The Texas Union has the ability to transcend the confines of its walls and to touch people’s lives – not just during their time as students, but beyond as well. This is likely most evident in the case of our current alumni spotlight - Gary Shelton.
Gary sitting at his desk in the Texas Union back in the ‘80s
Gary spent many days (and nights) in the rooms of the Texas Union studying to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences. However it wasn’t until he began working for the Union that his attachment would grow. Gary joined the Texas Union staff in 1976 and continued a career here until 2003 when he retired as the Assistant Director.
When asked what the favorite part of his job with the Union was, Gary does not hesitate to tell you – the daily interface with the students. Gary served as an advisor for Union committees and assisted in leadership classes. The most notable committee he served was the former Management Committee, a group of primarily business majors who with Gary’s help were fundamental in the creation of what is today the Governor’s Room in the Texas Union. He says this part of his job was a great privilege, to work with top student leaders who went on to do greatthings in their careers and in the world.
If you ask Gary what a student coming to The University of Texas at Austin needs to do, he will without hesitation tell you they must see the Student Activity Center and the Texas Union and join a student group. Of course as the SAC did not open until 2011, Gary has more knowledge of what to see in the Texas Union – and some knowledge that is! As a staff member entering the ranks of those who office in the Texas Union, you are often given the "Gary Shelton tour," as Gary gave multiple tours over the years including one that captured his encyclopedic knowledge of the building on camera.
Gary can tell you details of almost every inch of the building. From the external façade that mirrors the Architecture building across the West Mall to the types of materials used in construction of the rooms, floors, ceilings and walls. He also knows quite a bit about historical events in the building’s past such as details on the time Frank Sinatra performed with the Tom Dorsey Orchestra to the time that Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed overnight in the Union during a speech he gave at the University. What is the most inspirational is the passion with which he tells you these stories, often seguing from one to another with the exclamation "Oh, I think you’ll enjoy this!"
So as we move to hold the grand reopening of the Texas Union at the beginning of this fall semester, we are honored to name Gary Shelton, a true Texas Union legend, as our alumni spotlight.