. Audiences ranged from 10 students at Hedley High School to1,013 students at Caprock High School in Amarillo.

Serving the Panhandle and its heart is a key maxim of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World . That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the campaign has raised about $85 million for priorities all across the University.

On his first Region 16 tour, Wendler spoke to approximately 8,440 students and traveled nearly 6,890 miles. The second tour was more strategically planned, with schools grouped together by geographic proximity to cut down on travel time.

In 2019, Wendler took the tour to Region 17, visiting 66 schools in the South Plains. On that leg, Wendler spoke to approximately 15,900 students and traveled nearly 6,995 miles. 

The revival of the tour comes on the heels of Wendler’s personal initiative to send more than  3,000 individualized welcome videos  for each student accepted by WT for the Fall 2021 semester. The initiative garnered national attention from  Inside Higher Ed  and  EdScoop .

Since Wendler began these personalized outreach efforts, the University has seen two of the largest classes of freshmen enrollees in WT’s history — 1,344 students in 2019 and 1,348 students in 2021.