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Lauren Barton ’11 graduated 25 years after her dad, John Barton ’86, who graduated 25 years after his dad, Howard Barton ’61. A & M : a Personal Choice and a Family Tradition “lauren elizabeth Barton.” After my name was read, I took a deep breath and walked across the stage to receive that long-awaited Texas A & M University diploma on May 13 , 2011 . I wasn’t walking alone. Beside me in spirit were my dad, who received his degree 25 years earlier, and grandfather, who received his 50 years ago. We three generations of Aggies made that same journey, each 25 years apart. To say I was born an Aggie is the same as saying I was born a girl. Texas A & M has always been part of who I am; I wore maroon-and-white Aggie gear from birth. During my first visit to A & M at age 6 , my parents took me to iconic campus sites and I began connecting them to things at home: pictures of the 1985 Bonfire and Reveille Iv and v , the baseball cap my dad always wore, the Cotton Bowl ornament on our Christmas tree. I didn’t know what a 12 th Man was as I gazed up at e. King Gill’s statue, but I knew it was special. My great-uncle J. e. Barton ’ 55 started our family’s Aggie tradition, and his four brothers followed until all five Barton boys received A & M degrees. One was my grandfather, Howard Barton ’ 61 . Four of his chil- dren — including my dad, John Barton ’ 86 — are Aggies. I always wanted to be an Aggie, but I had to decide for myself after seeing what other schools offered. I’m sure my dad held his breath during visits to other campuses, hoping I wouldn’t choose one of them. Then I made my trip to A & M . I wasn’t visiting my dad’s school, nor that of my grandfather. This time it was for me. I walked onto campus and everything fell into place. Dad said the spirit would capture me, and it did. Familiar campus landmarks slowly became my own, and when a member of the Corps of Cadets said howdy, I knew I was home. When I arrived on campus that next fall, it was 50 years after my grand- father did the same. But I wasn’t there for him. And I wasn’t there for my dad. I was there for me. I was an Aggie in my own right. I joined Sigma Alpha, the profession- al agricultural sorority, had front-row seats to football games with my cadet boyfriend and spent time with that beauty who introduced us, Miss Reveille VII . I embraced it all and never looked back. Two years later, when my sister Rachel Barton ’ 13 was ready to choose her school, I gave her the same cam- pus tour I took. And so the tradition continues with another Barton. We shared a house and sorority; we shared the same Aggie destiny. While at A & M , I learned who I was and who I could be. I learned how to use the gifts that God gave me. I learned that, even though it is a family tradition, A & M is the best and only choice I could have made. I proudly wear my Aggie ring and look forward to my children choosing to be fourth-generation Aggies. Today as a sixth-grade science teacher in Garland, I am blessed to take what A & M has given me and pass it on to my students. As I walk into my classroom each day, I know I am fully prepared because of that special place: Texas A & M University. — b y l au r e n b a r t o n ’ 1 1 Three generations of Bartons attended Ring Dance: Lauren Barton ’11 with her boyfriend, Brandon Hauver ’10; her parents, Sheryl and John Barton ’86; and grandparents, Patsy and Howard Barton ’61. 44 T E X A S A & M F O U N D A T I O N