When the Kleberg Animal and Food Sciences Center was built in 1975, an Animal Science student lounge was provided on the first floor. This area was removed in 2004 to provide additional office space in the building. Not long after that, Dr. Howard Hesby and others worked to find another suitable area for Animal Science students to study and congregate, and the idea of renovating the atrium to make it more student-friendly was born. Shortly after that, Dr. Hesby passed away.
Dr. Hesby was a great friend to the students in the Department of Animal Science. He influenced more than 15,000 students during his 35 years at Texas A&M as a teacher, advisor and mentor. To honor his work and legacy, it was determined that the renovated atrium be named after him, now known as the Howard Hesby Student Atrium.
The Howard Hesby Student Atrium was designed to reflect the distinctive character of the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences while staying true to the purpose of the atrium and honoring Dr. Hesby’s legacy.
The Arkitex Studio Inc. in Bryan worked to transform the existing space by balancing the existing finishes of severe, concrete, modern brutalism with a rugged-but-luxurious ranch aesthetic. This upscale look was important, not only for the students, staff and alumni, but also for the generous sponsors whose names are associated with the project, and without whom the project would not happen.
The space meets its most basic function by providing students with a variety of configurations for studying, collaborating and relaxing. The most straightforward design decision was to install a concrete slab and carpet over the existing planted area. The majority of the programmatic requirements were satisfied with this simple act. The carpet is intended to evoke the fields and farms of Texas: the view one sees from an airplane window. The blue “river” is modeled on a portion of the Brazos River. The design team, which included collaboration from students, faculty, sponsors and staff, wanted the design to be specific to the activities of the academic departments housed in the Kleberg Center. The most obvious example of this is the distinctive hair-on-hide lounge chairs and sofas. The mesquite bar and coffee tables, beyond being inherently beautiful, also evoke a West Texas ranch vernacular. A maroon-colored grass is laminated within the acrylic privacy panel at the bar. The maroon fabric on the benches was chosen for (perhaps) obvious reasons, while the pattern on the maroon fabric is reminiscent of wire fencing. Numerous electrical outlets were provided to charge personal electronics. High definition television monitors were installed to keep students informed on current departmental and college activities, announcements and news.
The renovated elevator lobby gives an air of formality to an otherwise strictly functional space. The ceiling has been remodeled, and the wood paneling echoes the wall treatments at the new AgriLife Headquarters building. The generous donors to the project are recognized on the wall opposite the elevators, but most notable about this space will be a bronze relief sculpture of Dr. Hesby. The relief was crafted by western artist and Fort Worth native Dr. Scott Myers, a former student of Dr. Hesby’s and Texas A&M graduate. The bronze relief sculpture measures 32 inches by 40 inches and was originally sculpted in oil base clay. Myers created this portrait slowly and deliberately over a period of seven months to create not only a true physical likeness but also to capture the sincerity and genuineness of Dr. Hesby’s character.
In 2013, a magnificent trophy case was completed and emphasizes a tradition of excellence at Texas A&M – the competitive judging teams. The trophy case is used to showcase the many accomplishments of the Livestock Judging Team, the Meat Judging Team, the Horse Judging Team, the Wool Judging Team and the Stock Horse Team. Also, the wood wall treatment was added to the awards wall in the north end of the atrium and features long-time awards, the Brewer Award and the Saddle & Sirloin Honorary Members Award, as well as the recently introduced Animal Science Hall of Fame, the Animal Science Outstanding Alumni Award and the Young Alumni Award.
For further information regarding the Hesby Student Atrium project or to provide a financial contribution, please contact:
Dr. H. Russell Cross, Professor & Head
Department of Animal Science
Jennifer Burnett, Director of Development
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Texas A&M Foundation