By Chip Chandler

The second-oldest building on West Texas A&M University’s campus will be posthumously named for a graduate whose roots with the University ran deep, WT officials announced today.

The Education Building will be christened the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building, named in memory of a distinguished alumna who attended not only WT, but also the demonstration school that once was housed in the building that now will bear her name.

As part of the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Schaeffer family agreed to donate $2.5 million to WT as part of a wide-ranging effort to bring the Education Building back to life.

In October, WT announced that it was allotted $45 million from Senate Bill 52, which allocated $3.35 billion for capital projects at Texas higher education institutions.

When extensive renovations are complete, the building primarily will be occupied by the WT Graduate School and an instructional design space to advance digital learning. WT’s ultimate goal—through its long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World — is to provide an education to as many off-campus students as those on campus, and the building, which has commonly been known as “Old Ed,” will help make that possible.

“This is the culmination of a 20-plus-year dream Geneva and I shared,” Stanley Schaeffer said. “Both of us, like many other alumni who attended classes in that building, were sad when it closed and have wanted to see it actively in use again ever since.

“She wouldn’t have wanted the building named after her, but we’re going to do it anyway,” Schaeffer said, laughing.

“The Schaeffer family has been deeply invested in the growth and vision of WT for more than four decades,” said President Walter V. Wendler. “Geneva was a powerful force for much of the transformative changes that have taken place at WT since she and Stanley began engaging others to join them to support the University. Having her name on the Education Building is a testimony to her life-long commitment to education across the Panhandle.”

The Education Building, which was the second academic hall built on campus, officially opened Oct. 19, 1928. It originally housed a demonstration school, where education majors got hands-on training in teaching schoolchildren. That school was discontinued in May 1951, and classes for WT students were housed there until 1988.

“We had practice teachers all the time,” said Joan Meason, Geneva Schaeffer’s sister. “They were young, full of energy and always excited to be with students. They took us to plays and concerts at the ‘big school.’ This was the beginning of our love for WT.”

Geneva Schaeffer attended the demonstration school through fifth grade, then transferred to Canyon schools, where she met Stanley Schaeffer and began a lifelong romance.

Geneva Schaeffer earned her bachelor’s degree from WT in 1955, and in April 2016, she was bestowed an honorary doctorate of philosophy in WT’s College of Education and Social Sciences. A public-school teacher for 17 years, she advocated for improvements and opportunities in education for decades and was a driving force in fundraising for the University.

Stanley Schaeffer, who also graduated from WT in 1955 and earned his MBA here in 1970, was awarded an honorary doctorate in May from the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business. He was given a distinguished alumni award by the University in 2004 and an honorary doctorate of business administration in 2021.

In 1987, Stanley Schaeffer joined with a small group of investors and Ray Bain to purchase First State Bank of Dimmitt, which became known as First United Bank in 1994. Today, the bank has expanded to 15 locations across 11 West Texas cities; Schaeffer currently serves as Director Emeritus.

Geneva and Stanley Schaeffer were the first winners of WT’s Pinnacle Award in 2005 and were named Outstanding Philanthropists by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2006.

In 2010, she and her husband established the Dr. Geneva Schaeffer Professor of Education and Social Sciences to stimulate academic excellence and enhance scholarship, research and instruction for faculty in the College. The position currently is held by Dr. Betty Coneway.

“WT is fortunate to have the Schaeffer family among a handful of families who have, for decades, supported us in many ways,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for philanthropy and external relations. “Few institutions of higher education are fortunate enough to have a family who gives not for one generation but for three generations and counting. Great universities are built, in part, by generous philanthropic support in the institution’s mission, such as that shown by the Schaeffer family.”

The Schaeffers were married for 65 years before Geneva Schaeffer’s death in 2016. Their three children — Jackie, David and Jerry — also share significant ties to WT.

Collectively, the Schaeffer family is among the most generous of WT’s supporters. Their giving benefits students, faculty and programs across the campus, including the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, the College of Education and Social Sciences, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Study Abroad and Athletics.

The Schaeffers recently established two scholarship endowments — the Geneva Schaeffer Excellence in Education Scholarship in the College of Education and Social Sciences, and the Stanley Schaeffer Excellence in Business Scholarship in the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business.

In addition to housing the Graduate School and serving as a hub for WT’s distance education, the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building also will provide office space for student support and success departments. The building will offer approximately 60,000 square feet of additional learning and office spaces, including three full floors and about half of the building’s basement.

WT pioneered distance instruction in 1997, and the Geneva Schaeffer Building will be pivotal in its future, said Dr. Neil Terry, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.

“It is time to push for the next level of online instruction,” Terry said. “The new facility will include a single location offering a wide variety of online support services to faculty and students; dedicated classrooms and private rooms that will facilitate virtual content; an innovation lab for emerging technology in the educational environment, including gamification, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

“Much like the late ’90s it is hard to know how technology will change and where we will end up 25 years from now,” Terry said. “The new facility will help shape the future of online education.”

The building also will help WT’s Graduate School continue to grow, Terry said.

“The new facility will reinforce existing success and provide space for new initiatives, including a couple of key efforts involving doctorate programs and sponsored research we hope to announce in the future,” Terry said.