Texas A&M University-Kingsville College Named for Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg

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University honors Caesar Kleberg Foundation for support

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He taught me the importance of seeing that the people were taken care of properly.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved a new identity for Texas A&M-Kingsville’s College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences May 23, approving the university’s request to name the college in honor of the late Richard M. “Dick” Kleberg Jr. and his wife, Mary Lewis Kleberg, who resides in South Texas with homes in Kingsville and San Antonio. The announcement was made at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting, held May 22-23 in College Station.

The college will now be known as the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences, honoring the couple for their longtime service and support to the university.

The choice of Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg came at the recommendation of the Caesar Kleberg Foundation, which has provided $7.4 million over the past three years to support the college and more than $25 million since 1991 to the university. In recognition of this support, A&M-Kingsville offered the Foundation the opportunity to name the college, and its Board of Directors recommended Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg as South Texans who have a great history of service and dedication to the people of Texas and to Texas A&M-Kingsville.

About the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences

The mission of the Dick and Mary Lewis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences is to improve the well being of people and the environment through education, research and service. The college is made up of three departments, two centers, two institutes, a University Farm and a number of projects and other units. Dr. G. Allen Rasmussen is dean of the college.

Within the college are the departments of agronomy and resource sciences; animal and wildlife sciences; and human sciences. Students can earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agribusiness; agriculture science; animal science; plant science; soil science; range and wildlife management; and human sciences. A master’s degree in ranch management – the only such degree in the world – and a doctoral degree in wildlife science are offered. The college also offers a collaborative doctoral degree in horticulture with Texas A&M University in College Station.

The college also oversees the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco; and on the Kingsville campus, the Marc Cisneros Center for Young Children, the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management and the Rabbit Research Program. The college also features the Tio and Janell Kleberg Wildlife Research Park which is home to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, the Buddy Temple Wildlife Pathology and Diagnostic Laboratory, the Duane Leach Research Aviary, the Albert and Margaret Alkek Ungulate Research Facility and the South Texas Natives Project Research Farm.                                                                                        

About Richard M. “Dick” Kleberg Jr.

“He taught me the importance of seeing that the people were taken care of properly.”

Stephen J. “Tio” Kleberg once made this statement about his father, Richard M. “Dick” Kleberg Jr. As officials at Texas A&M University-Kingsville name its College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences for the senior Kleberg, it is this statement that sticks out most.

The college itself is known for its warm and friendly atmosphere. Although it is welcoming students, not the famed kineños of King Ranch, those students can be secure in the knowledge that everything possible is being done to help them achieve their goal of earning a degree.

Dick Kleberg Jr. was born in 1916 and was the grandson of R.J. Kleberg Sr., one of the King Ranch pioneers. His early education was spent with the kineños as he worked cattle as soon as he was old enough. He spent his junior high and high school years in Corpus Christi, and when his father was elected to Congress, he moved with his family to Washington and attended the Virginia Military Institute. Kleberg returned to Texas, earning his law degree from the University of Texas Law School.

In 1940, he moved back to King Ranch and became managerial assistant to his uncle, Robert J. Kleberg Jr. Called “Mr. Richie” by the ranch staff, Dick Kleberg was elected vice president of the King Ranch corporate board in 1954, and in 1968 was named chairman.

Working alongside his father, “Mr. Dick,” and his uncle, “Mr. Bob,” the three initiated a series of innovations that kept King Ranch successful and at the leading edge of the ranching industry. During the time Dick Kleberg was managing the ranch, oil and gas royalties started a growth spurt for the ranch, and after World War II, the presence of King Ranch was extended to include acquisitions in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and West Texas and joint ventures and partnerships in Florida. Ranching operations also were developed overseas with land purchases in Argentina, Cuba, Brazil, Australia, Venezuela, Spain and Morocco.

The era saw development of mechanized brush control methods and innovative corrals for working cattle. King Ranch also developed new and better grasses and began using mineral supplements to improve animal health. Modern game management and wildlife conservation practices were expanded. Dick Kleberg further developed the outstanding quarter horse breeding program and became a director for the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in 1954.

Dick Kleberg died in 1979 at the age of 62. He was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 1995.

During his managerial years at King Ranch, Dick Kleberg focused his efforts on expanding wildlife management, improving animal health and developing new techniques. Naming the College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences for him is a perfect fit as faculty, researchers and students within the college strive for the same thing every day.

About Mary Lewis Kleberg

The phrase “behind-the-scenes” is one often used when people refer to Mary Lewis Kleberg. She worked “behind-the-scenes” for many years as an advocate for higher education in South Texas. She “quietly” helped on the negotiations that would make Texas A&M University-Kingsville and the rest of the University System of South Texas part of The Texas A&M University System.

Now is the time for Mary Lewis Kleberg to come out from “behind-the-scenes” and be recognized for the hard work and dedication she has given to improve the quality of higher education and life in general in South Texas. Texas A&M-Kingsville will give credit where credit is due in naming the College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences for this incredible giving woman.

Mary Lewis married Richard M. “Dick” Kleberg Jr. in 1940 after studying psychology and home economics at the University of Texas at Austin. She moved to King Ranch with her husband, as he became managerial assistant to his uncle, Robert J. Kleberg Jr. The couple had four children, Richard III, Stephen, Scott and Sally.

Gov. John Connally originally appointed her to the Board of Directors of the University System of South Texas (USST) in 1964. Mrs. Kleberg received subsequent reappointments by Govs. Preston Smith, Dolph Briscoe and William P. Clements Jr. She served continuously as a member for 24 years and served terms as secretary and vice president.

Under her leadership, Texas A&I University, now A&M-Kingsville, obtained the first doctoral degree in South Texas, the Ph.D. in bilingual education. Laredo State University, now Texas A&M International University, made the transition from the status of a “center” to a university and Corpus Christi State University, now Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, was given permission to open as a four-year university after several years as a two-year upper-level institution.

Her influence went beyond South Texas, as Mrs. Kleberg was an advocate for higher education in Austin and elsewhere as she gained critical political support for the USST and its member institutions.

Even after her service on the board ended, she continued to be of assistance to USST members, especially Texas A&I. She was a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee attempting to effect a compromise settlement in a lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund against the State of Texas which alleged discrimination in appropriations and programs for the state’s border colleges and universities.

In addition, she found time to be a founding director of KEDT, the public television and radio stations in Corpus Christi, serve as secretary of the USST Foundation Inc. and serve on the boards of the Art Museum of South Texas and Epiphany School in Kingsville, just to name a few. Most recently, she served as Honorary Chair of the Building On Our Traditions Campaign, the first university-wide capital campaign conducted by Texas A&M-Kingsville, carried out from 2005 to 2008.

More than ever, community service is becoming an integral part of the college experience. Students in the Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences and all of South Texas have Mary Lewis Kleberg to look to as an exceptional role model.


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