Among Tech’s fiercely loyal fans are many families for whom pursuing higher education in Lubbock has become a tradition and an expectation. One of them is the Hays family, currently on its fourth generation of Red Raiders.
“Let’s just say that Kyle’s family basically [financially] supported Tech enough to take them from a technological college into a university,” Wendy Hays said.
Journalism major Tim Hays applied only to Texas Tech, in part because of his family’s history, but ultimately because this is where he wanted to go. The freshman left his home in Keizer, Oregon, to continue the family tradition in West Texas.
“It was really hard leaving at first, but I’ve always known that this is where I wanted to go to school,” Tim Hays said. “This is my dream, and for it to come true at the tail end of my senior year of high school, I knew it was where I needed to be.”
Around 79 years before Tim Hays began at Texas Tech, the first member of the Hays family attended Texas Technological College.
Though the Hayses are unsure of her specific graduation date, they know Lucille Wheeler enrolled at Texas Tech at the age of 16 as a home economics major. She started about 1936. Her grandson and Tim’s father, Kyle Hays, said Wheeler was part of the first group to attend Texas Tech for a full five years, the average amount of time it took to receive a bachelor’s degree in those days.
Wheeler met her husband at Texas Tech, and their daughter Kara also met her husband at the university.
By the time Hugh Hays, Kyle Hays’s father, graduated from Texas Technological College in December 1969, the college had significantly changed since his parents attended.
No one is a better chronicler of Tech’s change than Bill Dean, who has been a professor at the university since 1967 and also serves as the executive vice president of the Texas Tech Alumni Association.
He said the college had about 8,600 students enrolled when he came to Tech in 1957. His college tuition was $50 a semester, the women’s residence halls had curfews, women always wore skirts, and the freshmen wore green beanies called “slim caps,” which he described as very unattractive.
Dean remembered Weeks Hall, which at the time was a freshman all-girl residence hall, did not have telephones in the rooms. So if a gentleman wanted to call on a lady, they had to call the hall phone and ask for her.
The change from Texas Technological College to Texas Tech University was a “bloody fight,” Dean said. Faculty wanted to change the name because the school was no longer a “technological” college.
A technological college mainly focuses on agriculture and engineering, but in 1969, Dean said, the arts and sciences school and the business school were larger than the agriculture and engineering school.
So, after “lots of hurt feelings and lots of bitterness,” Dean said, legislation was passed to rename the school Texas Tech University.
“There’s not a period after Tech, so we kind of made up our own word, and we got to keep the double T,” Dean said.
As the school’s name changed, the diplomas changed, too. Hugh Hays and his wife Kara Hays had different school names on their diplomas because Hugh Hays graduated in December 1969 and Kara Hays graduated in 1970.
Texas Tech may have changed, but alumni say the Red Raider spirit is the same.
Dean said his generation of Red Raiders sometimes felt like the step-children of Texas because more attention went to other universities across the state. But times surely have changed.
“I don’t feel like today’s generation feels like that,” Dean said. “I think we now think, ‘To hell with them.’ We’re not going to cower behind the orange and white.”
All pictures used with permission from the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.