To combat the decline felt in universities across the country, West Texas A&M is establishing a new institute to promote the “founding values of our nation.”

According to WTAMU, the Hill Institute will “encourage reflection upon the importance of these values and, through study and scholarship, promulgate them among students within the diverse disciplines of the University and within the extended community.”

The school is named after former WTAMU President Joseph A. Hill, who served as president for 30 years.

“Dr. Hill was earnestly steadfast in his belief regarding the importance of Judeo-Christian values in a free society,” reads the website. “In addition, he practiced the values of the United States of America and the state of Texas and, without apology, pronounced the durability of the founding values of our nation.”

The institute will use ten values as starting points to guide the work of the school as it “embarks on a voyage into the future.”

The ten virtues are: trust, family, hard work and persistence, regard for others, personal responsibility and free will, compatriotism and patriotism, exercise of virtue, the free and open exercise of faith, personal and civic loyalty, and rugged individualism.

In February 2022, the Texas A&M Board of Regents approved the Hill Institute and started searching for a donor to support the project.

WTAMU alumni Alex and Cheryl Fairly, and the Fairly family, stepped up to donate the needed $20 million.

At an event announcing the Hill Institute’s creation, WTAMU President Walter Wendler encouraged new innovations in the university system.

“Higher education is in the need to continually be reshaped, especially now with forces at work that affect every aspect of university life and the students who come here to study [and] the faculty and staff who come here to work who take care of their families,” said Wendler. “The enterprise of higher education is being drawn into a universalist perspective, one which says all institutions should all look the same. There are many forces at work that drive us in that direction and it’s a mistake.”

Wendler came under fire earlier this year when a group of students sued him and other university officials for canceling an on-campus drag show.

A federal judge later ruled that Wendler did not violate the First Amendment and that his decision to cancel the show was not “objectively unreasonable.”

Fairly said Wendler’s influence convinced him to donate despite his concerns with the state of higher education.

“We wrestled with the decision to give to higher education because we were no longer sure we trusted the direction we saw higher education taking,” Fairly said. “What Texas and America need today is a leadership of intelligence and virtue. Education must take more account of permanent values.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also attended the event and encouraged the model’s expansion.

“Start from here, make this a national policy program because we need leaders in America,” said Patrick. “We need to turn our face back to God. Stand on that foundation.”

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.